Karen Heath, 47, says she’s been active in sports her entire life, but she really didn’t begin to embrace bicycling until about three years ago.
“I had knee surgery, and my orthopedic surgeon basically told me to stop running and doing those kinds of traumatic kind of activities to my knee, and she suggested I get a bike,” Heath said. “So I went to Family Bikes and got a hybrid and started riding it around on the trails. And then, just from there, I started doing some group rides and realized that I really liked riding on the road.”
Then, she said, she got into cyclo-cross and a new bike before deciding that she really liked riding on the road the best, so she got a road bike.
“So I went from no bike to three bikes in three years,” she said with a laugh, “and everybody told me that would happen.”
Now Heath shares the job of co-chair for the Sept. 16 AIDS Bicycle Cruise (ABC), known until this year as the AIDS Bicycle Challenge, with Mark Thomas, Teresa Jarzemkoski and Theresa Van Ackeren.
Heath also served on the steering committee for the Kansas City chapter of the Human Rights Campaign for several years and on the committee for the AIDS Walk Open golf tourney.
Bicycling, Heath said, came along at the right time in her life.
“I don’t know, there is just, like, a freedom about hopping on your bike. It’s almost spiritual, I want to say.” In fact, she plans to participate Sept. 22-23 in the Bike MS two-day ride.
ABC is not a long-distance ride, as it was in previous years.
“We did scale it back, trying to make it more accessible to people,” Heath said. “It truly is going to be just a cruise, and the emphasis is on the ports of call, where we will have live music at every stop. The beauty of our ride that I think is a little bit different from the other pay rides is that the riders get to visit the charities.”
There will be a Finish Line Party after the ride in Westport with a band, food and drink. Non-riders can join the party for $20. Registration is $30, and Heath said she hopes to exceed last year’s total of 350 riders.
This year, ABC is working with the new BikeWalkKC and their B-Cycle rental program. They will have bikes to rent for ABC for only $10 each. If interested, visit kansascity.bcycle.com or email Sarah Shipley to reserve a bike at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Heath said another source for people who cannot afford a new bike is the Earn-a-Bike program at RevolveKC (revolvekc.org), 5100 Troost Ave., a nonprofit started by avid KC cyclist Elizabeth Bejan.
Heath is encouraging everyone to come out to ride Sept. 16.
“This would be a great first ride for someone to get on their bike because there will be so much support and fellowship,” she said.
To register or for more information, visit www.abckc.org.