MS Bike Tour 2007 - Cokering for Charity

Dear Fellow Unicyclists,

On September 8th and 9th, I’ll be riding in the National MS Society’s annual “MS Bike Tour”, a two-day ride to raise funds for the MS Society’s research and local programs. This will be my third year riding, and like the last two years, it looks like I’ll again be the sole unicyclist in the Washington ride. The first year I did the ride mainly for selfish reasons…get in better shape, get deeper into distance unicycling, have a fun weekend. I didn’t have a personal connection with MS. But through my involvement in the event the past two years, I’ve met more and more people afflicted with MS, and have seen first-hand its devastating effects. 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 I’ve been exposed to people with MS, the more passionate I’ve become about 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. 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.

In past years, I was hesitant to send out anything that could be seen as “spam”, but these fora and many members remain 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. 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 $5,000 on my ride—the 16th highest fundraiser out of close to 1,000 bicycle riders. The pro-unicyclist community came through, and I hope some of you will consider helping me again this year with a donation to my ride.

The training is going well so far, although I’m a bit behind where I was last year at this time. I’ve logged about 350 miles, and will log another 150 at least before the event. One key learning from last year’s event is to focus more training time on hills, so I’ve mixing it up between intervals climbing on my 29-er, and longer rides on the 36-er with 130 cranks. I received some advice to learn to climb everything on the short cranks, so I’ve been trying to gradually ratchet up the hills, while also working on the overall efficiency of my spinning. Hopefully between the extra climbing, a focused August, and the energy and contributions of my supporters, I’ll get through the two days in fine shape.

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

Tom B

To sponsor me, click here, then click the “Donate to Thomas” button.

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

Go for it Tom. Keep up the training, especially the mountains and focused spinning for hours. You will get er done, I have confidence this will be a successful tour for you!! Keep spinnin and grinnin:D

Good luck Tom! 150 miles in two days is very impressive, as is raising $5k for a good cause. I bet you’ll be the top unicyclist.

Yes, in a field of one, my chances are a bit better than they were at Tahoe. :smiley:

They’ve changed the positioning (and routing) of the event to make it a bit more accessible to non-competitive riders. It’s now the MS Bike Tour, dropping the “150”. At least in Washington, they’ve also added more mileage options. The first day, you can do a 100, 75, 50, or 25. The second day, a 75, 50, or 25. So it’s now possible to do the MS 175, or the MS 50. I will end up doing either the MS 100, or the MS 125, which is what I did last year. I won’t do 75 on Day 1, 'cause then I’d have to miss the big group start, which is my chance to lead the field, even if only for the first 75 yards. I can’t complete 75 in the “official” time they have the course open, so to do it last year I was out on the course an hour and a half early.

Food and drink stop!

If you will let me know what you will want and where you will like to have us be, I will try to add a food and drink stop for you on Saturday afternoon or evening or on Sunday late afternoon or evening. I had hoped to ride some of it with you. But I am set to do the Ride 542 - Mount Baker Hill climb on Sunday morning. Willing to help out as needed. Just ask.

Keep a watch out for the afternoon winds on the Skagit flats. When that wind starts blowing it can really suck the energy out of you.


Hey Joe,

You ain’t kidding about those winds. Two years ago they were just brutal. Felt like a 20 mile climb to finish the day. Last year, they were a bit more side-wind than head-wind, and I got through it a little bit easier.

Thanks for the offer of refreshments! I tend to carry lots of stuff, then supplement with whatever they happen to have at the regular rest stops. If you guys are out on the course, I’d love to stop and meet you. I’d also invite you to come by the Rider Village in La Conner on Saturday evening, 6pm-ish. There is an excellent and moving program that talks about MS and the hope and good work that the MS Society generates. If you can make it and would like to connect, PM me and I’ll send you my cell number. I’ll be at the Team MSFT tent after the ride both days.

Good luck with the Hill Climb. Are you doing it on a uni?

500 Miles down, 200 miles to go

I wanted to provide a quick late-summer update on my progress toward the MS Bike Tour that I first highlighted at the top of this thread. Since I began training in May for the National MS Society’s two-day fundraising ride, I’ve logged over 500 training miles on my 36-er, and have raised over $2,000 in donations for the ride. That’s a lot of pedaling, and some big generosity from the many people that are supporting my ride and the MS Society’s great work. But there is more ground to cover and more funds to raise before the ride starts on September 8th.

