Friday, January 28, 2011

Brothers Biking Cross-Country for a Cause

By Molly McCoy
Staff Columnist
When twin brothers Robert and Patrick Brady first told their parents they wanted to bike across the country, they received a skeptical response.
“It was a little bit of a contentious subject for a while,” says Patrick, 23, who graduated from the University of Maine in 2010 with a B.S. in Civil Engineering, “but now they’ve warmed up to the idea.”
This June, Robert and Patrick will dip their rear bicycle wheels into the waters of Portland, Maine, and embark on a three-month journey that will bring them across the U.S. to Santa Barbara, California, and their front wheels will touch the Pacific. Much more than a joy ride, the two Kennebunk residents are participating in one of the many annual routes organized by the national fundraising and awareness group: Bike & Build.
Founded in 2002 by Marc Bush, Bike & Build is a 501(c)(3) independent nonprofit organization that works with young adults, ages 18-25, producing cross-country cycling trips to raise awareness and funds for affordable housing organizations. What began as two trips in the summer of 2003 has now evolved into an eight-event season in 2011. According to its website, Bike & Build has contributed $2,780,000 (including more than $490,000 donated during the summer of 2010) to housing groups for projects planned and executed by young adults.
Each of the Brady brothers needs to raise a total of $4,000 before they start pedaling in early June, and $1,000 each by March in order to receive the official bikes provided by the organization.
“We’re about a quarter of the way there because of very generous family donations, but now we’re branching out to make up the rest,” says Robert.
Along with their own fundraising activities, participating riders execute these building projects along the course of their routes. The riders stop at multiple locations to build houses with a variety of independent organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity, Hands On Gulf Coast, community housing corporations, land trusts, and more. The teams have dedicated more than 80,000 building hours and more than 5 million miles pedaled to date, setting a daunting expectation about the summer to come.
But the Brady brothers are up for the challenge.
“It will be physically demanding, for sure,” says Robert, who is currently finishing up his undergraduate degree in Landscape Architecture at Philadelphia University, “but at the same time, it’s going to be really rewarding. By the time we get to California, it will be more than worth it.”
Both Robert and Brady have participated in community service projects in the past, but nothing of this magnitude, they say. Robert cleaned up neighborhoods and reached out through Philadelphia University’s community service programs, while Patrick went on an alternative Spring Break in Tennessee where he rehabilitated nature trails. This time around, the boys will bike roughly 70 miles a day along with the 30 or so other riders in their group, staying in accommodations ranging from churches to camps and on the floors of school buildings.
“We’ve grown up mountain biking more than road-cycling, so the endurance factor is going to be a big change for us,” says Robert. “My experience is minimal, at best.”
“As is mine,” says Patrick, laughing. “I’ve never been on a bike for that long.”
He explains that the organization encourages a diligent pre-ride practice routine to get all participants in comparable shape for the trip. The brothers know they have their work cut out for them as the starting date approaches.
Most of all, the brothers are looking forward to the adventure of it all, meeting new people with a common goal.
“We thought, ‘What have we done in our lives so far? Why not do this now?’” says Robert. “Since we’re leaving from Portland, we can literally walk out our front door and say we biked from Maine to California. That’s pretty cool.”
For more information about Bike & Build and to sponsor Patrick or Robert’s trips, visit You can follow Robert and Patrick’s blogs about their training and the trip at and, respectively.
Photo caption: Local brothers Robert and Patrick Brady will bike cross-country this summer as part of Bike & Build’s annual fundraising and building efforts. (Courtesy photo)