The Wrigley Field Road Tour attracts people for various reasons. Some use it as motivation to get to a healthier lifestyle. Some do it for the love of cycling. Some do it to get in a long distance ride on their way to a long-course triathlon. Some haven’t ridden a bike in years, but are life-long Cubs fans.
Even if it wasn’t an initial motivating factor, ultimately, everybody gets excited about raising funds for local and global charities, World Bicycle Relief and Chicago Cubs Charities. And when it comes to fundraising for the WFRT, riders have come up with creative ways to reach their goals.
There were a few factors that attracted Liam Sean O’Sullivan to this, the fourth annual Wrigley Field Road Tour. First, he’s been a life-long Cubs fan – ever since he was old enough to identify the Chicago team as his own.
Then there was the matter of a bike he was building. Liam is a guy who likes tinkering with things. He wants to know how they work. “Even with computers. I want to take them apart and see if I can replace things and make them better.”
Liam first got into cycling when a friend gave him an old Schwinn. He was living in Chicago at the time and had missed a few shifts at work thanks to the CTA.
A bicycle proved to be a better way for getting around the city. The Schwinn, however, fit him so poorly that he eventually upgraded to a more expensive fixed gear bike which served him well until he moved downstate. The wide open roads and faster speeds he could hit there made him realized he could really use some gears.
In the spirit of tinkering, last fall, Liam decided to start building a bike that would be more appropriate for the open roads. While in the midst of his bike build, Liam learned that one of the Cubs owners, Todd Ricketts, was a cyclist. Liam went online to search “Todd Ricketts + bicycles.” World Bicycle Relief and the Wrigley Field Road Tour popped up in the results.
Liam heard about the Wrigley Field Road Tour again while listening to Cubs training broadcasts. Then, after months of amassing parts, Liam’s bike was ride-able in the spring. “I had just finished building my bicycle and told myself I had to sign up for something, otherwise this bike I worked so hard to build would just sit in the garage and look pretty.”
Liam shares some insight into his motivation: “For me, the ride wasn’t just about wanting to help, but also about using something I put so much time and effort in to building.”
He signed up for notifications about the Wrigley Field Road Tour. When registration opened, Liam was one of the first to enroll. He admits he wanted to sign up before he could talk himself out of it. “I know myself. I can talk myself out of things pretty easily.”
To kick off his fundraising campaign, Liam approached the owner of a bar in Champaign, IL. The bar owner gave him a $30 gift card that he could use to reward his highest donor. Liam offered “two beers bought by me” at the same bar as second prize. With these incentives. he watched donations reach $250.
Inspired by his success, Liam decided to approach a new local brewery to see if he could get another donation to incentivize more potential donors. Triptych Brewing in Savoy, IL, is a distributing brewery with a taproom where you can taste their brews, purchase growlers and hang out. The self-described nanobrewery had only just opened in January, after a successful Kickstarter campaign the year before.
When Liam approached one of the brewery’s three owners, he was told Triptych didn’t yet have a system for gift cards in place, but the owner wanted to know more about the charities behind the WFRT. Liam explained the work of the two charities that the WFRT benefits, World Bicycle Relief and Chicago Cubs Charities, and was told, “We can come up with $500 to help with that.”
Liam was astounded. “It was a simple thing, a 20-minute conversation. I was trying to get a gift card and, instead, I walked away with the moon.” Liam told the Triptych owners that, in exchange for their sponsorship, he would do the ride with a jersey bearing their name. Perhaps you noticed the jersey Liam designed while on the Wrigley Field Road Tour? Apparently a few people have already contacted Triptych to ask about how to get their hands on this one-of-a kind jersey.
For his first century, Liam decided his focus should be on finishing. His plan for the summer was to get in as many miles on the bike as he could. Often he would ride his bike for the seven-mile commute in to work. Later in the day, he had a 20-mile loop he would do, especially on the days he didn’t ride to work. “Sundays were my longer rides. I wanted to train my body to be ready on Sundays.”
