Recently, in the pages of Canadian Cycling Magazine, we named Steve Merker, the chief cycling officer of the Ride to Conquer Cancer, one of the 14 most influential Canadians in cycling. He helped to build the Ride to Conquer Cancer. In 2015, the event’s eighth year in Ontario, 4,853 riders participated, making it the largest fundraising event in the country. Merker says 80 to 85 per cent of those riders likely didn’t own a bike five to 10 years ago.
“When you see all these people getting into bike riding and healthy and fit and doing an activity they never thought they’d be doing, it’s a really warm feeling knowing that all these people are doing something very meaningful on their bicycles,” he says.
Merker was once a competitive swimmer. He tried to get into the Olympics, three times. From there, he moved to triathlon. He participated in one of the first triathlons in Canada in 1982, in which the athletes swam, ran and then biked. Today, he often commutes from his home north of Toronto to his office downtown, roughly 35 km each way.
While Merker’s job connects his passion for the bike, he also has a personal connection to the disease participants of the Ride hope to eliminate. “I have dragged my wife into the Ride to Conquer Cancer a couple of time,” he said. “She’s also done some sprint triathlons. She’s my inspiration as well. She’s one of the reasons why the cancer really cause motivates me. She’s a cancer survivor. In ’96, she had an acute form of leukemia and she beat it. She licked it. It was a tough battle, but I saw the benefits of research and she benefitted from that. So that’s one of my inspirations.”