Why We Love Gran Fondos

August 27, 2014


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Tour of Richmond Grand Fondo

Suddenly, Gran Fondos (see here for an explanation of them - http://www.granfondoguide.com) are everywhere. And I think this is a good thing.

The popularity of Gran Fondos echoes a trend in cycling overall. People want more - more of everything.

- They want safer roads so they can ride without fear.

- They want better gear (yeah for us!).

- They want better experiences.

- Most importantly, they want those experiences to be about themselves.

At least here in the States, for most riders, charity and casual century rides have traditionally held sway as the main achievement-oriented outlets for cyclists. Everyone can remember their first MS-150 ride, the feeling of crossing the finish line, and the sense of accomplishment. It’s awesome. But let’s be honest with ourselves, most riders have limited connection with the charity itself. They have donated or raised the required amount of money to participate and that is the main (if only) extent of the link. I don’t fault them - it’s natural and there are countless charities and organizations pulling these same riders in many different directions all throughout the year.

There is also little, if any, cache among non-cyclists about training for a charity ride. Outside of our world, no one really knows about the MS-150 rides or the Tour de Cures. I wish it were not the case but it is reality.

Contrast this with the New York or Boston Marathons, the Iron Man competitions, or even the relatively new “Tough Mudders.” If one says he is training for one of these events, he immediately garners some status (either as an individual with incredible athletic prowess, mental fortitude, and/or as a lunatic). The cycling world has not kept pace with such events.

Enter Gran Fondos. While some Gran Fondos benefit charities, the real focus is on the rider. Whether it’s gourmet snacks at rest-stops, post-ride massages, riding with cycling legends, or the ability to compete against the clock, Gran Fondos offer that chance to expose the inner pro in all of us. And someone who is saddling up on a lavishly expensive full carbon bike with Di2 probably wants a competitive environment sometimes.

I don’t think charity rides are going anywhere anytime soon. But the growing popularity of Gran Fondos may cause organizers to re-think how they approach the events. In the meantime, we’ll do our best to participate in both. But I sure will be looking forward to that lemon sorbet at the mile 50 rest stop and a glass of Prosecco when I cross the finish line.

- Jonathan

4 Responses

George Longoria
George Longoria

August 25, 2015

As a 15+ year veteran of our local MS150 and other charity rides, I finally stopped doing them. The issue was a matter of perspective. As a cyclist, I view such charity events primarily as an opportunity to ride my bike. But the perspective of the charity is it’s first and foremost an opportunity to raise money. I appreciate and accept both.

But the conflict arrises when charities forget that as a charity rider, we are also “raising money” for 5-6 other events (or more!) a year and as cyclists, we can only go to the well so many times before it runs dry. Worse, when balking at the ever-increasing minimum fundraising committment, the charity guilts you, “you should be so lucky to be healthy to ride your bike, our patients struggle each day to…”

As a result, we are forced to self-fund the minimum fundraising requirement so end up choosing the ones that offer the best cycling experience for the buck. Enter Gran Fondos and you can quickly see the appeal.

I don’t mean to sound selfish (indeed, I already volunteer countless hours and dollars for various other charities annually) but when it comes to those precious, limited resources of (riding) time and money, Gran Fondos are easily winning out.


August 24, 2015

Great article. We were talking this weekend about not attending ‘cookie rides’ like we were several years ago. It seems they have gotten more and more expensive. And since many have become timed, they are essentially races.

I’m doing the Hincapie GF this fall and am looking forward to the experience. A few friends did the Boone GF and really liked the format.


August 24, 2015

I’ll take this opportunity to mention I absolute detest asking people for money! I think the requirement to raise money is the main reason I don’t participate in charity rides! It has nothing to do with the popularity Gran Fondos. If I have to hit up family, friends, co-workers for cash forget it! Why don’t charity fund raisers just include the donation as part of the registration fee?

Marty Epstein
Marty Epstein

August 23, 2015


I founded Gran Fondo in 2010. I own 3 bike shops, Marty’s Reliable Cycle, in New Jersey.
I thought a lot about how I wanted to approach establishing a Gran Fondo. I loved the idea of a challenging, multi distance courses event with timed hill climbs. I felt it would be awesome for my customers and cyclists in general. Racing does not attract many riders but Gran Fondos attract a lot. We had over 2000 riders last year.
I also wanted to support local and national

charities. We currently have 5 direct beneficiaries. We donated $60,000 to them last year. To date our event has generated over $600,000 in fund raising for charities who use our event as a means to fund raise.
Gran Fondo NJ is also the first gran Fondo in the world to receive gold certification from the Council for Responsible Sport. I felt that running the event through the principles of sustainability was a great idea.
We also have the best rest stops, well msrked and beautiful rosds, cannolis have been spotted, great food at the finish, a great expo, live music, tons of prizes for our riders
and of course beer.
To sum it up, we strive to have the most memorable experience for our riders every year.

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