“It’s the 15th year and there’s a lot of history and legacy behind the ride,” said Joseph Abrams, president of the TMHA board. “The Tuscaloosa Mental Health Alliance worked with various mental health facilities around Tuscaloosa and with the Druid City Bicycle Club to generate a fundraising event, not only to raise money, but to provide a conversation piece around mental health.”
In the past, the Hot Hundred has seen more than 600 riders. The ride has grown to become one of the biggest cycling events in the state, as well as the Southeast, giving the TMHA a chance to form partnerships with various businesses, Abrams said.
“We have a lot of support from Wounded Warriors from various places throughout the Southeast, and it’s something they actually look forward to,” he said. “They say it gives them a purpose and gets them up in the morning.”
In order to ensure the safety of the hundreds of cyclists who will ride, the TMHA and Hot Hundred have paired up with Tuscaloosa’s Police and Sheriff Departments, along with other volunteers. There will always be a way to get some assistance during the ride, Abrams said.
“Safety is of paramount importance for use. Everything is secondary to safety for our riders. We have individuals who will drive the ride to offer immediate assistance and these people are always circumnavigating the course, making sure the route is safe, that no one has broken down,” he said. “We even have HAM Radio operators who will relay any problems back to headquarters, where we have a police presence as well.”
Timothy Wakefield, co-owner of Trek Bicycle Store, said the store has partnered with the TMHA and Hot Hundred to promote safety before the ride ever gets started. Trek will be giving away safety lights with Hot Hundred to make sure cyclists are as safe as possible.
“We spend a lot of time talking about wearing bright colors, using daytime lights and just being as safe as possible while you ride,” Wakefield said. “The safety side is something that Trek is very serious about. Bikes and cars should be able to be on the road at the same time, and cyclists should be able to do everything they can to be seen. I know I don’t leave home on my bike without a front light, a back light and bright colors.”
Wakefield said though Trek has only been open for a year, the store is there for anybody, and you don’t have to be an expert cyclist to come in. The camaraderie he tries to instill in Trek is the same for Hot Hundred.
“The Hot Hundred is a great chance for the cycling community to get together. People usually ride by themselves or with the same people, so it’s a chance to meet new riders,” Wakefield said. “The best thing about cycling is that it bridges all age groups. Everyone can enjoy hopping on a bike and it’s amazing how much it can bring people together. You can’t peg a cyclist. People ride bikes for all different kinds of reasons.”
Abrams said while the Hot Hundred is a tool to raise awareness for mental health, it’s also something fun to do during the Tuscaloosa summer. Class is out for university students, and there aren’t a lot of activities going on for them, so riding in the Hot Hundred is one way to shake off the boredom.
“It’s right during the dog days of summer. There will be over 600 riders converging on the city, and it’s really fun to see those people ride off escorted by police,” Abrams said. “There are also a lot of relationships forged in sweating for 12 hours.”
Proceeds from the Hot Hundred help the TMHA to hold conferences, like their March symposium on suicide, where people were able to speak about the mental health services available to those in need.
Online registration is available until Thursday, July 27 for $65 and onsite registration is available Friday, July 28 and Saturday, July 29 for $80.
“You’re ultimately riding for a really great and magnanimous purpose,” Abrams said. “Mental health issues are ubiquitous and transcend any race and any age. It’s important to understand, and the Hot Hundred gives us a place to talk about these issues.”
For more information about the Hot Hundred, visit bikehothundred.com.