Max Avner of Delaware didn't let a lack of cycling experience stop him from tackling the challenge of Pelotonia.
Pelotonia is an annual Columbus-based charity bicycle tour and nonprofit organization that raises money for cancer research at Ohio State University's James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute. This year's opening ceremony is Friday, Aug. 2, and the bike rides are Saturday, Aug. 3, and Sunday, Aug. 4.
Except for the 2010 event, Avner has participated in every Pelotonia as a volunteer, virtual rider or rider.
Because of an injury suffered in February, he will scale back his distance this year, to 25 miles from his normal 100.
He said he first learned of Pelotonia from his friend, Jason Bloch, who rode 100 miles in the inaugural Pelotonia in 2009.
Avner, 38, said he and his wife, Allison, quickly registered to volunteer for the opening ceremony.
He said he wanted to be involved because, like many others, he had seen friends and family struggle with cancer.
A leading motivation has been the fact his mother, Debbie Avner, battled brain cancer and died in 2012 at age 62.
She was devoted to helping others, he said, as a teacher of special-education students.
"She was full of energy, full of life," he said. "She was one of the most caring people you could possibly imagine. Her love for teaching and helping kids with special needs was unbelievable, and she was really good at it, too."
After several years as a volunteer and a virtual rider, which is someone who makes a minimum $100 fundraising commitment without cycling, Avner decided to ride for real in the 2014 Pelotonia.
He had never been on a road bicycle and hadn't pedaled a bike of any kind since he was in middle school.
Before his Pelotonia ride, he trained until he could cycle nearly 100 miles a day. When Pelotonia arrived, he finished the 100-mile route in about seven hours.
"On my first ride, I remember coming up to a large hill around the 90-mile mark," he said. "I dug deep and hammered my way up the hill, and when I reached the top, I was met by five riders clapping their hands and cheering me along. When you are out on the road, you will be encouraged by people cheering you on along the side of the road and by fellow riders.
"There is a tremendous sense of community among riders. To see my wife, son, friends and family there to cheer me on ... with hundreds of people at the finish line was a great feeling."
Since then, Avner said, he has become an avid cyclist. Allison Avner will ride alongside him in this year's Pelotonia.
Their son, Hank, 8, looks forward to being a Pelotonia rider when he reaches the minimum riding age of 14.
But his age hasn't stopped Hank from raising funds for Pelotonia, his father said.
Last year, Hank set up a lemonade stand and brought in more than $300 for the cause.
Avner said he and other Pelotonia riders use email and social media to get out the message and facilitate fundraising.
He also writes personal thank-you notes and emails to those to pledge to the fund drive.
"It's very important to acknowledge when people support you," he said. "It helps drive donations year in and year out."
The annual August bike tour includes one- or two-day route options of varying mileage for which cyclists commit to raising corresponding amounts of money, all of which goes toward some form of research at Ohio State.
Through its first 10 rides, Pelotonia raised more than $184 million for cancer research, according to www.pelotonia.org.
Participants raise funds by forming pelotons -- fundraising teams organized by businesses, communities, academic or social organizations or simply like-minded individuals.
Avner and his wife are members of the Achievers peloton.