From a training perspective, I’ll be putting in another 100+ miles by the end of Labor Day weekend. From a fundraising perspective, I’m now 70% of the way toward meeting my goal of $3,000 for the ride. I’m confident I can meet and exceed both targets, although it will require focus and help.

For you RSU regulars that have already contributed to my ride, thank you very much! Rest assured I’ll work hard to earn your hard-earned money for the MS Society. For those that haven’t, I hope you’ll consider joining me in supporting the National MS Society’s mission. Your generous support can help end the devastating effects of MS, sooner rather than later. I know with the growth of the forum membership, we’re starting to see more of these requests. To me that’s a good thing, even if it dilutes the potential donors for any given charity. The net donations to charities in general will increase, which is good. But right now, I’m just focused on obtaining support for my particular charity of choice, the MS Socieity. Donating is easy to do and every dollar helps! Many of you generously sponsored me last year, and together we contributed over $5,000 to the National MS Society. If you can help this year, we’ll get there again.

You can support my ride by clicking the “sponsor me” link in my first post above, and making a secure online e-pledge. It’s easy to do. If you’re averse to online transactions, you can help by simply sending me PM and letting me know how much you’d like to pledge. I’ll add it to my total then send you a note with details on where to send the check. THANK YOU IN ADVANCE FOR YOUR SUPPORT! Together we can make a difference in fighting MS…

Tom B

I am also participating in a MS bike tour at Waskesiu Saskatchewan on September 15th. This will be my first MS tour and also my first time where I will be riding my unicycle with more than one biker. The Waskesiu ride is only one day but should be a challenging at 91km (especially since I have never rode more than 60km at a time before)

I think this is a great opportunity to do something to help people and at the same time do an awesome ride with other people.

100 or 125 miles in two days is an impressive feat and I wish you the best of luck!


Eric, congrats on your commitment, both to the MS cause, and to your distance event. You may find it a challenge to stay connected with the bikers through the ride, but hopefully that will work out. For my ride next weekend, I’ve connected with a biker who claims to be “unicycle slow”, so hopefully I’ll have a riding partner for the first time in three years.

Which reminds me, one week left until the big day. Training-wise, I’m close to as ready as I’m going to get. I plan on a 30-miler tomorrow, then a 40 mile espresso ride with john_childs on Sunday. After that, maybe a Wednesday fine-tuning ride and that’s it. For anyone still open to supporting the great work of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, please consider sponsoring my ride by clicking here, then clicking the “Donate to Thomas” button.

Any support from the unicyclist community is GREATLY appreciated.

Good luck this weekend Tom! I’ll be thinking about you riding around beautiful Washington.


Thanks Irene! I may have to wear my Unirene Pro Rider tee shirt for good luck. :slight_smile: It looks like the weather may cooperate, which is good. I didn’t get a lot of training in the rain in this summer.

Which reminds me, it’s time! A half-day of work tomorrow, then I’ll be driving up to La Conner for the opening reception and pasta feed. Training-wise, I feel ready. I’ve put in about 650 miles in prep, legs are feeling good, the Hunter 36 (still minus brake) is feeling good, and the fundraising is feeling, well, there’s always room for a little more. :slight_smile:

Thank you to the numerous unicyclists–some whom I’ve never met–that have contributed to my ride. FOR ANYONE STILL OPEN TO SUPPORTING the great work of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, please consider sponsoring my ride by clicking HERE, then clicking the “Donate to Thomas” button. We’re down to the wire!

Any support from the unicyclist community is GREATLY appreciated. I’ll post a write-up with my final totals next week once the ride is complete.


Tom B

Shamelessly bumping on way out of town…

No shame there. This is a great cause and there is still time to support Tom. Riding with Tom these last few years has been inspirational. Those in our group got to watch him rise from a new and inexperienced rider into a distance dynamo. I spend a lot of my time watching Tom’s back move further away from me as we ride.

Can’t wait for your annual write-up. :slight_smile:

I’m sorry that you had to wait…this is a seriously delayed recap. I finished the ride last Sunday, but had to catch a flight to Amsterdam the next morning. Just now plugging back in.

