All posts by Allen Giese

RTA Press Release 12/18/2014

Contact: Sue Reddy Silverman

He Will Spend Two Months Through Eight States Riding 3,000 Miles on a Bicycle for NAMI

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL – Today, Allen Giese, a South Florida businessman, officially launched, a non-profit charity to benefit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) that strives raise awareness and end the stigma attached to mental illness.

Watch the Ride to Awareness Public Service Announcement debut video by following this link:

Giese, on September 15th, 2015, just after his 55th birthday, is going to embark on a 3,000-mile bicycle ride across the eight states that make up the southern United States. He’s going to spend two months cycling from San Diego, CA, to St. Augustine, FL, to raise awareness and money for mental illness. And he’s not doing it alone.

Giese, whose family is personally affected by mental illness, will stop in 10 cities along the 60-day, coast-to-coast ride to attend events and promote the cause. He already has attracted corporate sponsors, and hopes to attract more.

The ride is already attracting additional riders with more expected as news of the ride spreads. Currently the ride is unsupported, meaning each rider is on his or her own with no SAG (Support and Gear) vehicle following along. But that could change quickly once additional sponsors get involved.

“The national, regional and even local exposure for this event is huge,” said Giese, whose day job is being president of NorthStar Financial Planners, a fee-only wealth management firm. “We’re going to spend 60 days promoting our cause across eight states and numerous cities. I post a blog every night about the day’s ride. The last ride I did had over 50,000 people following me and that was just for fun. This time, we have an entire team of social media and publicity experts on board promoting our cause. Companies interested in that kind of exposure will get a lot of bang for their buck. And given the amount of interest from riders we’ve received so far, we anticipate having to make this a supported ride. That means major visibility for sponsors, including a commercially wrapped RV that follows along, media stops in at least 10 cities to visit local NAMI Chapters, exchange riders and big events at the start and finish.

“We’re looking for support from companies including bike manufacturers, clothing and supply companies; hotel chains, outdoor outfitters for camping gear, food and beverage distributors, a cook, an RV rental firm and even a journalist or two who wants to join the ride and report on our progress,” he added.

Three years ago, Giese, an avid cyclist since childhood, spent 57 days riding his bicycle 2,890 miles from Key West, FL, to Bar Harbor, Maine. It was such a life changing experience; he knew he had to do it again. Having proved that he was physically capable of doing it, he decided his next ride was going to be bigger and dedicated to charity. He produced a photo journal of that ride that is now being made into a paperback and e-book as added value for those who become sponsors, ride or donate generously.

This time, Giese and a diverse group of adventure cyclists will leave from the Pacific Coast city of San Diego, CA, and cycle an average of 50 miles a day though steep mountainous terrain, the driest of deserts, back country roads and even busy Interstate Highways to make their way across the southern United States in 60 days until they reach Atlantic Coast city of St. Augustine, Florida on around November 15, 2015..

They will cross eight states, including California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. They will stop in at least 10 cities to raise money, awareness and pick up riders who can’t commit to a 60-day ride but still want to participate in touring segments of the trip. The cities include San Diego, Phoenix/Tempe, El Paso, Austin, Baton Rouge, Mobile, Pensacola, Tallahassee, Gainesville and St.Augustine. And it’s all to benefit NAMI.

The cost of the entire ride is $4,000 and includes a $500 donation to NAMI. Cyclists can also join for segments of the ride. Costs per segment are being worked on and will be released shortly

“Mental illness is a very misunderstood disease,” said Giese. “Until my family was personally affected, I didn’t even understand it. That’s why this ride is so important. It’s not only to raise funds, which are desperately needed, but to raise awareness and remove the stigma associated with mental illness.”

