ISU student to bike across the country, help the affordable housing cause


Charlie Coffey/Iowa State Daily

Zoey Mauck, sophomore in pre-landscape architecture, participates in the Bike & Build program that raises funds for housing projects across the nation. Participants also help build affordable housing in their area.

Claire Norton

Zoey Mauck will bike across the country this summer for more than just an exercise program.

Mauck, freshman in landscape architecture, will ride a bike across the United States stopping in towns and cities to build houses to help with the affordable housing crisis with the Bike and Build program. 

Bike and Build organizes groups of volunteers to travel on bikes on a route across the country while making stops in towns to help other organizations build homes for those in need. This is Mauck’s first time participating in the Bike and Build program, which is working together with other organizations such as Habitat For Humanity and Rebuilding Together.

Mauck heard about the program after a suggestion from a stranger while participating in RAGBRAI for the second time. She said she became interested in Bike and Build after she received an email.

“I joined the Cycling Club at Iowa State and they just sent out a random email one day talking about a program that they had heard about,” she said. “So that’s when I looked more in to it and decided to do it.”

Mauck said she felt the need to do this because of her experiences in high school when her cycling club partnered with Des Moines’ Bicycle Collectives to donate refurbished bikes to the Des Moines community.

Sandi Risdal, executive director at Habitat for Humanity of Central Iowa, said she is excited and grateful to work together with Bike and Build to help less fortunate families.

“We are thrilled to be a part of [Bike and Build’s] project again,” Risdal said. “They were such a neat group and just so excited to help.”

Risdal said Habitat for Humanity reaches out to Bike and Build so the building process can go smoother and the groups are able to contribute more. After Habitat for Humanity reaches out, Bike and Build may apply to team up, allowing Habitat for Humanity to become eligible for a national grant funded by Bike and Build.

“Last year [Habitat for Humanity was] awarded a $5,000 grant that went toward the duplex,” Risdal said. “It was a special project because it was for two individuals — the home owners are both quadriplegic and in wheel chairs.”

Safety is a major concern to the organization and to Mauck. Training is essential to prepare for this length of ride. To be able to ride for such a length of time, the volunteers must log 500 miles of outdoor biking and 10 hours of volunteer work with an affordable housing unit prior to the extensive ride.

Mauck said she is going to train prior to this summer using an app called Strava. It allows her to connect and compare, using GPS, with her future fellow volunteer members of Bike and Build who live in other areas of the country.

“You basically get on your bike and press ‘go’ and it tracks your speed, your distance and you can save your route,” Mauck said. “I’m linked up with all of my teammates on there, so I can see what they’re doing and make sure I’m staying at the same level they are.”

She will also have to pass a safety quiz prior to the big ride to make sure she knows how to bike in different situations and weather conditions.

A support van will follow the riders and carry the heavier bike parts and first-aid equipment. If any of the riders are unable to bike because of an injury, exhaustion, or illness, he/she is able to ride in the van.

Leaders are a vital part of each volunteer group. These individuals are hired to guide and lead the 30 or so volunteers, plan and coordinate, drive the support van and aid riders when necessary.

Bike and Build’s director of operations, Justin Villere, said Bike and Build strives to better communities and encourage young adults to dedicate themselves to service. He said scholarships are offered from Bike and Build to help riders in financial need.

“That gives the opportunity to young adults who might, otherwise, might not have the financial network or the time to go out there in the summer,” he said. “It gives them the opportunity to Bike and Build if they don’t, otherwise, have the finances to do it.”

The Bike and Build website also provides insight on all of the riders from the past, as well as the upcoming summer riders. People are able to click on Mauck’s page, read her biography/background, view her upcoming route and stops and donate to help her fundraise.

Mauck’s page also includes an option to “track this rider,” which is enabled to alert and update when and where she helps out throughout her trip.

Mauck has received a lot of support from her family, as well as through her personal blog website. She said when she is informing people about what she is going to do, she refers them to her personal blog page, which tells all about her upcoming endeavor.

“I met people who have racing teams and photographers who photograph cyclists. They’ve been really helpful in planning fundraisers for me,” Mauck said. “So I’ve had a lot of community support from people that I know and even people that I don’t know.”

Mauck has chosen to ride the route that takes her from South Carolina through the southern states, staying in each town for about one or two days, and then ending in Santa Cruz, Calif.

Mauck said she is prepared for her upcoming endeavor and because she is a two-time RAGBRAI rider, she is excited and ready to get involved in this adventurous and philanthropic task.

She also said that because she is a landscape architecture student, her education is able to benefit from this program, too.

“Part of the excitement about this program is that I’ll be able to see the entire U.S. and the different ways that people have built up cities and landscapes,” Mauck said. “And also seeing the impact that our work can have on people.”