The BPMS150 — Getting Healthy, Engaging Employees, and Raising Money for a Great Cause
May 18, 2012
By Quentin Smith, Future Leader
Networking, Teambuilding, Getting in Shape – few activities are able to bring all these things together as well as the BPMS-150 Houston to Austin Bike Ride. When I found out last fall that I was moving back to Texas, one of the things that I was looking forward to doing was riding in this event as I figured it would be a great way to get to know Houston. My original plan was to do a few of the organized rides on the weekends and try to survive come ride day. My experience turned out to be vastly different. In this article, I wanted to share a couple of the best practices I learned from riding this year and to encourage anyone on the fence to make the decision to ride in 2013.
1. Participate in the MS Sanctioned Organized Rides
For those that haven’t found this out yet, Houston is full of cycling nuts. Apparently this is a phenomenon that started 10 years ago and has blossomed today into a vibrant Houston cycling community. Many areas of town have one or more cycling groups that meet weekly. Separate from these year round cycling groups, during the lead up to the MS, there are multiple organized rides each weekend starting in January and continuing through to April. The number of participants in each of these organized rides ranges from below 100 to several thousand and each benefit a different charity. The rides are usually very well organized with rest stops stocked with food and drinks. Not only is this a great way for someone new to Houston to get to know the area, but it is also a great way to have fun networking and meet fellow riders. For the first few months of my training, I relied exclusively on these organized rides to get my mileage in. While these rides have several benefits, I came to learn that relying on them exclusively does not give you the training you need to be prepared for the MS.
2. Get a Professional
Our team was fortunate enough to be supported by a local cycling professional. Bruce Gilbert of Bike Medicine has been cycling competitively for over 40 years. Besides being a master bike mechanic and impressive cyclist, Bruce is in the business of setting up corporate cycling teams. He worked with a core group of our team starting in February and the results were quite dramatic. The goal of the team training is to build a cohesive group of safe cyclists that were conditioned to not just survive the MS150, but to finish feeling strong with no safety incidents. Our regiment included weekday workouts on trainers and weekend instructed rides. The trainer workouts were a great forum for beefing up our conditioning during manageable 1-hour workouts after work (Goal: 2 to 4 trainer workouts a week). The weekend road rides were the practical portion of the training and they were required to get the necessary pre-ride mileage in. The weekend rides were 40 to 60 miles on both Saturday and Sunday (Goal: 2 road rides each weekend). On these rides we would practice cycling techniques such as pace line configurations, obstacle avoidance and clearance (including jumping over obstacles), proper outfitting, flat repair, and bike maintenance and cleaning. In addition to the conditioning, Bruce worked with us to ensure our bikes were in top working condition and properly fitted. I learned that a true professional fit is an involved process that includes not only the initial adjustment of the bike but also monitoring performance on the road to eliminate the risk of repetitive motion injuries. If you are helping to run a MS150 team, you should really consider including the services of a professional trainer such as Bruce in your planning.
3. Don’t Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight – Hybrid vs. Road Bike
My original plan was to ride my hybrid on the MS. I figured it was a big upgrade from previous MS rides I completed on my mountain bike. While I was regularly passed up by road bike pace lines on the weekends, I was completing the rides without too much undue stress. This was the classic problem of not knowing what I didn’t know. Once we started working with Bike Medicine, getting talked out of the hybrid only took a few weeks. I purchased an entry-level road bike and invested in a professional fit. I was blown away at the results. Not only was I now able to train with the rest of my team, I was much more comfortable doing it and noticeably quicker. Anyone that is thinking of doing the MS on anything but a professionally fitted road bike should definitely reconsider. There are implications related to safety, risk of repetitive injury, and training that make a road bike the way to go. Your goal on the MS ride should be to finish as quickly as possible so that you minimize time under the sun and have more time to recover for day 2 of the ride. A road bike will help you to achieve this goal.
While not everyone in an organization is going to be receptive to cycling, there is a clear benefit to sponsoring a cycling team for the MS150 and even more benefit to setting up a year round corporate cycling team. Besides the clear correlation between staying active and health care costs, the intangibles can be just as powerful. Employee engagement, building internal and external networks, and reinforcing a focus on safe practices are just a few of the intangible benefits that result. Today there are MS rides in just about every state but the scale of the BPMS150 make this a uniquely Houston event. If you have it on your bucket list, set next year as your goal to finally participate. For this event, the slope between a bucket list item and an annual tradition is slippery indeed. See you in La Grange in 2013!