All the miles added up. As the summer went on, he realized he was building confidence with each mile he had under his belt. “When I first registered, I thought I might not finish. The more I rode, the more confident I got.”
In July, Liam experienced a setback. Knee pain kept him off the bike for two weeks. When he got back in the saddle, he felt like he was starting over. “It was really discouraging. I couldn’t believe I had lost so much fitness in so little time. It was like starting over and, at that point, I only had about six weeks to truly get ready.”
Just before the Wrigley Field Road Tour on August 25th, Liam planned a ride to Kickapoo State Park, which would make for a 60-mile ride round-trip. “I felt really great. I realized that if I could do a ride like that by myself with only two gas station waters stops along the way, I would be okay. I am going to do this.”
The day before the WFRT, Liam worked an 11-hour day, and then made the three-hour drive up to Chicago. Traffic on the Dan Ryan delayed his arrival to his hotel until after midnight. He laid out his cycling clothes for the morning.
After only six hours of sleep, Liam rode from his hotel to Wrigley Field. He felt good. “My body was telling me this was good. I knew I could do it. My body usually tells me when I can’t do things.”
It was his first century and longest ride. “Before that, I had never done more than 80 miles in a day and that was 60 miles in morning and another 20 miles at night. I had never ridden more than 60 miles at a go.”
According to Liam, “Everything felt right that day. Overall, it was such a good day. It was hot, of course, but very gratifying.”
Since the group rides that go out near his home are at times he is not available, Liam has grown accustomed to riding alone. He found that riding with people and talking with them “helped quite a lot.”
The day went smoothly for Liam. “The ride was so well done. The support staff was great. And I had really good conversations with people. It was just an easy day – not the riding, but the experience. It set a really high standard for any other century I do.”
He also had a good support crew that included his parents, his girlfriend, his brother and nieces. They met him out at the aid stations, encouraging him on his way.
By way of thanking his brother for introducing him to the Cubs as a child and his girlfriend “who put up with me riding my bike all summer instead of hanging out with her,” Liam invited them to the post-ride party.
Liam and his brother have a tradition. Before entering Wrigley, they first have an Old Style at Murphy’s Tavern. Even though there was no home game August 25th, they couldn’t veer from tradition. After Murphy’s, a quick shower and a massage, Liam was ready for the highlight of his day. He headed out to the field where he kicked his sandals off and walked barefoot through the outfield.
“Awww, that felt fantastic. That was awesome. It was so worth the effort of the day. As a Cubs fan, this was awesome. I know it’s just a patch of grass in the city, but at same time this was pretty cool.”
As if the party on Wrigley wasn’t enough for this Cubs fan, Liam had an encounter he will never forget. “Tom [Ricketts] was right in front of me in food line. I asked if there was any chance I could get a picture with him. He just smiled. I said ‘Thank you for Theo,’ and he told me he wished more people were as patient as I am.”
Liam is already considering the 2014 WFRT. “I was mainly focused on wanting to get in as many miles as I could this summer. After getting the mileage down this year, next year I could focus on my time and not just the finish.”
And Liam is already contemplating ideas for future WFRT jerseys, with spots for local companies that want to sponsor him. “Every year I could have a different jersey, based on the colors of the companies that sponsor me. It would be fun to have something like that set up. Every year, I’d ride with a different jersey.”
But before Liam considers crossing that SRAM finish line in another unique jersey, he has a closer finish line to cross. He’s signed up for a sprint triathlon in Champaign, September 22nd. If you’re in the area, cheer for Liam and then stop by Triptych for a brew afterwards.
- Visiting the Champaign area? Check out Triptych Brewery while you’re there – and make sure to tell them that Liam Sean O’Sullivan (& Higher Gear) sent you!
- Check out our event recap for the 2013 Wrigley Field Road Tour.
- See more faces and photos from the 2013 Wrigley Field Road Tour.
- Interested in riding the 2015 Wrigley Field Road Tour? Please provide us your contact information here.
- For more stories from Higher Gear customers, sign up for Higher Gear’s weekly newsletter.