Bike MS: Bike to the Bay

Special to the AdVantage
–by John Mohn


Fred LeFebvre

On Saturday, June 24, Fred LeFebvre will begin his 11th Bike MS: Bike to the Bay, the successful local fundraising event that benefits efforts to eliminate Multiple Sclerosis. Pretty impressive for a guy who isn’t known for wearing out bicycle tires. Fred will never be accused of over-training for the event, because his motto is: “Do the Bike to the Bay, then put the bike away.” Listeners to Fred’s 1370 WSPD morning radio program have probably heard him say this a time or two. He says his training consists of a few 20 to 25-mile rides once the weather turns more spring-like. And the rest of the year? The bike waits in the garage.

But his commitment to the event far outshines his lack of commitment to training. For the last decade, Fred has been riding, promoting the event on his radio program, raising money for research and services for those diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, and putting one pedal in front of the other for this important cause.

“By the time of the race I’ve done some training. I’ve made some 20-25 mile rides, so I know I can do 100.” Yes, 100, as in miles. Fred, the non-biker, will be tackling the 100-mile portion of the event for the second straight year.

Fred will be one of the 100s of riders — not racers, since nothing is timed — who participate in June event. The all-volunteer staff provides water and food on the course, and rolling SAG (support and gear) wagons to help bikers when repairs are needed. The local sheriff departments keep the route safe. But nothing can be done about the wind. Northwest Ohio receives a prevailing west to east wind, which would seem to help the Saturday ride, blowing bikers toward the bay. Fred says the winds don’t seem to help. “It isn’t a straight shot from Owens to Port Clinton. The ride takes a lot of turns. And when we turn north toward Lake Erie it seems like the wind is always coming off the lake. That can be a struggle.” At least the weekend is traditionally dry. Fred remembers only one rainy Saturday in the years he’s been involved.

LeFebvre originally decided to ride when a WSPD Breakfast Club colleague was diagnosed with MS. In those days, he was pedaling the 35-mile route. He’s found it a very worthwhile cause. So it’s no surprise that he’s raised his level of commitment to the 100-mile challenge. “The money that is raised by the bikers goes to research, and services for those with MS: wheelchairs; research and development for medication; the hope that the symptoms from this disease can be slowed down for those who suffer from it. And in the future, a cure.”

LeFebvre is impressed by the corporate teams that participate year after year. Pharmaceutical companies working on MS medications send teams, as do local firms. “Some of these teams are very professional. They draft off each other, they treat it like a race.” But Fred doesn’t ride with a team — he rides alone.

This devotion to a cause like defeating MS could be disheartening. Running to defeat breast cancer year after year, or biking to wipe out MS for 11 years, one must think, How much longer will I need to do this? But gripping those handlebars, head down against a strong wind, LeFebvre loyally continues to challenge his under-trained body, rolling over pavement that he’s seen before. He would prefer not to have to make this ride — which would mean the disease has been defeated. But he’s ready to ride another 11 years if that’s what it takes.