All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for July 2003

Bicyclists take on distance, heat in fight against MS

Saturday, July 19, 2003
By Roger Cline, Staff Writer
The Big Spring Herald

It's odd that the organizers of the Cactus and Crude MS Bike Tour named it what they did.

The participants in the bike trek -- which raises thousands of dollars in the fight against multiple sclerosis each year -- aren't crude and they certainly aren't as prickly as the ubiquitous nopal cacti that line their 150-mile-long path.

The riders stopped in Big Spring Saturday at the midway point of the tour which stretches from Midland to Post. The SouthWest Collegiate Institute for the Deaf, where they will bunk in the dormitories overnight.

Most of them are either nuts about biking or fervent in their quest to obliterate the devastating neuromuscular disease -- or, like the front runner after the first day's 75 miles -- both.

Eric Burkhart of Midland made the trip, which would take more than an hour to drive at highway speed, in less than three hours.

Burkhart said he didn't start out the day shooting to break any speed records.

"We weren't when we left Midland, but when we went through the 55-mile mark and we noticed we were still under two hours, we figured we could make it here in less than three," he said. "I was with three other teammates of mine."

The four are part of a team sponsored by Peyton Bikes in Midland and are part of the Permian Basin Bicycle Association.

"We race all of the Texas Cup events and a lot of New Mexico road races as well," he said. "This is about the same distance we race every weekend. This is my seventh year riding in this. These people put on a great ride. It's well-supported, the National Guard is out there telling us where to turn, they have rest stops. They have lead vehicles to keep us safe and keep the other vehicles away from us."

And, of course, it's for a great cause.

"You get to raise awareness for MS," he said. "Raise some money. Hopefully one day they'll find a cure so people that do have MS can go out and enjoy the simple things in life, like riding a bicycle."

Another rider, Jennifer Buntz of Portales, N.M., rode in aboard a tandem bicycle with her partner, Jim Tidaway of Midland.

"We both ride with the Permian Basin Bicycle Association," she said. "Jim and I have been doing a little bit of tandem riding for several years now and we're sort of getting ready to go to the Master's National event in time trials, riding the tandem."

That's right, they have national competitions in bicycles-built-for-two.

"They'll have a tandem road race, which we've never done before," she said. "We've done the time trials a few times before. We're just out here trying to raise money for a good cause and get used to each other on the tandem so we can do the best we can."

And riding one of these double-bikes is a good bit different from riding an ordinary, one-person bike.

"You don't have as much freedom to move around, stand up, sit down, coast," she said. "You have to really coordinate with your partner. That makes it interesting sometimes when you forget. You go a little bit faster on the downhill and you have to work a bit harder on the uphill, because of the weight of the bike."

Local event coordinator Tracey Pounds said the event has gone spectacularly so far.

"A lot of people are riding their bikes to help us, help the people with MS, to find a cure," she said. "This morning, 140 left Midland. We've had 15 come in so far as of 10:30."

Pounds said some of the riders treat the tour as a race, trying to best their personal records, while others do it simply to help fight MS or for the fun of it.

"Some do it because they have family or friends that have MS," she said. "But it's all for the fun of it and to have fun and get together."

Joni Cox with the MS Society said things went great during Saturday's leg of the tour.

"This has been a remarkable, beautiful day for us," she said. "We're having a wonderful time and everybody's staying well and coming in. It's just exciting and we're having a great time. It's all benefiting the national MS Society."

And benefiting it well, she added.

"We are hoping that it's going to raise $125,000," she said. "It'll benefit our local programs as well as national research. MS is a neurological disease which affects people, primarily women, in the prime of their life. It causes all sorts of different effects, in which people don't have the use of their legs, they go numb, all the way to totally being incapacitated in a wheelchair."

Copyright © 2003, The Big Spring Herald