Founded in 1999 as a way for the New York City messenger community to help feed the less fortunate, Cranksgiving charity rides have spread like a gravy of goodwill across North American bike communities. Now with local chapters in more than 40 cities, Cranksgiving Boston is one of the largest and best of the bunch. Last year’s ride brought out over 160 riders who collected 3,500 pounds of food items for the Greater Boston Food Bank, Somerville Homeless Coalition, and the Red Cross.
The Red Cross spoke with Cranksgiving Boston co-founder David Boudreau about what goes into making the year’s biggest-hearted bike ride happen.
Read on and get ready to ride on Saturday, November 21st at 1pm!
How did you get involved in Cranksgiving?
Dave: I first got involved in Cranksgiving when I rode the event in New York City in 2012. It was my first alleycat race and I absolutely loved the creativity of the manifest and the energy of the other riders. The ride had me exploring parts of the city that I don’t normally visit and it incorporated some fun stunts and photo challenges. It was an amazing time.
Last year, my friend Charlotte and I were talking about how surprised we were that Boston didn’t have it’s own local chapter of the ride. We are both life long advocates of social justice so we decided to take the initiative to start the ride locally and Cranksgiving Boston was born!
How does Cranksgiving work?
Dave: All you need to ride is a bike, a bag, and a lock. When you arrive at the event, you’ll be given a manifest — a list of locations you’ll need to vist to pick up the food — which is kept a secret up until that moment. The stores are all over the Greater Boston area. You’ll have an hour or so to review the manifest and figure out the best route. Once the race starts, you’re on your own (or with a team) and can ride between stores any way you want.
The object is to pick up items on the manifest at the designated locations, then bring them back to the finish line as quickly as possible. If everything is accounted for, and you have your receipts to document, then you’re finished. There will be prizes for many different categories including first finishers, first tandem, longest receipt from a grocery store, most generous, youngest rider, and many more. The focus is on participation and fun, not just speed.
What sets Cranksgiving apart from traditional charity rides and food drives?
Dave: Cranksgiving was founded as an alternative to the traditional bike messenger alleycat, which was primarily a test of skill, speed and bravado — something people rode for bragging rights. This event is more challenging because you’ve got to get off your bike, find something on the shelves of a grocery store, pay for it and get to the next grocery store. There’s some strategy there. It’s a way of having an awesome time on your bike, but doing it for a fantastic cause too.
There’s also a lot of fun and creativity at these rides too. Each year we see people dressed up in costume (turkeys and pilgrims are recurring themes). Last year, we had a team called the Heavy Haulers band together with cargo bikes and raise over $1100 to buy food to donate! They are at it again this year with a goal to raise over $2500! You can donate to them here.
Where do all the donated goods go?
Dave: We bring our food to the Greater Boston Food Bank, the Somerville Homeless Coalition, and the Red Cross. Each rider brings in at least five food items. Last year, with over 260 riders, we collected a total of over 3,500 pounds of canned goods, peanut butter, oatmeal, cranberry sauce, potatoes, stuffing, corn, and pasta.
What advice would you give to newbie Cranksgiving participants?
Dave: You can ride without racing. It’s a food drive above all else. If you want to be competitive about it, go for it. But be careful and wear your helmet.
Cranksgiving is a great time to get used to riding in the city. It’s a lot safer to ride with groups of other people and it’s also a ton of fun. The event is all ages with long, short, and kid friendly manifests.
Any parting thoughts?
Dave: If you’re excited about this event, please spread the word on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or whatever social media you use. The more riders we get, the more food we collect for the food banks during their busiest time of year.
Biking in Boston is the best way to get around the city. Cranksgiving Boston is a great way to get around, have some fun, and help out the less fortunate. COME RIDE WITH US!
Cranksgiving Boston happens Saturday, November 21 at 1pm. Visit Cranksgiving Boston’s website for full event info.