Riding a bicycle 176 miles over the gusty back roads connecting the Gulf Coast plains to the Texas Hill Country could easily be the kind of trip one regrets for years. But add more than 12,000 pancakes, 3,000 Taco Cabana tacos, 48,000 Oreos and 1,500 rolls of toilet paper to the mix, and a long, lonely ride suddenly becomes the British Petroleum MS150, a two-day party that last year raised $5.2 million for the Lone Star Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
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The BP MS150 is not a race, and it doesn't pay homage to the person on the titanium megabike. The MS150 people couldn't care less about a participant's ride, or even if he rides it. And according to Daniel Murphy of Houston's West End Bicycles (a shop known for its inventory of bikes that cost five figures), the race is the most enjoyable cycling event of the year, regardless of its lack of racing-circuit high energy.
"We enjoy watching the different styles of the different types of riders," he explains. "The racer types come by early and don't stop; then you get the intermediate riders that dress right but might not be in as good of shape; later in the day you get the tennis-shoe crowd or smoking crowd. I hate to pigeonhole or categorize people, but there are so many types of riders."
The MS150 starts at 7 a.m. Saturday, April 20, at Tulley Stadium in Houston, spends that evening in La Grange, and finishes the next day in Austin. Those registering after April 13 must include a minimum pledge of $300 in addition to the $50 registration fee. For more information, call 713-526-8967 or visit www.ms150.org.
Despite the eclectic mix and the verified presence of cigarette-smoking cyclists, Murphy suggests that bikers train at least a little before the ride.
"By not preparing properly, you can ruin cycling for yourself and really pay for it on Monday," says Murphy. "When you overdo it, you might burn out because it was just too painful. It's a great sport if you do it in moderation."