150 Mile Coker Ride for Charity

At the start of the summer, as I began spending more and more time on my 36-er, I started thinking about some riding goals for the summer. At first, I was just thinking about total miles I wanted to ride, but soon realized I had an opportunity to link my riding goals to a greater good.

On September 10 and 11, I’ll be riding in the National MS Society’s annual “MS 150 Bike Tour”, a two-day, 150-mile ride that helps raise funds for the MS Society’s research and to support local programs. In talking with some of the MS Society ride organizers, I may be the first ever to ride this event on one wheel (at least in Washington). While I realize this isn’t a major ride compared to some of the current uni-tours, back-to-back 75s will represent back-to-back “personal bests” for me. My longest single day ride to date has been 55 miles, and while I plan on doing at least one 50-miler prior to the event, I’m not planning on riding 75 miles in a day until the event.

The more I’ve learned about MS, the more passionate I’ve become around doing this ride. MS is a chronic disease of the central nervous system affecting the brain and spinal cord. It is also an unpredictable disease that can attack anyone in the prime of life. Imagine, one day you’re on top of your game, and the next you’re hit with the diagnosis of a debilitating, incurable disease. I feel blessed to be in relatively good shape for my age, and hope my ride can help those less fortunate.

I’m always hesitant to send out anything that could be considered as “spam”. At the same time, this forum and many of its members have become important elements of my riding life, so I wanted to share this and at least give those that want to—and are able to—the opportunity to join me in supporting the National MS Society’s mission.

Sponsoring my ride is easy to do and every dollar helps. One way is to just click the “sponsor me” link below and make a secure online e-pledge. If you’re averse to online transactions but still want to help, just PM me and let me know how much you’d like to pledge. I’ll add it to my total then send you a note in September when it’s time to write the check.

In the meantime, time for me to go ride. Since committing to the ride on June 1, I’ve logged 300 miles, and will log another 300 before the start of the event. I’ve been learning a lot about hydration and nutrition from these training rides, and from the many recent posts from other distance riders. Hopefully all the learning and training will come together on September 10th and 11th to get me through the Ride.

Thanks in advance to anyone that can help!

Tom B

To sponsor me:
Click here.

To visit My Personal Web Page for the ride:
Click here.

To learn more about this year’s MS 150 Bike Tour or to get involved:
Click here.

My Mom has MS, so it’s always pleasing to see when people Unicylce for the MS society. The Unicycle Across Minnesota (the long way) was also to raise money for the MS society.

The donations to the MS society have made a ton of difference. Over the past 10 years there have been some major advances in drug therapy. My mom was in the test group, and even on placebo she improved remarkably, now she’s on the real drug, and it’s allowed her to do so much that she wouldn’t be able to do without, like travelling, coming to visit me.

Keep up the good work, it really is a good cause. As soon as they stop blocking stem cell research a cure will occur.

Tom, That’s awesome. Good luck. I know there are a few of the Austin riders that did this earlier this year. I really would like to do something like this in the next year. I just did the Tour de Cure in May. We only did 50K or 31 miles. Not nearly the challenge you are in for. Congratulations on all the funds you have raised already.

BTT for a good cause.

That’ll be a hell of a ride. Good luck.

I have a friend with MS who used to be a dancer, and musician, and now struggles to walk, and seldom plays.

Re: 150 Mile Coker Ride for Charity

Well, my training is now over and all that remains is to go do the Ride this weekend. While I think some elements of my training could have been more effective (such as more long days of nothing but climbing), I’m feeling ready. To my quote above, I actually logged another 400 miles, making my total 700 miles since committing to do the ride.

The GB4 36 is feeling good, and it’s lighter than ever thanks to John Childs helping me out with the 28" tube conversion. In fact, the level of support from this community has been great. In addition to the direct help in the form of pledges toward my ride, I’ve also received climbing advice from the climbing gods of the sport, endurance advice from Norway/Alps tour veterans, and nutrition advice from professional eaters (JC).

My biggest concern at this point is “time”. Each day starts at 8am and at 5pm they start kicking you off the course. Since I average 10mph, that only gives me an hour and half of padding for the entire day, so I’m going to really have to watch the time when I stop for lunch, circulation breaks, etc.

Thanks to everyone for the support and encouragement. I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, if anyone feels passionate about helping find a cure for MS and would like to support me on this ride, please see the links below.


Tom B

To sponsor me, click here.

To visit my Personal Web Page, click here.

