Girls With Gears Rides On For Healthy Hearts

The cycling event, started by a Limerick resident, is the largest fundraiser for the CAROL for Heart, an organization that focuses on women’s health awareness.

The Girls With Gears cycling event is gearing up for its eighth-annual outing, hoping to encourage more women to ride their bikes and take care of their hearts.

“It’s an exercise event,” Cindy Messerle, co-founder and events director of CAROL for Heart, said.

The Girls With Gears cycling event will take place April 21 at Spring Mountain Adventures, located in Spring Mount. The event’s chief purpose is to raise funds for the nonprofit organization CAROL for Heart.

According to the Carol for Heart website, the organization was founded in 2003 after Messerle’s mother, Carol Pawelski, was unexpectedly sent to the emergency room, passing away seven days later on Feb. 5, 2002 from heart failure. Carol’s family had found that she had at least 30 years of undiagnosed heart disease. In honor of Carol, the family then committed themselves to, “make a difference in the lives of women and their heart health.”

According to Messerle, a Limerick resident, CAROL For Heart provides educational talks and programs about women’s heart care and heart disease prevention, using material from the American Heart Association and National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. The website states that CAROL for Heart has addressed over 5,000 women to women’s clubs, church groups and school groups in the greater Philadelphia area, as well as in New Jersey and Delaware.

CAROL for Heart also promotes several exercise events including the weekly Carol’s Walking Club and the Carol’s Annual Run of Love 5K run, both taking place in Warminster.

CAROL for Heart’s largest event, Girls With Gears, which had outgrown its initial location at Limerick Community Park two years ago, draws over 1,000 cyclists from several neighboring states, according to Messerle.

“The gathering of people was really important to my mom,” Messerle said. “People came out that we never met before.”


Girls With Gears Getting Started

The Girls With Gears event has become the largest fundraising event for CAROL for Heart, with its top year raising over $65,000.

Messerle estimates that the event is 75-percent women riders, however, she said that men, children and whole families are encouraged to participate, making the point that everyone has a woman in their life that could benefit from the mission of CAROL for Heart.   

The event was started when, in 2005, Messerle decided to purchase a new bike from the bicycle retail and accessories business Bikesport, located at 325 W. Main St. in Trappe.

She recalled becoming quick friends, and eventually a riding partner, with Bikesport’s owner Ginny Politz. Messerle said that Politz had encouraged her from the start to ride, and the two would often lead group rides along the Perkiomen Trail.

By the following year, Messerle had approached Politz with the idea for a charitable bike ride, noting that rides for women cyclists were rare at that time and particularly in the region.

“It was a great opportunity because it was so unique,” Messerle said, adding that partnering with cycling advocates was a great tie-in with the health-minded mission of CAROL for Heart.

Bikesport became a major, as well as the presenting, sponsor during the first year and subsequent years of the Girls With Gears event.

“Ginny’s not a sponsor, she’s a partner,” Messerle said. “She really helped us take it to the next level.”

The event also has garnered over 20 local businesses as sponsors.

With the cycling expertise of Biksport at hand, Politz said she wanted the event to be highly accessible to both inexperienced and seasoned cyclists. She emphasized that women of any size, age and skill level could complete this ride.

“It’s a fun and friendly cycling event,” Politz said. “We really try to focus on being a comfortable experience.”


A Ride For Your Own Level

The Girls With Gears ride allows participants to choose from several distances, including a 15, 25, 40 and 62-mile routes. According to the CAROL for Heart website, all routes will be on paved road with no trails, and no group rides for the 40 and 62-mile routes. Technical assistance, however, will be provided for riders in the form of  “ride-leaders,” who support participants on conquering hills, going the extra mile and guiding first-time cyclists riding in a group.

In the upcoming weeks leading to the ride, registered Girls With Gears participants also have the opportunity to train for their chosen route with ride leaders from Bikesport. Politz said that such training is specially designed for new and inexperienced riders.

Bikesport will raffle off four Trek bikes, whose grand prize is a Trek Lexa S Road Bike with an approximate value of $950. Participants can also order a commemorative cycling jersey, and will receive a participation prize.


Want to Ride with Girls With Gears?

  • When:  April 21
  • Time: Registration opens at 7 a.m.
  • Location: Spring Mountain Adventures, 757 Spring Mount Road in Spring Mount
  • Registration fee: Pre-registration is $35 and registration on the day of the event is $40.

For information on sponsorship, pledging or online registration, visit www.carolforheart.org or the CAROL for Heart Facebook page

The Girls With Gears training rides will take place March 23 and April 6, both starting at 10 a.m. at Bikesport. For more information, visit the Bikesport website.


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