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GoYeo Storytellers: Tori Knapp ’21 By: Alexis Dill '20

Sophomore Tori Knapp was driving to cross country practice one August afternoon two years ago when they came to the realization that they would be eligible to participate in the next AIDS/LifeCycle fundraising event. The event—which has an age requirement of 18—takes place in June, and Knapp’s birthday is in February.

The LifeCycle is a seven-day bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles that helps people affected by HIV/AIDS by raising money for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and Los Angeles LGBT Center.

Knapp had eagerly waited to participate in it for nine years.

“I couldn’t believe that it was actually going to happen,” Knapp said. “It all started when I was nine. One of my moms and her partner were going through a midlife crisis and were like, ‘We need to change our lives and get fit and do something good,’ and so they started training for the LifeCycle."

Knapp tagged along with their mother and partner when they went on weekend rides during training, and was there to witness the fundraiser’s opening ceremony in 2007. Nearly four thousand people showed up to ride, volunteer, or cheer on loved ones.

“All these people were clearly super excited to be there, but ride-out day is also very somber,” Knapp said. “The ceremony is all about why you’re riding and where the money that you’ve raised is going. It’s heavy stuff, but it’s also a liberating feeling. I remember being nine years old and thinking, ‘Wow, this is cool. I want to do this one day.’”
Tori and their team the day before the 2018 Ride

Two years later, at age 11, Knapp was gifted with their first road bike: a red, white, and blue Trek from Craigslist that immediately became their most prized possession. The fundraising began a year later when they met the age requirement for Bike MS, a shorter ride that raises money to improve the lives of people battling multiple sclerosis.

“It’s very centering for me, being on the bike,” Knapp said. “I don’t know if I do these rides strictly because I love cycling, though. It’s kind of like, ‘I have this thing that I really love doing. Now how can I help other people through this thing?’ Instead of doing it for me, I get to do it for other people too.”

Knapp has raised over $26,000 in their lifetime and has a goal of raising $5,000 more this year.

Most people donate by clicking the link below, but Knapp has also collected donations in the past through bake sales and giving out homemade fudge.

The most fulfilling part of the LifeCycle for Knapp is helping people in need, but they said the sights and sounds of the California Coastal Trail are up there as well. On the first day of the tour, the pack rides from San Francisco to Santa Cruz.

“You’re coming up this huge hill called Devil’s Slide, and you’re coming through the mountain like its been cut,” Knapp said. “You suddenly see the ocean, and it is absolutely gorgeous. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are there handing out strawberries to everyone, and there’s a band that dresses up as lumberjacks and plays music. I love that.”

After riding in their second LifeCycle this past June, Knapp packed their bags—and bike—and headed to Washington, D.C., where they spent the summer working for a bike riding camp. The sophomore runner, taught kids how to ride safely in a city atmosphere, fix flat tires, and lubricate their bike chains.

“I was living with other people, but I was still on my own,” Knapp said. “It was nice having my independence. I was also training for cross country at the time, so I ran all over the district and got to know the city really well—the museums and all of the incredible free things they have in D.C.”

Knapp indulges in cycling at Oberlin as well. This is their second-year living in Keep Cottage, home to the Oberlin Bike Co-op.

“I bring my bike to Oberlin,” Knapp said. “I have a bike box, which is like a suitcase for your bike. It comes on the airplane with me. I try to ride at least once or twice a week when I’m at school, which isn’t too difficult since we [the cross country and track and field athletes] are required to cross-train.”

While Knapp often has a team of supporters at each fundraiser they participate in, the San Francisco native said the family-like feel they get on the cross country and track and field team is one of a kind.

2017 Outdoor Track & Field Championship Team
“I love my team so much,” Knapp said. “I don’t think I could express just how much I truly love all of them. Everybody is so supportive and cares so much about you in all regards, not just running. They care about you as a full person.”

Knapp is planning on double majoring in Hispanic Studies and Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies, and is considering attending law school post-graduation to work on the legal side of nonprofits or become an immigration lawyer.

No matter where they end up or what they end up doing after graduation, Knapp is sure of one thing: They will never stop cycling.

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