Bike racer to ride coast to coast for affordable housing

An Arizona rider who throws down the hammer on rides will pick one up this summer when she rides coast to coast to build affordable homes for families in need.

Carlee Schmidt (AZ Women’s Racing) is joining Bike & Build, a national nonprofit committed to raising money and awareness for affordable housing, to ride from Providence, R.I. to Seattle.

“Bike & Build is the ideal opportunity to satisfy both my need to explore and my desire to give back for a cause I believe in,” Schmidt said. “I know my training here in Phoenix will prepare me to ride confidently through the Midwestern plains and over the Cascade mountain passes. I can’t wait for my team and I to use our bikes as a tool to make an impact nationwide.”

Daily mileage

The journey will begin on June 3, when Schmidt reports to Providence, R.I. with 30 other riders. Over the next 10 weeks, the team will pedal an average of 69 miles per day to Seattle, arriving Aug. 17. They will dip their wheels in both oceans, Schmidt said.

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Bike & Build riders celebrate after reaching the Pacific Ocean. Photo courtesy of Bike & Build.

Along the way, the riders will participate in volunteer build days with 14 different affordable housing organizations like Habitat for Humanity, Rebuilding Together and small local housing nonprofits to help build affordable homes for families in need. Riders will build in towns like Groton, N.Y., Youngstown, Ohio, Marshalltown, Iowa and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

A Cat 3 racer, Schmidt started racing bikes in 2014, when she moved to Arizona from Seattle for a job at Boeing.

She said she was talking to a friend who mentioned he knew someone who participated in Bike & Build, and she said she was “instantly hooked.”

“Seattle is where I rode my first century, learned how to climb mountains, and really discovered who I am as a person,” Schmidt said. “When I signed up for Bike & Build, I knew I wanted to travel through that part of the country again.”

She said she also wanted to get involved because of the leadership aspect.

“As a trip leader, not only will I get to ride with this group of amazing volunteers, I get to coordinate the logistics of where we stay, our routes from place to place and lead our group in developing and sharing awareness on the affordable housing issue,” Schmidt said.

Smell the roses

Schmidt said the ride won’t have a set pace, and riders are not required to stay together. The group will have sweepers to help riders who might need it.

“I think there will be many ‘stop-and-smell-the-roses’ moments on the road, which is quite a change from the race-like group rides I train with here in the Valley,” Schmidt said.

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Bike & Build participants spend 12 days building affordable homes across the country. Photo courtesy of Bike & Build.

For the 12 build days, Schmidt said the team will do whatever is necessary like constructing a house’s interior frame, shingling the roof, painting exterior walls and setting up drywall.

Schmidt had to raise at least $4,500 to support the trip, and much of the donations will be donated to affordable housing organizations. She already has reached the goal but is taking additional donations. Last year the team donated $54,300, and Bike & Build is confident the 2016 team can repeat or exceed that total, Schmidt said.

“Bike & Build provides the opportunity, but it is the riders who make the lasting impact in so many communities,” said Justin Villere, Bike & Build’s Senior Director of Operations and Development.

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