The tens of thousands of miles that Marina del Rey resident Bert Zweig has covered on his bicycle have provided a means not only to explore the outdoors and stay fit into his 70s but also to contribute to charity.
Zweig, a lifelong athlete who has lived in the Marina and Playa del Rey area for the past 20 years, is not a casual bike rider.
In a given week he hops on his bicycle and pedals up to 150 miles, taking rides along the ocean through Manhattan Beach and down to Palos Verdes.
When most people are struggling to get out of bed and having breakfast in the morning, Zweig is out for a 25-mile ride before he heads off to work at a Century City law office or as an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University Law School.
Zweig says it’s the workout and the beauty of the ride, as well as the feeling it provides, that gets him to hit the bike trail each day.
“It’s great exercise,” Zweig says of his long rides. “The scenery is great. It’s just a great feeling.”
But Zweig’s passion for biking has become far more than a daily hobby, as it has also been a way to donate to charitable causes.
Zweig will celebrate his 73rd birthday Sunday, June 3rd, by getting on his recumbent bicycle and kicking off his third AIDS/ LifeCycle ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
The ride, which is the official cycling event of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and raises money to help AIDS beneficiaries, is scheduled to take approximately 2,000 participating riders on a 545-mile route before ending in Los Angeles Saturday, June 9th.
Zweig, a Columbia Law School graduate who also served in the U.S. Navy for three years, is accustomed to sporting events, as he played both football and basketball in high school and lacrosse in college. But he acknowledges that the AIDS ride, which he has completed twice before, still makes him a little nervous.
“It’s an exciting adventure,” he said. “I’ve been in sporting activities all my life but I still get butterflies when I start this ride.”
In his two previous AIDS/ LifeCycle rides, Zweig says he raised a total of $30,000, and he hopes to raise up to $25,000 this year by sending letters seeking donations from friends, family and business associates.
The money raised by the riders goes toward AIDS research and medicine, a cause Zweig says he is proud to be a part of.
“It makes me feel good because the money is going to a good cause,” he said.
After his wife, Michelle, first suggested he take part in the AIDS ride, Zweig completed his first ride alone. He finished the next ride with his daughter-in-law and a close friend.
While Zweig may know what to expect on the course this time, a new challenge will be riding alongside the much younger members of his training group, he foresees.
“My challenge is to keep up with them,” he says of the two men and two women in their 40s who are in the training group.
Physical fitness is sure to play a part for any biker in a long, grueling ride, but Zweig says the mental game is just as much a factor, if not more.
“A high percentage of road biking is mental,” he said. “You see that hill and you don’t know how long it is or where it will end.”
The physical benefits of bike riding are a big reason Zweig’s wife is so pleased to see his dedication to the sport.
“I think it’s the best thing he could be doing,” she said of her husband’s riding. “It’s really good for him and it keeps him in great shape.”
Michelle Zweig, who will see her husband off at the start of the AIDS ride, said the event started primarily as a “personal challenge” for her husband, but it has also allowed him to feel connected to the AIDS charity.
“As the years have progressed, he has become more interested in the organization and the cause,” she said.
For his rides, Zweig uses a recumbent bicycle, which has an aerodynamic design and puts the rider on an incline. The bike is a “rocket downhill” and offers advantages for long distances, but it is slower for uphill riding, he said.
When he returns to the AIDS/ LifeCycle event on his birthday, Zweig said he will look forward to the “adventure” of riding with fellow avid cyclists through beautiful California scenery. Having crossed the finish line before, Zweig expects to experience a “big emotional release” once he finishes the ride.
Although next year’s ride may have to take a backseat to his anniversary vacation with his wife, Zweig says he will be out on his bike for as long as he can.
“I will keep riding these rides until someone says I can’t,” he said.
Information on the AIDS/LifeCycle, www.aidslifecycle.org/.