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Badgering: Soul Cycler

Meet the Badger who pedaled 2.3 million strokes for charity.

Niki Denison
April 14, 2016

In 2015, Matt Stoltz '14 biked to all the US Major League Baseball parks to raise money for Big Brothers Big Sisters and its affiliated program, Biking for Baseball, which runs baseball clinics for children. In six months, he rode his Novara Randonee — without a support vehicle — for 11,750 miles, visited 30 baseball stadiums, and pedaled 2.3 million strokes, raising more than $26,000. Stoltz, who was a Big Brother mentor throughout his high school years, now works as a case manager for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City.

Yes, I was. In high school I would go every week after school for about a half hour to help [my Little Brother] with his homework or whatever, and it was really remarkable to see the changes that took place in him. He was more attentive, more engaged in class, and doing better in school. So it was cool to see that impact — I was kind of astounded at how little it took.

What was your favorite experience on the trip?

Meeting so many great people from every corner of the country. I would stay with strangers. People would buy me meals, buy me tickets to the game, and offer me hospitality. When you're traveling by yourself, that's really how you get by — that friendliness and generosity went a long way. A lot of the time I did what I call stealth camping. I'd just pitch a tent [under some trees] on the side of the road.

What was the biggest challenge you experienced?

You get lonely on the open road, spending ten or twelve hours on a bike. You definitely have those moments of self-doubt. There's no way that you can call six months on a bike easy, so you know you're going to have those tough days. But you're also going to have really good days when the ride's going pretty easily, there are gorgeous views, and it's a lot of fun. So you use those to motivate yourself and keep on pedaling.

Did you have any major bike breakdowns?

I had about 30 flat tires, but most of those I could fix and be back on the road within 15 minutes. I had a broken derailleur, which kind of set me back a bit. I was stranded in the middle of nowhere [southern Illinois near the Kentucky border], but someone I had stayed with the night before was able to help out. I called them and they had a spare derailleur that fit my bike. I was very lucky.

Did you eat massive amounts of food on the road?

I was eating basically everything and anything that was put in front of me. I was probably close to 8,000 to 10,000 calories a day. My hosts would fix dinner for me, and that would usually consist of a few platefuls of food. I've definitely had to cut back quite a bit since coming home. I lost about 40 to 45 pounds on the trip.

In addition to raising the money, what was the best outcome from the trip?

Getting people to sign up to be mentors [for Big Brothers Big Sisters], because a lot of times, there are kids on a wait list to find mentors, and that's kind of devastating. It was a great opportunity to spread the message that people can make a difference. I've had a few hundred reach out to me and tell me that they've signed up. Watching the baseball games was also a lot of fun — it was just really a great opportunity to not only experience baseball but to experience different cultures around the country.

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