One of the greatest things about this ride is the community it creates. There is no better feeling than seeing thousands of people come together in a common cause. That feeling is fostered throughout the entire weekend of the BPMS150 and beyond. It is an experience that unites so many people in an effort to help others and bonds them forever in those efforts. Riders of the MS150 are a family from all over the world fighting for a cure for MS and working to inspire others to join that family and join that fight. It is truly a culture of camaraderie- one that Team Wildway plans to be apart of for many years to come.
From the moment you sign up, you are greeted with emails welcoming you into the group and continuously keeping you in the loop with news, updates, local events, tips, advice, stories, and inspiration. No matter your location, you have access to training seminars, rider meet-ups, and group events that allow you to meet other riders in your area. It's an immediate "welcome to the family," and sparks an instant excitement to be participating in the MS150.
As the weekend of the ride approaches, that community is buzzing with anticipation. You can feel everyone's eagerness to bike 150 miles (are we all crazy? maybe.) and that is an infectious feeling. So, when that Friday before Day 1 comes and you hop on a bus to Houston or head to the packet pick up, you're high-fiving and hugging people you've never met. Veterans of the ride tell stories of the years past, while newbies share their nerves and anxiety for their first MS150 experience. It's a night of anticipation and just a glimpse into what will be a weekend of pure communal fun.
Saturday morning comes early, but don't worry- there's coffee. Better yet, it's coffee served with a smile and a wish "good luck." All the riders get their bikes ready, teams do a pre-ride pep talk and group cheer, you see jerseys representing companies from all across the nation, you pin your rider number on, and now fully realize you're apart of something bigger than yourself. As everyone lines up at the starting line, you receive little tips of advice from the riders next to you: "Hey, loosen your toe straps a little and your feet will thank you later," "Here let me adjust your helmet strap a little," and "Be sure to gear down for the hills." Then, it's zero hour and time to embark on the 150 mile journey.
Cycling can be a pretty individual, internal thing. Sometimes you zone out and just pedal. The MS150 doesn't let you isolate yourself for long though. The second you feel a little tired or discouraged, another rider comes up with a "On your right!" and "Doing good, keep it up!" SAG vans drive by and wave at you. Bike marshals pass you with a thumbs up. You fall off your bike and 10 riders behind you stop to make sure you're okay. You're never alone. It truly is a team effort. The moment you think you're just suffering by yourself, on a bike, in the Texas heat, everything hurting, you get to a breakpoint and are reunited with the other riders who are struggling just like you. Your reminded that we're all in this together *cue High School Musical theme song* and it's for a good cause.
Still, that culture of camaraderie extends even past the riders, volunteers, organizers, etc. It includes the locals at the end of their driveway with signs and cowbells. It's the families on their porch, waving and cheering you on. It's the roadside stands with free lemonade and beer. It's the small towns opening their homes and hearts to thousands of crazy people on bikes and showing them support and hospitality. It's the local band playing a concert for us after a long ride on Day 1. It's the homemade pancake breakfast in La Grange on the morning of Day 2. It's people lending a hand, despite having no obligation to do so.
I could almost compare the BPMS150 to a music festival in the sense that it's just a bunch of humans enjoying the best parts of humanity. Coming from all walks of life and joining in a common goal to help those with Multiple Sclerosis, it reminds me of seeing the Killers in concert and 42,000 people singing "Mr. Brightside" at the top of our lungs. This ride brings people together and bonds them in the physical and mental challenge of biking 150 miles across Texas. It is an experience like no other and one that places you in a community that you don't want to leave. Sure, by the end of it all, your butt hurts and your legs are screaming for the finish line. But afterwards, when you put the bike away and return to daily routine, you find your heart longing for that culture and that camaraderie. Needless to say, Team Wildway is already awaiting the 2020 BPMS150. In the meantime, the BikeMS community is always here, offering year-round events, meet-ups, and endless opportunities to keep riding that 150 mile high until we all see each other again in Houston next year.