Entertainment & Life

Cyclists take to Sacramento streets in Lunar Lunacy ride

Greg DeWall has cycled all over Sacramento several times, as he enjoys exercising in the open air and feeling the Delta breeze against his skin.

“It’s a beautiful city to bike through, especially with the cool evening temperatures,” DeWall said.

DeWall, 35, is a blind paralympian from midtown who won a bronze medal in judo (heavyweight division) at the 2008 Games in Beijing. He and Shari Roeseler, 50, executive director of the Society for the Blind, on Saturday will cycle around downtown Sacramento under a (nearly) full moon in the Lunar Lunacy Ride.

Sighted and blind bicyclists alike can join the journey to raise money for youth programming and to educate the community about blindness and exercise. The Rotary Club of Point West-Sacramento has organized its first nighttime ride to benefit Society for the Blind youth programs and other children’s charities.

The Society for the Blind will have six tandem bikes on the road during Lunar Lunacy, Roeseler said.

“Tandem cycling is an activity that someone who is blind or low-vision can do with a sighted peer,” she said. “So it’s something that we can all do together as a community.”

DeWall has been tandem cycling since he lost his vision in high school, he said. When he lost his sight his senior year, his 4-H Club raised the money for a tandem bike for him. DeWall and his father rode that bike for years.

Tandem biking, DeWall pointed out, is an activity a blind or visually impaired person can participate in with their sighted peers and “get that physical activity that’s so important.”

The paralympian is passionate about promoting physical activity, especially for the blind population.

“When you’re specifically referring to the blind population, we’re no exception to obesity and diabetes and all the health concerns that come with being stagnant and lazy,” DeWall said.

The Lunar Lunacy ride, which begins at 10 p.m. at the west steps of the Capitol, features two routes that will venture onto Sacramento city streets and bike trails. Riders can choose to tour the 5-mile or 17-mile courses, both of which will have rest areas at the halfway points and repair stops hosted by local bike shops.

Event co-chair Tom Slagle, 65, of Fair Oaks, has cycled both routes and admires the “magical and surreal” moonlit ride. “You see the city like you’ve never seen before,” he said. “It’s beautiful out there.”

Slagle has always ridden a bike “for one reason or another,” but became a more avid cyclist when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

“I was diagnosed with MS about 10 years ago and I found that I can cycle where I can’t jog or walk very far, so it gives me the aerobic exercise I need to stay in shape,” Slagle said.

Slagle is also passionate about bike safety, so he and his fellow Rotarians have worked hard to ensure a safe venue and route, he said. All Lunar Lunacy participants are required to wear a helmet and display front and rear bicycle lights.

Before the ride kicks off, there will be a party where attendees can grub on treats from local food trucks while dancing along to live music by Jesuit High School’s pep band and Julie and the Jukes, a four-piece folk band. Cyclists can compete for “best lighted bike,” “best decorated bike,” “lowest bike” and “best helmet.”

Lunar Lunacy is modeled after the annual Midnight Madness Fun Bicycle Ride in San Diego, which Slagle has biked twice. He pitched the nighttime bike ride idea to his Rotary Club. “Our goal is to build this thing into another major Sacramento sporting event, like Eppie’s Great Race or Run to Feed the Hungry,” Slagle said.