Anyway, this year’s MS Bike Tour was fantastic. I look forward to this event every year, and prepping for it drives a big part of my summer riding. This was my third year doing the ride, and it was the best year yet in many ways. The weather was perfect, and the turnout was big with close to 2,000 riders. As in past years, I was the only unicyclist in the event.

Unlike the past years, this year was a very low-stress event for me. I was not plagued by insomnia, or by any nagging thoughts that I wouldn’t be able to make the hills or complete the course in time. I made the decision in advance–which I promised myself would not be subject to last minute revisions like last year–that I was going to do the 50 mile route both days. I knew the course both days, knew the hills and had trained for them, and knew from my ride around Lake Tahoe in June that short of a major fall and injury en route, there was nothing that would keep me from finishing the back-to-back 50s. It makes a difference going into an event like this with that level of knowledge, prep, and confidence. I’ve learned that from many on this forum, and most recently from Steveyo and his Whiteface successes.

I should step back briefly to say that I was also involved in the “Team MSFT Tent Design Committee”, and it turned out my sole duties as a committee member were packing a stepladder, cooler, 10 bags of ice, and a whole lot of beer, along with my uni and gear. Since my son Miles now has a N-36, I had the luxury of also bringing along an entire back-up uni in case anything went wrong. Now that’s piece of mind.

The Durango…two cokers, a ladder, and a whole lot of beer and ice

So the Day 1 ride is an interesting mix…mostly flat for the first 20 miles, then some big ups and downs for the final 30. I made two big changes to my setup this year, and this was really the big test. First, I swapped my GB4 36 frame for a Hunter 36 frame. Goal here was to eliminate the thigh strikes I was getting from the GB4 squared crown, and this was achieved. The only time I get any frame contact now is climbing with 170 cranks, and even then it isn’t significant. The second change was to get rid of my Magura brake. This was initially done out of sloth…when I swapped frames, I just never got around to putting it back on. But as the event got closer, I made a conscious decision to leave it off, and instead leverage the flexibility of my tri-tapped Kooka cranks, and just switch to 170s for the big, steep downhills. Results were great. I’ve never been super-comfortable using the brake, especially on steeps, and this year gave me direct ability to compare the brake vs. no brake strategy. Saturday, I made it down two different steeps with my 170s that I haven’t been able to make it down in years past with the brake. In fact, on all previous attempts, it had been mis-management of the brake which ultimately caused me to fall. I feel like I could go down almost anything with the 170s, so I may be selling that Magura soon. Now all I need is a decent saddle, and my setup is ready for Uninam next March.

Day 1, Rest Stop 2…down at sea level just before the big climbs begin

The Day 2 route, on paper, is much flatter than Day 1. But this year, the route had a secret weapon to create artificial hills: a killer headwind. I’m not sure how strong it was, but I’m guessing it varied between 15-20 mph. During the first 30 miles, amazingly, it came at one time or another from 3 of the 4 sides of the compass. During one section–a 5-mile flat straightaway, several bike riders were actually standing up to pedal, as if they were climbing a big hill. That was the worst section, and it was just exhausting. Fortunately, at the end of that straightaway came an espresso stand.

“The Beacon”, offering convenient drive-up service, a ray of hope, shining against the darkness of perpetual headwind.

Now, after coming off some pretty major espresso distance training with john_childs, I knew my best chance of success would be to take a quick break and re-fuel with a double espresso. Take a look at the picture below, and specifically at the flag across the street. I didn’t have to wait for the right moment…it was just pinned horizontal like that. Just once, I made the mistake–in desperation–of thinking that a couple of cyclists would offer a bit of a wind break. I worked hard to catch up to one couple that was making slow progress, just to find there was nothing there for shelter. Ugh.

By afternoon, it became more predictable although no less strong, and fortunately turned to a tailwind for the last 8 miles of the ride, where the route doubled back down the straighaway that led to The Beacon. Of course, this was an opportunity to stop again, a fresh double espresso providing another ray of hope for the final miles of the ride.