Go rip up the road, Tom! I hope you realize that most of your training miles came from John Childs and I spinning up your wheel while you were in the restroom on the Iron Horse Trail. You’ve actually only put in about 6 miles on your own.

Good Luck Tom. Reid talked me into doing it here in Atlanta, so I’ll be heading out early in the morning as well. Ours is the MS150, but is only 100 miles. Next year it will be an official 150 miles.

It will be a lot easier to make in under the time limit for us. Sounds like your going to be hauling butt. My advice is to get a couple of hundred tacks and head out early. If you scatter those along the route, I think you’ll have a good chance of staying ahead of the Pelaton.:smiley:

If that fails a well timed dismount into the Pelaton should give you some extra time.:wink: That’s my deviant plan any way.

Good luck Tom! You will do great. I know you won’t need to, but worst case a unicyclist may have to SAG in at the end of the day on a ride like that. You still get respect from everyone there because…YOU’RE DOING IT ON A UNICYCLE. So have fun, and be proud of what you are doing.

And don’t let Harper’s revelation hurt your confidence. I am sure those 6 miles of training will pay off for you.


Well, the ride is now history, and the MS-150 in Washington this weekend was an incredible experience and great success. Certainly it was the two hardest riding days of my life, but also the two most rewarding, with a great cause to benefit, fantastic ride support, and unbelievable encouragement from the MS Society workers, all the bikers on the course, and the many people afflicted with MS who were in attendance.

The ride also represented back-to-back “personal bests” for me on the distance, 61 miles on Day 1 and 59 on Day 2…the MS-120. I was really hoping to make the full 150 miles with two 75 mile days—and I went for it on both days, eschewing the 50 mile option when the decision point came where you had to choose between the 50 and 75 mile routes. But pedal hard as I did, the full 75 just wasn’t achievable (for me) from a time perspective. The event had specific times…you couldn’t start before 8am, and you had to be done with the ride by 5pm (4:00 on Day 2) or they would sweep you off the course in one of the SAG vehicles. With an average speed of 10 mph, that only gave me 1.5 hours of total fluff time through the whole day (1/2 hour Day 2) for breaks, lunch, rest, bathroom. That seems like a lot, but it’s amazing how quickly it gets chewed up, especially at the break areas, where a 5-minute water and banana stop usually turned into a 10-minute question and answer session. There were lots of people interested in learning about the unicycle…how the brake worked, whether it was geared, did I really have to pedal down all the hills, etc. Once it became clear this would happen every time I stopped, I decided I’d rather be a uni-ambassador than a guy who was in too much of a hurry to talk to people. That said, I’m not sure I could have finished the 75 in the required time even without all the people and questions, as it was that support and enthusiasm that really gave me the energy to get back on and keep pedaling.

The first day was just lots of killer hills between Fidalgo Island and Whidbey Island. Total day—according to ride organizers—was 4,600 feet in elevation gain, of which probably 3,500+ occurred in the miles I rode. Some were steep, some were long, and two were long and steep. With the exception of one 50-yard stretch where I fell and had to hike to a safe re-mounting spot, I made them all and no bicyclist got to see me pushing my uni up a hill. But it also took a lot out of me and required more rest. When it became clear by Mile 40 that I wasn’t going to be able to make the full distance in time, I cut off doing the full loop to the end of the island, so I could at least finish under my own steam versus crossing the line in the trunk of a SAG car. I crossed the finish line a minute before deadline…still had some legs left, but no more time.

Day 2 was less hilly, with much of the ride winding north through the Skagit Valley farm country before looping around and returning down the coast of Bellingham Bay. My pace was quicker over the first 35 miles, with an average speed of 10.8 versus my 10.1 average for Day 1. Like Day 1, the 50/75 decision point came at about Mile 30, and I felt good so I pressed on for the 75. When I reached the next rest stop 5 miles later, however, they were already packing everything up! All the faster riders were well ahead on the 75, and all the slower riders had chosen the 50. Another tough decision…turn around, work my way back to the 50, and eventually re-unite with the main loop and other riders, or press ahead on the 75 without any food/water support for the rest of the ride. Not really much of a choice, but at least I picked up the extra 10 miles in the process. Turned out to be a good decision, because the entire return route down the coast was into a strong head wind which ranged from mildly distracting to debilitating, mostly tending to the latter. It actually felt like a 20-mile-long hill…at some points it was all I could do to maintain a pace of 8 mph. My average mph dropped from 10.8 at Mile 40 to 10.6 by the finish, which is a pretty big change after that many miles. I have to say that this last 20 miles was the single most draining ride I’ve ever done. Tougher than the hills the day before, and I felt like a giant sail in the breeze. Earlier, before the headwind started, I had been entertaining thoughts of taking a small detour before the finish so I could reach 65 miles and top my previous day’s record. But by the time I hit Main Street LaConner, all such thoughts had disappeared. Day 1 I had legs but ran out of time. Day 2 I had time, but ran out of legs.

