Sixty-five Aussies are off to the US next week for the first international Black Dog Ride, raising money and awareness for mental health issues and suicide prevention.
Black Dog Ride founder Steve Andrews says they will be riding Harley-Davidson motorcycles from New York to Los Angeles over 21 days, raising awareness and funds for mental health issues along the way.
“We’ll have to leave all those Harley jokes at home,” says the BMW rider.
Steve has just returned from the annual ride to the Red Centre, this year going to Uluru instead of Alice Springs.
“We had a guy from the UK on the trip and he’s interested in running a Black Dog Ride in the UK,” Steve says.
Steve had previously thought of extending the rides to other countries, but says the planning for the US ride this month proved difficult for his small team.
“We were proposing a ride in the UK and New Zealand but we’re a small team and we don’t want to bite off more than we can chew,” he says.
“The American ride has taken a lot out of us as it’s a huge undertaking but it will be successful.
“However, our plans for overseas expansion could be limited to offering a Black Dog Ride under licence with rights to the name and support from us, but not organisation.
“That could change as we grow,” he says.
Steve confirms they have had inquiries from the UK, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand.
“We will probably do a one-day ride out of Christchurch next year in October/November, rather than our planned ride from top to bottom,” he says.
“The global interest in Black Dog Ride is humbling in a way. It’s also amazing to me that the concept we developed hasn’t been used in any other countries. This is quite unique in the way it works and its effectiveness.”
Steve says this year’s ride attracted about 350 riders and about 50 pillions who raised more than $300,00 to bring the seven-year total to more than $2 million. Funds raised go to Lifeline and Mental Health First Aid.
“We chose Uluru as the end destination instead of the usual Alice Springs and it added something special because it’s such an iconic lassie landmark,” Steve says.
On the final day, the bikes rode into the Mutitjulu Aboriginal community which has Uluru in its backyard.
“It was an amazing sight to see these hundreds of bikes roll into that small community,” he says.
The Black Dog Ride left a lasting legacy at the community with financial support for mental health training and a suicide prevention program.
The winner of this year’s raffle of a $28,850 BMW R 1200 GS motorcycle was Richard Peck. All 2000 tickets were sold with proceeds going to support Lifeline’s online Crisis Support Chat service.
Steve started the Red Centre rides in 2009 and last year they did a month-long lap of Australia and raised $411,000.
Next year’s Black Dog Ride will be split into separate, self-contained state rides of about seven to nine days. In 2017, the riders will head to Tasmania.
“Poor old Tassie has been left out a bit,” he says.
“I didn’t go on my first ride because I was advised there would be black ice in winter and we didn’t go last year on our national lap for the same reasons, so we will go in 2017 in late October and early November.”