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Shifting Gears

Local Cycling Enthusiast is Making a Difference, One Mile at a Time

Writer  /  Samantha Epstein

The experience is daunting. Burning sensations radiate through every limb in the body. There are times when muscles feel they may give out. Energy rapidly burns. Thirst sets in. The Florida humidity is nearly impossible to penetrate. The lungs begin to work overtime: breathing the salty air in and out at a pace the mind cannot comprehend. Bike pedals rotate, spreading tension throughout the white, glistening sand. Giving up seems inevitable, but there is too much on the line — raising awareness, finding a cure, saving lives. Stay on course. Complete the race. This is the experience and thought process of many Bike MS participants.

The PGA Tour Cycle to the Shore is a two-day cycling and fundraising event hosted by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The ride attracts nearly 100,000 participants (at a national level) through more than 80 rides. Many cyclists look forward to this event every year, eager to raise money and awareness for MS through their passion of riding.

Bruce Reid, leader of the riding group, the Big Bananas.

Bruce Reid, a retired Beaches resident, is one of these cyclists. He has been involved with Bike MS for many years. October 2017 will be the 17th Bike MS event Reid has ridden in. He has completed Bike MS events in all 50 states, a total of 81, 150-mile rides for the MS Society. As a seasoned cyclist, Reid is always ready to strap on his helmet, not just for the physical benefits of the ride but also for the emotional benefits of supporting such a meaningful cause.

“I really want to see MS cured in my lifetime,” Reid says. “The Ride for MS is a means to accomplish this goal. As a cyclist, the race is an extreme challenge, but really it pales in comparison to the daily struggles of a MS patient.”

Bruce leads the riding group the Big Bananas, a 30-person team well-known for their fundraising success. Each member typically brings in at least $1,000. To-date, the Big Bananas have raised $650,000.

Reid is no novice when it comes to fitness, cycling and races. He began participating in marathons and triathlons. Cycling was introduced to him as a way to alleviate the pain associated with high-impact physical activity.

Not long after, Bruce realized cycling was more than an activity that brought him joy and maintained his physical fitness — the sport became a way to make a difference in the lives of countless people battling MS, an illness that is unpredictable and often disabling. With MS, the flow of information within the brain becomes disrupted, making it difficult for the brain and body to work together. Most patients with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with at least two to three times more women than men diagnosed. Although there are many uncertainties associated with MS, advances in research and treatment are leading to a better understanding of the causes, risk factors and symptoms associated with the illness.

The funding that results from events like Bike MS makes such research possible. MS affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis.

“When I meet someone with MS who is participating in Bike MS, I stop and think, ‘Wow, what a hero,’” Reid says. “It’s very inspiring to ride side-by-side with individuals who are able to exercise such courage when facing adversity. Seeing their smiling faces at the finish line makes every mile worth it.”

One of the many aspects of Bike MS that Reid really enjoys is that the event accommodates all fitness levels. Participants do not have to be accomplished cyclists to join the ride. There are route options between 36 to 160 miles, making it possible for beginners to partake in the event. Bike MS: PGA Tour Cycle to the Shore will have more than 1,500 cyclists pedaling through the sand. The event is expected to raise more than $1.5 million. Held on October 14-15, the ride will kick-off on day one from two locations: TPC Sawgrass and Marineland. The ride will conclude in Daytona Beach on day two.

For those new to cycling, Reid offers a word of advice.

“Make sure you enjoy the ride and the process,” he says. “You don’t have to buy a $10,000 bike to be a good cyclist, just have the heart for it and keep at it.”

For additional information on Multiple Sclerosis and Bike MS: PGA TOUR Cycle to the Shore, visit nationalMSsociety.org or bikeMS.org.

About Austin Vance

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