As the grueling fundraising chapter comes to a close, one man explains why it first started.

Riding for a cause: Kim Gilbert has been a key organiser of the Red Sky ride for Solaris for 15 years. Picture: Supplied.
Riding for a cause: Kim Gilbert has been a key organiser of the Red Sky ride for Solaris for 15 years. Picture: Supplied.

There aren't many of us who'd like the idea of cycling for four days through the South West in temperatures of up to 50 degrees.

But for one man, the demanding stint is a summer tradition with a selfless purpose.

Every summer for the past 15 years, Kim Gilbert has swapped his work blazer for cycling gear, to ride 650km in rural WA to help people with cancer.

The Katanning local came up with the grueling challenge after he lost his niece to cancer, and a friend introduced him to an organisation called Solaris.

Solaris Cancer Care is a non-profit that supports cancer patients with therapies and techniques to supplement mainstream medicine.

Mr Gilbert said after talking to a Solaris volunteer, it became clear that the organisation needed funding.

On the road: The Red Sky ride for Solaris cancer care takes 4 days and spans 650km. Picture: Supplied.

On the road: The Red Sky ride for Solaris cancer care takes 4 days and spans 650km. Picture: Supplied.

"We identified that they were in some severe financial pressures, because they were relying on donations, and fundraising, all those sorts of things," he said.

"And we came up with this really, really good idea. We would do a bike ride and raise money for them."

The initial Red Sky rides started off being 750km through the South West, with the original goal to raise a million dollars over five years.

"The end result was that over four years, we raised a million dollars. And then we just kept going," Mr Gilbert said.

Now in it's 15th year running, the Red Sky ride has raised more than $4 million for Solaris, with the four-day challenge attracting riders from all walks of life.

Starting in Perth on February 24, the riders will cycle to York, then Narrogin, make a stop at the Solaris centre in Bunbury and then make the trip back up to Cottesloe.

Reason to smile: Kim Gilbert has played a big role in the Red Sky ride, raising four million dollars for Solaris over the last 15 years. Picture: Supplied.

Reason to smile: Kim Gilbert has played a big role in the Red Sky ride, raising four million dollars for Solaris over the last 15 years. Picture: Supplied.

"The whole idea of the red sky ride is ordinary people doing something extraordinary. So we have very strong riders and we have people that have only done it for a few years," Mr Gilbert said.

'Born and bred in the bush' himself, it was important to Mr Gilbert that services be improved so that people in the regions don't have to travel far to receive treatment.

He made sure that as a requirement of raising money for Solaris, they would provide services to people in rural Western Australia.

"It's not only the people in the city who get cancer but people in the country, but this is seriously impacted by a large amount of travel and being away from family and that sort of stuff," he said.

This year, more than 30 riders have registered to take part in the ride, starting next week during one of the hottest months of the year.

Each rider has raised at least $3000 for Solaris, and they have spent recent weeks conditioning their bodies for the long road ahead.

Weeks of training: The grueling Red Sky ride takes weeks of conditioning to be ready, with every participant raising at least $3000. Picture: Supplied.

Weeks of training: The grueling Red Sky ride takes weeks of conditioning to be ready, with every participant raising at least $3000. Picture: Supplied.

"We get up at quarter to four, about four or five mornings a week to go riding," Mr Gilbert said.

The process is brutal, but Mr Gilbert said the reason they do it keeps them going.

"We do it to emulate the toughness and the resolve that is needed when one undergoes a cancer journey," he said.

"No one can get up in the morning and say, I don't want to have cancer today."

While this fundraising chapter for Solaris is closing, the legacy of it's name may change how we think about the red sky, and the saying we all know.

"Red sky at night is the shepherd's delight.

"It's the thought that tomorrow will always be better day."