Last year Joe and I did the MS Bike Ride in Vancouver. It was our first charity bike ride. We had wanted to do a charity bike ride for quite some time, but it just never worked out. Then Joe received a request from the MS organization to publicize their Vancouver MS Bike Ride. Of course he was happy to endorse and spread the word, but it also got us thinking about joining the ride. We have been touched by MS and thought that the MS Bike Ride was an under-supported ride. We were in!
We quickly set up our fund-raising pages and sent out alerts. Of course this became a friendly (not-so-friendly) competition that Joe was determined to win. We were so late in entering the MS Bike Ride that we were unable to persuade any friends to join our team, so we set our fund-raising goals pretty low. Thanks to our friends and family we had to raise our fund-raising goals three times. We were also delighted when John Folka joined our little team.
For the ride there were three courses: a 2.5 km child’s ride, a 30 km ride and a 60 km ride. John, being a seasoned veteran and a Board Member of the MS Society, did the 60 km ride, while Joe and I settled on the 30 km for our first ride.
As I mentioned, this charity bike ride is relatively unsupported, so there was not a large pool of volunteers to serve as course marshals on the ride. So there were quite a few occasions when we got lost, despite my usually unerring sense of direction.
However, we were lucky to find small pockets of other cyclists and used teamwork to find our way together. The rest and hydration stations were also few and far between on our course. Despite these shortages, there was a very pleasant and happy energy throughout the ride.
The course itself was relatively challenging, with one section that was very steep. It didn’t help that it was a very hot day. Joe and I pushed ourselves hard on that section and then resolved to take things easier for the rest of the ride. We stopped for snacks, and for Joe to stick his head under ice-cold faucets.
I did have one spectacular fall when my wheel got caught in a rut crossing the train tracks. I don’t know why I don’t always carry Band Aids with me. Several other cyclists immediately stopped to help, but it wasn’t serious. We were able to get me fixed up at the next rest stop.
Since we are used to riding 20 km at a time recreationally, the 30 km route was not too strenuous for us. We will likely challenge the 60 km course this year – yes, we will definitely do it again and start canvassing our friends earlier to form a larger team.
The course for the 30 km MS Bike Ride last year: We started at 16th Ave and Woodlands and travelled north to reach the Central Valley Greenway. Then we travelled east to Gilmore Ave and then headed south to Central Park (this was the steep part and the first rest and hydration spot). Then we travelled south to Kent Avenue Bikeway. At the Ontario Bikeway we headed north to the next rest stop at Nat Bailey Stadium. Then we followed a number of different Bikeways until we reached False Creek. From False Creek we then were back on the Central Valley Greenway, east to Woodlands Bikeway to return to 16th Avenue Park.
At the end of the ride, we were charmed to find this little sign that had been made by the organizers:
This ride is suitable for most ages and abilities. We did not do any special training for the 30 km ride, but will definitely do some training for a longer ride.
At the end of the ride I enjoyed a five-minute massage, courtesy of West Coast College of Massage Therapy students. Then we both enjoyed a tasty buffet of assorted burritos and wraps. Here we are, tired but proud! (Can we PLEASE not have GREEN tee-shirts this year?)
If you have always wanted to do a charity bike ride but have not got around to it, I encourage you to give it a go. It’s fun, it’s supported. You can get off your bike and walk if you need to. It’s not about being first, it’s about being part of a group doing something fun together that also supports a great cause. And the feeling when you finish is just awesome!