According to, mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. Here are some statistics:

  • Mental illness affects one in four adults – that’s 61.5 million Americans- in any given year.
  • One in 17 live with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder.
  • Approximately 20 percent of youth ages 13 to 18 experience severe mental disorders in a given year. For ages 8 to 15, the estimate is 13 percent.
  • One half of all chronic mental illness begins by the age of 14; three-quarters by age 24. Despite effective treatment, there are long delays-sometimes decades-between the first appearance of symptoms and when people get help.
  • Serious mental illness costs America $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year.
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. (more common than homicide) and the third leading cause of death for ages 15 to 24 years.
  • More than 90 percent of those who die by suicide had one or more mental disorders.
  • Although military members compromise less than one percent of the population, veterans represent 20 percent of suicides annually.
  • Each day, about 22 veterans die from suicide.

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Supported or Un-Supported?

Lest you think this article is about women’s underclothing or an Athlete’s unmentionables let me just tell you that there are two basic types of bicycle touring. The supported ride “supports” the riders with a SAG vehicle (Support and Gear) that rides along somewhere in the close vicinity of the bicyclists. In addition there may be mechanics and and in some cases even a chef to provide meals along the way. Supported rides often have evening hotel accommodations pre-arranged and if camping, somebody may even be setting your tent up for you.

Unsupported riders enjoy none of those benefits. They carry all their own gear, including a tent, stove for cooking, rations, and of course all their clothing and personal items. In my case, that included my laptop so I could stay connected to my office as well as post my blog each evening. Total pack weight for me is typically just under 50 pounds… and I feel every pound of that as I pedal up each hill! The unsupported ride has no SAG vehicle following along and each rider is completely self sufficient. Where I’ve heard of unsupported riders who have planned where they will stop each night in advance I’ve never met one. Plans change a lot on unsupported rides. The unsupported rider is really more the sort that enjoys having no pre-arranged plan each day and rides head on into the adventure of it all.

Unsupported rides often involve a lot of camping… sometimes where there is no campground. I’ve camped in town parks, behind fire stations and in somebody’s field. Sure, there are the occasional hotel stays, because sometimes a real bed and a private bathroom with a hot shower is just too much to pass up.

One thing the unsupported rider learns early on is how to organize their packs. You don’t always have the opportunity to unpack, spread out and then repack when you are camping. So if you want to find something you have to have a system and know where everything is in your various packs and panniers in order to find it efficiently. I carry 4 panniers and a handlebar bag on my tours. I have a system of finding something… it’s always in the 4th pack I look in. Without fail. That’s my system.

Ride to Awareness was originally planned to be a small unsupported ride. The vision again was to blog my way across the continent on my bicycle, see how many folks would be interested and curious enough to watch the website daily and hopefully some of them would contribute to my cause: the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). This is the type of riding I’m used to. I love being self-reliant and being able to say, “Look, I crossed the country on my bicycle, WITHOUT ANY HELP.” I’m not sure how much money I was going to raise but at the very least, I would be raising some awareness about the stigma that comes along with mental illness. Well, that was the plan.

Then I talked to some marketing and Public Relations people I knew about the ride.

The question they asked was brilliant: Is my intention to go on a nice bicycle ride for two months or is it more important to me that I raise as much awareness and funds for mental illness as I possibly can? Well of course my answer was the later. This is really first and foremost about increasing awareness and raising much needed funds to support families affected by mental illness. If that is the case then I owe it to the cause to try and make this as big an event as I can. Which means it should probably be a fully supported ride.

In our initial marketing meeting the idea was presented that if we can reach a whole lot of people we should be able to raise enough funds from sponsorships to provide everything we need to support the ride, from bicycles and gear to a camper or motor home acting like a moving billboard promoting our cause and all our wonderful sponsors as we cross the country. In addition, we’d have enough cash to create interest in the media all across the country to further promote our cause.

So that’s what we are going to try to do over the next several months. We’re going to try to raise the cash we need to make this as big as we can. We’re currently producing media kits with videos and targeting potential sponsorships. If you know a corporate sponsor what would like to get a lot of exposure supporting a very worthy cause, drop me note. We’ll surely contact them!

by Allen Giese

All loaded up for an unsupported tour