I’m unsure whether to join this year’s MS bike-riding fundraiser

After facing hurdles at Bike MS 2023, a columnist hesitates to ride again

Leigh Anne Nelson avatar

by Leigh Anne Nelson |

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I choose to fundraise for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society through Bike MS, which the society’s website says is “the largest fundraising cycling series in the world.” Approximately 50,000 cyclists and 5,000 teams ride each year, and the community has raised $1.4 billion to support the society’s mission to cure multiple sclerosis (MS) and empower people affected by the disease to live their best lives.

Though I’m the one living with MS, my husband is my warrior and has ridden in Bike MS for many years. In fact, he’s one of the top fundraisers in our community. We’re blessed with awesome family, friends, co-workers, and colleagues who support us in our fight against the disease.

Last year, I decided to also ride in Bike MS. My health had been stable, and while I faced various hurdles, my MS symptoms weren’t at the top of the list.

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Last year’s hurdles

Hurdle No. 1: I’ve never been athletic and wouldn’t say I’m physically fit. The most exercise I get is slowly walking my dogs a few miles each day, so improving my stamina was challenging.

Hurdle No. 2: One of my biggest struggles with MS is poor balance. I hadn’t been on a bicycle since I was a child, so riding one didn’t seem to be in my best interest. Instead, I purchased an adult trike, a three-wheeled bike that’s easier to ride because it’s more stable and requires less balance.

I started training in June, three months before the event. My husband was essentially my trainer. He rode by my side to show me the bike trails close to our house and ensure my safety. That was a sacrifice for him because I ride at a turtle’s pace.

I started out on short rides of less than 5 miles and slowly increased my distance. My longest ride before the event was 35 miles. On paper, it sounded so easy, but in reality, it was much harder than I expected.

Hurdle No. 3: Summer weather here in Kansas City, Missouri, is hot and humid, and being outside can be miserable. Because I’m so slow, a 30-mile ride could take well over three hours, so even if I started early in the morning, I couldn’t avoid the heat. Managing overheating with my MS was challenging. When I came home from some of the rides, I was too exhausted to shower, so I’d sit on the couch in front of a fan for several hours to cool down.

Unexpected hurdle No. 4: Last September, my husband was supposed to be my co-pilot for the Bike MS event. We were looking forward to it, but he contracted COVID-19 a few days before the ride. Fortunately, my daughter was able to ride with me. She’s a soccer player, so she had no problem riding long distances on a bike without training.

Unexpected hurdle No. 5: I’d love to tell you the ride was fabulous, but the weather didn’t cooperate. It was raining — a torrential downpour — the whole day. The rain actually hurt when it hit my arms and legs. It rained so hard I couldn’t see well, and I was soaking wet and cold. It was a miserable experience.

I’d planned to ride the entire 42-mile route, but I threw in the towel at 30 miles, which was disappointing. Honestly, though, rain or no rain, I’m not sure I would’ve made it the whole way.

Fast forward to this year: I haven’t signed up for Bike MS 2024 and am unsure what’s holding me back. I want to like biking, but I don’t love it. That being said, I now own a trike, which is a good exercise option.

I’m struggling to decide if I’m lacking motivation and being lazy, if I bit off more than I could chew on my first try and now have a negative attitude toward biking, or if it’s just too physically demanding because of my MS. It may be a combination of all of those things. Regardless, I must decide soon, as it’s already July, and the event is less than three months away.

Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, Bionews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Richard Thomas avatar

Richard Thomas

If you are reluctant to ride you can always do what I have done for the last several years and volunteer to do something that does not involve riding....

Les Gatrel avatar

Les Gatrel

Leigh Anne,
We might be the organization that can help. I founded WrestlingMS in 2015. We help people with MS by supporting our MS Champions with group bike rides. We evaluate each rider whether a two wheel bike, recumbent, or another avenue of riding works. We have 26 active riders with MS. We are a positive group that helps mentally and physically. I have had MS since 2012. Today, you can hardly tell that I have MS. Activity on a bike has put my MS symptoms at a stand still.

Hope to hear from you,
Les Gatrel

Michael Randazzo avatar

Michael Randazzo

You may want to consider an electric bike. I started riding a class 3 peddle-assist bike so I could continue to participate in the Northern California Waves to Wine Bike MS event. The 2 day 150 mile ride with over 6,000 feet of climbing. My MS progressed to secondary progressive so I wasnt able to ride my standard bike that I used for 15 years of Bike MS rides. This year will be my 20th year.


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