Bike MS 2009 - Unicycling For a Cause

Dear Fellow Unicyclists,

It’s that time again folks…time for my annual request for community support.

On September 12th and 13th, I’ll be riding in the National MS Society’s annual “Bike MS Tour”, a two-day ride to raise funds for the MS Society’s research and programs. This will be my fifth year riding, and with every year I ride, I meet more and more people impacted by the devastating effects of MS. I’ve also met more and more people that have been helped by the programs run by the MS Society, and have seen first-hand the positive impact the Society’s work can have on MS victims and their families.

The more people with MS I meet, the more passionate I become about doing this ride. MS is a debilitating, (currently) incurable disease of the central nervous system affecting the brain and spinal cord. As a unicyclist, it hits home with me that balance is often one of the first areas to suffer. I feel blessed to be in relatively good shape for my age, and hope that my annual ride can help those less fortunate.

While I create a post like this each year, I still hesitate to send anything that could be seen as “spam”. With the economy this year, it’s even tougher, and non-profits have taken a big hit. But I think this is an important cause, and I’ve seen firsthand the great work of the MS Society. 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 this important mission. Last year, thanks to the generosity of friends, family, fellow unicyclists, co-workers, and a match from my employer, I was able to raise over $6,000 on my ride—making a unicyclist the 16th best fundraiser out of 2,000 bicycle riders. The unicyclist community came through in a big way, and I hope some of you will consider helping me again this year with a donation to my ride.

Sponsoring me is easy and every dollar helps. Just click the “sponsor me” link below and make a secure online pledge. If you’re averse to online but still want to help, just PM me and let me know how much you’d like to donate. I’ll add it to my total and ping you next month when it’s time to write the check.

I’ve been training throughout the summer, and am now starting the final spike through Labor Day. Even having done the event previously, the long back-to-back days are still a challenge, and the course always finds something to throw at you. Usually it’s headwinds, where the extra training climbs pay off. Hopefully with some help from the weather and the energy and contributions of my supporters, I’ll get through the two days in fine shape.

It’s easy: just click here to SPONSOR ME, then click the “Donate to Thomas” button.

THANK YOU IN ADVANCE TO ANYONE THAT CAN HELP! Together we can make a difference…

Tom B

Question - do you ride in the names of people who are actually afflicted with MS? If so, is it for multiple people? I have a very close relative with MS, that’s why I ask.

From a fundraising perspective, everything goes into general Society coffers and they figure out how to apply it. From a “why I ride” perspective, I absolutely ride in the name of people actually afflicted. One thing that is very cool with the Washington ride (maybe others too) is that in our ride packets we get a bandana which has been signed by someone with MS that has been helped by the Society. So even if you don’t know anyone specifically, you have someone to ride for. I take that and add names of other people I know and ride for (or friends of friends as in your case), helps keep me focused on the big picture when I’m pedaling away the miles.

Bumping for a great cause…and thanks in advance to anyone that can help out. TB

Let’s not just help, let’s try to bump Tom well above the sixteenth position. It would be nice to get him into the top ten.

Well that would be cool, although I’m also pretty happy when I can influence others to do the ride. A couple years ago, I convinced my boss at work to do it on his bike, and he’s since been top 10 a couple times. All good for the MS Society.

But what gets me psyched up today is that Bruce_Dawson has signed up to do the ride, so I will not be the only unicyclist. Of course Bruce is a powerhouse distance rider and RTL veteran, so now my ride just got harder if I’m going to keep up with him.

But it would be good to donate to Bruce, by clicking here.

Is it an excuse …

I am wondering if Bruce signed up for the Bike MS to have a good excuse not to do the Ride 542 - Mount Baker Hill Climb? Leaving a guy who couldn’t even finish the RTL to ride alone again. But the Ride 542 is such a short little ride. Better for you two to do a real ride that benefits so many. Go Bruce! Go Tom!

Actually, he’s leaving a guy who couldn’t finish RTL for a guy who couldn’t start RTL. But at least he’s keeping it mostly all in the Puget Sounders family.

Joe, good luck with your climb. With how much you’ve been climbing this year, I predict a new uni record will be happening.


Today marked the end of my training. From here, it’s two days of stretching, hydration, and carbs…then pedal pedal pedal for a great great great cause.

Please click here if you can help out with a donation to support the MS Society.



Please help move Tom into the top ten fund collectors this year. Give those bicyclists a run for their money. Good luck on the MS150, Tom.

GO Tom

GO, Tom, GO

Tomorrow is looking to be a great day for you!

It looks like it’s going to be a perfect weekend for Tom’s ride. The only thing that can make it better is a flurry of last minute contributions.

Take Tom to the Top Ten.

I’m ashamed to just be noticing that I never got around to posting my annual post-ride write-up. Correcting here…

This year’s Bike MS Tour, as usual, was a huge success. We had great weather, great support, and most importantly, a great financial impact for the MS Society and the fight against Multiple Sclerosis.

The ride started early Saturday, but the Rider Village came to life Friday night. I went up a bit early to beat traffic and help set up the Team Microsoft tent, then just relaxed, carb loaded, hydrated, beer-drated. Team Microsoft always has a good presence on the ride, and this year we had more than 50 people pedaling.

Saturday started clear and cool but with promise of heat through the day. Rider Village was a zoo with all the different teams and solo riders getting ready, but it was fun to catch up with riding friends from years past. This year I managed to recruit fellow unicyclist and distance powerhouse brucedawson to the ride, and the two of us made our way down to the very front of the starting queue. With Bruce along, this made the headcount roughly 1,800 bicyclists, and two unicyclists.

