Muskego resident Amy Rowell has been biking ever since she can remember. In fact, she still has her very first bicycle, a red Schwinn, which she received as a gift on her fifth birthday. She currently rides a recumbent tadpole trike, which she bought on a whim the night before her first Bike MS: Best Dam Bike Ride in 2009.
“I had grown tired of everyone telling me what I could/couldn’t or should/shouldn’t do (because of her multiple sclerosis diagnosis), so I dragged my husband to Wheel & Sprocket and test-rode (what is now) my bike around the parking lot, very impulsively made the purchase, and the next day was sitting at the starting line when I realized what I'd done!” said the 38-year-old wife, mother and director of development for a private school in Milwaukee.
Today, instead of impulsively signing up for the Bike MS: TOYOTA Best Dam Bike Ride – a two-day fundraising event for multiple sclerosis in southern Wisconsin that begins on Saturday, August 2 – Rowell has been training by riding her recumbent bicycle on a 10-mile route a few times each week.
“Ten miles is the average between rest stops (on the Bike MS route) so if I can make it that far, I'm good! It really is that simple – it sounds overwhelming but if you break it up, it is totally manageable,” Rowell said.
During her first ride in 2009, she completed 30 miles total the entire weekend (most riders average 100-200 miles). “But I hadn't felt that free and that accomplished in a long time. It gave me my freedom, my confidence and my future back, and I hadn't even realized it was missing,” she said.
This year Rowell plans to stick with the 50-mile routes. “That will allow me to finish the course, and at a reasonable time!”
Riding with MS
Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and the body. Symptoms range from tingling and numbness to blindness and paralysis, and are sometimes accompanying by cognitive challenges. It affects each person differently.
“For me, I ride a recumbent trike because my balance is affected and I tire easily. My bike allows me to ride more efficiently. I also wear a cooling vest and have other adaptations to my bike. I have to be very careful to listen to my body and rest when needed. My husband is very good at picking up on my signals – he's a great partner,” said Rowell, who was diagnosed in 2007.
She will be one of more than 60 cyclists diagnosed with MS who are participating in Bike MS: TOYOTA Best Dam Bike Ride next weekend. They will be honored as part of the event’s new “I Ride with MS” program, which recognizes and celebrates participants who are living with the disease.
In total, more than 1,700 cyclists and volunteers are expected to be part of next weekend's ride.
“’I Ride With MS’ is meaningful because it gives me an opportunity to inspire others,” Rowell explained. “If I can do it, just about anyone can. And it gives me an opportunity to thank those who are riding.”
More about Bike MS
Bike MS: TOYOTA Best Dam Bike Ride, August 2-3, is an all-inclusive, fully-supported cycling event that travels from the Milwaukee area to Madison with an overnight in Whitewater. It features 50-, 75- and 100-mile route options each day. Part of a premier series, it’s perfect for riders of all fitness levels.
The goal of this year’s ride is to raise $1.5 million for MS-related research, programs and services. Registration is available online at bestdambikeride.org or by calling 800-242-3358 before noon on July 30, or in person at Waukesha County Technical College before the ride begins on Saturday. A $300 minimum fundraising commitment is required, along with a $55 registration fee, although first-time participants can waive the registration fee by asking about the “Ticket to Ride.”
TOYOTA is the presenting sponsor of the Ride. Other sponsors include Columbia St. Mary’s, Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, Culligan, Kenda Tire, Kwik Trip, WPS Insurance and Wheel & Sprocket.
The I Ride with MS program is made possible through Genzyme, MS One to One and Primal Wear.
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