Bike MS (formerly MS Bike Tour or MS 150) refers to any of a series of charity bicycle rides organized by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in various locations around the United States. Similar events are organized by other MS associations in Canada and Australia.
Bike MS originated as one ride in 1980 in Minnesota and is now the largest organized charity bicycling event series in the United States, according to the National MS Society. In 2007, more than 100,000 cyclists participated in 100 rides throughout the country, raising more than $77 million. In total, Bike MS cyclists have raised more than $600 million.
The purpose of the rides is to raise money for multiple sclerosis research and other services supported by the National MS Society. The rides typically take place over the course of two days and are generally around 150 miles long, though they can be as short as 3 miles (for a family fun ride) or as long as 250 over five days. Bike MS events aim to pull the whole community together by gathering support from local businesses, elected officials, residents and people living with MS. In 2008 the Society created a special website so riders can select a ride based on dates, length, location or difficulty.
The events are organized by chapters and thus each has a distinct local flavor.
Many participants are serious cyclists who are drawn by Bike MS's reputation for well-organized supported rides. Others are primarily interested in raising funds for MS research and services. Many riders know someone who lives with MS; some live with MS themselves. All agree to a minimum fundraising goal as a condition of participation but are encouraged to exceed it. Event participants have access to online fundraising tools to help them solicit and keep track of donations.
Cyclists need to possess basic bike-handling skills and safety knowledge in order to keep themselves and others around them safe, especially while participating in group cycling activities like Bike MS. Helmet use is mandatory.
The National MS Society states that while all cyclists are welcome, those who participate as part of a team raise more money, have more fun and become more-active advocates for people with MS. Thus the Society actively encourages cyclists to form teams of coworkers, friends and/or relatives. Chapters and corporate sponsors may provide perks to enhance the social aspect of riding in a team, such as a team tent to congregate at, catered meals, t-shirts, jerseys, even a private Port-a-Potty.
Volunteers are essential to running Bike MS events. They help promote the event, provide encouragement, and perform a wide range of tasks, from trash removal to SAG (support and gear) driver to bike rack attendant. Off-duty medical and law enforcement personnel also help out. Motorcycle riders may patrol the route to offer minor technical assistance and first aid in the event of an accident. Some events have HAM radio operators to provide a communications network.
Over the years, many influential people have worked at Bike MS events.
Country singer Clay Walker was diagnosed with MS in 1996. His disease has progressed slowly, allowing him to remain active. Since his diagnosis, he has chosen “to focus on getting the most out of everything he still has.” A Houston native, he attends the annual Houston to Austin Bike MS event and encourages others living with MS that anything can be accomplished.
Other affected celebrities and passionate supporters are singer Alan Osmond from The Osmonds, comedian Jonathan Katz, movie producer Carl Laemmle Jr., and singer and actress Lena Horne. The cast of Criminal Minds participates as Criminal Minds' actor Shemar Moore's mother has MS
Most events draw a mixture of local celebrity figures, such as government officials, radio and television station personalities and prominent business owners.
Corporate sponsors provide a large amount of support to the Society. Many companies sponsor Bike MS teams in the markets where they do business. Those that sponsor teams in four or more markets are known as National Teams.
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