Each day has several mileage options to choose from, and we had decided to ride 60 miles on Saturday, and 50 on Sunday. Because the first couple miles are through the streets of Mt. Vernon, they release the riders in stages. The team that raised the most money the prior year gets to go first on Saturday, and that was Team Microsoft. It’s an amazing feeling to be first out of the gate, the crowd roaring, ahead of the pack on my unicycle. Of course, that only lasts about 20 seconds, then the bikes start passing me, which becomes the theme of the day.

The Saturday course was great, an improvement over previous years due to some creative route work that replaced a long steep painful climb with a longer but more gradual incline. After some time working our way across the La Conner farmlands, we rode a causeway across Fidalgo Bay, then through the fishing-turned-tourist town of Anacortes. Bruce and I made a quick stop at Starbucks to pump up our caffeine levels, where a random woman in line–after finding out what we were up to–insisted on buying the coffee to support the cause. The various kind words and acts of support from strangers was another theme of the day.

The views of Rosario Strait were beautiful, and the high point of the day for me was the two trips across the Deception Pass Bridge. On the way across to Whidbey Island, we rode it straight through, but on the way back we were able to stop at the little island in the middle to check out the views. On the island, we had a fun conversation with a greybeard motorcyclist who used to ride unicycles as a kid. He’d never seen the big road unis before, and was especially interested in Bruce’s 29" geared Schlumpf. The technology upgrades were a bit much for him, though, and he declined our offer to go take a spin on one of them.

While Bruce and I managed to finish ahead of some bicyclists, most were already in Rider Village when we finished up on Saturday, and it was a big thrill crossing the finish line to their cheers, along with those from a large group of MS victims that came out to cheer. Some with canes, some with motorized scooters, and all energized to support the riders. Meeting these folks every year always reinforces the importance of this ride, and the positive impact we’re able to have for them.

As his fellow RTL racers know well, Bruce is a strong and fast rider…much faster than me. So another Saturday theme was me pedaling harder and faster than I’m used to doing, just to try to keep up with him. This theme carried over to Sunday, where it quickly bit me in the tail, or more specifically the knee, forearm, hip, and shoulder. About five miles into the day, I was speeding along trying to catch Bruce, and squinting into the early morning sun. I never saw the pothole, and suddenly just found myself airborne, separated from my unicycle. Since I was going about 14mph and my top running speed is 12, I hit the pavement hard and tumbled. Fortunately, surface injuries were limited to some minor road rash, and once my adrenalin cleared, I was able to get back on and keep riding. But my right knee took a pretty good shot, and ended up bothering me for the rest of the ride.

One thing we noticed on Sunday is a lot of the bicyclists were riding slower than on Saturday. Maybe it was soreness from the day before, or after-effects from the Saturday night toga party. But it was fun for us, because we were able to do some passing, and therefore we felt “fast” and “cool”. :sunglasses: Bruce amazed me here, regularly speeding up to 18 mph on the flats, and running down bicyclists at will. And by “amazed” I really mean “demoralized”. It’s tough to be spinning along at close to top speed, then watch him just pull away like it was nothing. Next year I will be swapping him out for Harper, so I have at least a small chance of keeping up. Anyway, by the end of the ride, we fell into cadence with some new friends on “Team Free Beer” (a good team to get to know). They were taking it slow, so we’d pass them and they’d cheer us, then we’d stop to rest and cheer them as they went buy. Lather, rinse, repeat…we became each others’ home-stretch cheering section.

I should finish with a summary of the fundraising. With a great last minute push from friends and co-workers, I blew past my goal of $6,500, and am now closing in on $7,000. I’m hoping a few more contributions come in, but if not I’ll be pulling out the card to get to $7K and finish the job. Not quite “Top 10”, but I’m currently #15 which is pretty damn cool out of 1,800 bicyclists. This amount is the best effort ever for me in five years of doing this ride, and I’d like to say a HUGE THANK YOU to all of you that contributed. Overall, the event is at $1.56M against a goal of $1.6M. Everything is a little off this year due to the economy, but this is a funding gap that the MS Society still needs to close. If you haven’t donated but would consider helping close the gap, please just CLICK HERE to donate to Bruce. He deserves a little extra for so thoroughly riding me into the ground. I should also note that Bruce did a great job fundraising, ensuring that both of the ride’s “token unicyclists” finished in the Top 100 of fundraising. The message to the MS folks is clear: they need to recruit more unicyclists!

Oh yeah, and pictures of Bruce and I are at my smugmug site HERE.

Thanks again to everyone for your support. Together we’ve been able to make a big impact for victims of Multiple Sclerosis and their families!

Done! Got the final results today, and I ended up at #8 of roughly 1,800 riders, raising $8,500 to help the fight against MS. Thanks to all unicyclists that contributed either financially or through other advice and support. We really made an impact for the MS Society’s work.

I was also happy to see that my two recruits…plus one of their recruits…all made the “Century Club”, which is the Top 100 fundraisers for the event. In total, four of us raised close to $25,000. Two of the four were unicyclists, ensuring that one-wheelers were proportionally over-represented versus bicyclists in the Top 100.

Thanks again. I now give this thread 7 months of well-earned rest.


This thread doesn’t deserve a rest. You deserve congratulations for your fund raising for this worthy cause. You out performed ALL the unicyclists and all but seven of the bicyclists where it really counts. Let me give up my second post number 7500 to offer you my congratulations for making the list of top ten contributors. This is a feat to be proud of and difficult for any cyclist to equal.