Nona Cycle was formed just over two years ago by Lake Nona residents Paul Pikel and Spencer Phelps as a social group with a focus on safety and an appreciation of the joys of cycling. It has since grown in membership to hundreds of cyclists of diverse skill levels and backgrounds from Lake Nona and the surrounding area. But what truly sets us apart is that we are a team in every sense of the word, highly regarded in the Central Florida cycling community not only for the quality of our weekly rides and integrity of our riders but also for our focus on raising funds to support local charities.
In three short years, Nona Cycle has raised more than $100,000 in contributions made by our members, their families and friends, and local businesses. We’ve raised $73,100 in support of the American Diabetes Association through Tour de Cure and $29,690 in support of Ronald McDonald House Charities through Ride for Ronald. While there are plenty of corporate and business teams riding and raising funds to support local charities, Nona Cycle is unique in that we are a group of individuals who come together not only to cycle and have fun, but to also help those in need.
In the pre-dawn hours of Sunday, Oct. 14, hundreds of riders, their friends and families gathered in Lake Nona Town Centre. Already there was a party atmosphere; riders greeting each other, preparing bikes, arranging gear, and, of course, capturing the moments in photos. We were excited, happy and ready to ride. Normally, Nona Cycle gathers on Sunday mornings at Canvas Restaurant for our weekly 30-mile Signature Ride, so I could not help but marvel at the fact that we were here for a purpose other than to cycle; each one of us who pinned a numbered bib on our jersey had raised or personally contributed a minimum of $175 in support of Ronald McDonald House Charities.
Just as the sun was making its appearance over Laureate Park, 54 members of Nona Cycle were the first to cross the starting line to begin the 30- or 63-mile route that took us through Lake Nona, Kissimmee, St. Cloud and back again. The fastest of us sprinted off in a pack while others formed groups either based on speed or the comradery of riding with our teammates. Vehicles passed us, their occupants staring questionably at our large numbers. We gathered at sag stops to munch on snacks, take more photos, and check on each other’s progress, encouraging words shared with people we know as well as those we’ll likely not see again.
The day grew warmer, the wind picked up, legs grew heavy, and we occasionally questioned our sanity. I was riding the 63-mile route, a distance I had not completed since Tour de Cure this past spring. But unlike that ride, I was never alone; I had three of my Nona Cycling teammates to pull me along and encourage me, and, in turn, I encouraged them. It was one of those days I describe as “Best Day Ever.”
Sometime around noon, we rode into the same inflatable starting line we rode out of hours earlier. We were once again happy and excited, but this time ready to be off our bikes and refueling with the food and beverages provided by the event sponsors. We gathered at the same tables, comparing Strava statistics, sharing stories, and taking more photos. By early afternoon, the tents and tables were being removed and we went our separate ways.
Later in the day and through the evening, the Facebook posts and comments came through in a steady stream. Kudos, photos, videos, the typical posts one would expect to see – except our Nona Cycle posts had an undertone of sentimentality and tremendous pride. Rightfully so, because each one of us who saddled up this day knew we were riding for reasons other than our own pride and ego. We rode with compassion for all those families who sadly, sometime in the future, will find themselves unpacking a suitcase at a Ronald McDonald House to be near their critically ill child. And the fact that we are making a difference is what makes the fundraising a form of fun and fellowship for each of us. It’s what defines Nona Cycle.