  • Great weather
  • Conditioning-: the back-to-back 50s felt great, and I crossed the line both days with legs to spare.
  • The Climbs: on all the big hills I passed bikers, no bikers passed me. That is, until the very last one on Day 2, when one of my co-workers and her husband passed me on a tandem. The shame! Decided I better pledge $50 to her ride in penance.
  • My new setup – frame and brake changes worked out great.
  • Meeting the "Guy I Tired to Catch" from paragraph 7 of [this post](/t/ms-150-cokering-for-charity/81486/17) from last year's ride. As it turns out, that particular event became a story for both of us. I've told it several times from the aspect of "ride management", and how quickly I hit the wall once I stepped up the pace to try to catch him. Turns out he's told it too...about how all friggin' day long this damn unicyclist kept passing him on the hills, and just how annoying that was. Then, with just a few miles to go, he sees me chuggin' up behind in his rear view mirror. He swears "there is no way this ba$t*rd is finishing ahead of me", and picks up his pace. It was funny, swapping stories it turned out we each had the same experience with ride soon as he turned it on, he hit the wall too, but since he already had the lead in front of me, managed to make it over before I could catch him. Small world to finally meet the guy...
  • Fundraising for a great cause: My individual total is over $4,000, and I believe I’ll end up over $5,000. Team Microsoft just passed $100K, and the event overall should raise $1.4 million by the time all pledges are in next month. The power of pedaling...
  • Great support from unicycling support, help and guidance on training, nutrition, setup; companionship on training rides. All good.

Lowlights: not a single thing…even the damn headwind led to an espresso stop. Nothing to complain about.

So a VERY BIG THANK YOU to all of you that supported my ride, either through direct financial contributions, or through advice, help, and encouragement. Your help brings us closer to a cure!

For more photos, check out my smugmug gallery here.. It’s worth the trip…you will see a male cyclist doing the ride as Dorothy in Wizard of Oz. Just to get his pledge count up…and he did a century too in that little frock.

PS: If you’re so inspired, it’s not to late to click here and make a contribution!

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Great write-up Tom, and great pics, too. I like that one of “Dorothy” - Judy Garland wishes she had legs like that! Mentioning my Whiteface travails is an honor for me. I only wish I could approach your own one-wheeling triumphs.

I’ll be using your rides as inspiration on Sept. 23, when I attempt my first 50 miler - the Tour de Habitat, here in Albany.

Great job Tom.

At last Wednesday’s luncheon a business associate of mine said she saw a unicycle on the MS ride. I was proud to say I knew him.

Fantastic ride for an even better cause. Hopefully your efforts and the efforts of all the other riders will pay off and progress can be made against this disease. Thanks for the write-up.

This reminds me. A couple of weeks ago a family in a van pulled up next to me asking questions and taking cell phone photos. The driver asked me, “was that you who rode STP a couple of years ago?” What went through my mind was, “no, that was Bruce Dawson.” What came out of my mouth, of course, was, “yes, it was.”

Tom! Congratulations! That’s great.

One question: you really did it with 170s? What did you use at Tahoe? Same? Whatever works is the right length, but wow, 170 is really long. How short have you tried?


Hi Nathan,

No way would I do the whole ride with 170s. Ouch! My Kookas go 130/150/170. Day 1, I did most miles on the 130 setting, and switched to the 170s only for the biggest/longest climb (a few miles) and a couple really steep downhill sections. Ratio in miles was probably 45/5 on 130s vs 150s. Day 2, I kept the 130s all day, although I almost didn’t make it up the steepest part of the one big climb.

Tahoe was a special situation, because I bonked so early and then had major strength and energy issues. I spent way more miles on the 170s that I would have liked (probably 35 of the 75), but it worked as a survival technique. I could stay seated and just slowly chug along, whereas with the shorter settings I would have had to expend more energy standing or otherwise compensating for the shorter length and my technique limitations. In the training since then, I tried to focus on your advice to “learn to climb everything with the shorter cranks”, and for the most part it has been successful. I probably needed the 170s on Day 1 more for the brakeless downhills than for the climbs. I made the climbs last year on the 150 setting, although I definitely found it easier this year on the 170s. Not sure how much of that was crank length vs. conditioning.

To your other question, shortest I’ve tried is 120 or 125…whichever Lars Lottrup had on his Coker when he lent it to me in Copenhagen. Wasn’t a great length for frequent mounting in crowds on cobblestone streets, but it was a good introduction to short cranks.