High Points:

Riding my unicycle across the Deception Pass Bridges twice–once with a Harley escort behind me to cushion me from traffic, and once with nothing but a prayer that the truck in my rear-view had patience and a sense of humor.

Riding down main street in LaConner on Day 1 with four blocks to go and seeing my son Miles on his unicycle riding up to greet me. We crossed the finish line at 4:59 with hands linked to the deafening applause of all the riders and volunteers.

They had a bunch of Harley guys who rode the course to help out, keep cars at bay, etc. About 15 miles into Day 2 one of the tougher looking ones pulled up next to me and said “You know, you’re the baddest ass out on this course today.” I had to laugh. HE was the baddest ass on the course…I was just a dork on a unicycle.

The countless variations of “Hey Unicycle Guy!” and “Go Man Go!” that I received from the passing riders. The best comment? I was passing one of the more casual riders on a long hill and she said “Oh my livers…you go boy!” Oh my livers? :slight_smile:

And the biggest High Point: Raising over $3,000 to support the MS Society’s work to provide benefits to the many people affected by the disease, and to one day find a cure. I can’t express my thanks enough to all of you that supported my ride, either through direct financial contributions, or through advice, help, and encouragement.

What would I change? Probably the main thing is I’d train harder on the hills. I trained 700 miles, but I spent a lot of time climbing little shorties here near my house, which are the climbing equivalents of wind sprints compared to what was found on the actual route. I should have spent less time worrying about total mileage and a lot more time finding and riding 400-500 vertical foot, 8%-12% grades, since Day 1 strung like nine of those together. I never imagined that possibility. I think also when I ride it next year, I’ll set my sights on back-to-back 50s and just be happy with those rides, versus spending energy worrying about how to make the longer loops and stressing over every minute spent idle at a rest stop.

Thanks again for all the encouragement and support!

Good job Tom!
You’ve done better than I have ever done on a Coker. The best I’ve done is a single metric century and it was mostly flat riding. I didn’t go riding the next day and didn’t feel like riding the next day. You are now more of a Coker distance stud than me. I will have to prepare some sort of humble award for you. :slight_smile:


You need to change your sig:

Tailgate at your own risk… If you can keep up with my wheel…

Way to go Tom! That is a great accomplishment and great fundraising. I hope I find the time and determination to train for a ride like that someday.

I know what you mean about all the questions and great comments just from a small bike event I Cokered a while back, and I think it is great that you chose to spend some time talking to people rather than just cranking out the best possible time. I know sometimes that is a hard choice.

It is really expecting a lot to clear the course in a time that was set with bicycles in mind. I think opting for one of the lower mileage routes in a bike ride makes sense, allowing us to get to the finish before everyone goes home, missing the festivities.
A few of us will be doing a ride in a couple of weeks that has a 100 mile option, and I think I will try the 47 mile route.


just a collection of my favourite quotes from your post to lead me into saying

much respect

(i’ll have a pic for u tomoro)

Thanks for sharing, Tom!

I find stories like yours and the other Cokeroos’ to be so motivational and inspirational. Congrats on the distance and the climbs and, esp, the money raised. As i’m wont to say: Kudos and BZ.


See? Those six miles of training did pay off. Good work on the ride and a great contribution toward a worthy cause. You da man. I’m still not going to tailgate you again, though.

Excellent Tom. Contratulations! Not making the whole distance just gives you something to look forward to in the future. It’s funny - in most contexts, the back-to-back rides you did would be considered huge on unicycle!

About traning, we figured out several months before the Alps tour that distance training has just about no use. You have to seek out killer hills. Since we knew the passes we would ride were as steep as 13-14%, we sought out 15-19% hills to train on. Most of our training rides were only 30-40 miles, but with as much climbing as possible - often 4000-5000’. And that turned out to be the ticket. If you can do the climbing, the distance is no problem, but not vice versa.

Anyway, that ride sounds really fantastic - way to go!!