The ultimate MS Bike: Jonathan Allenger is riding across Canada
Canadian with multiple sclerosis is cycling to raise money for research
Jonathan Allenger was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) ten years ago and began participating in MS Bike that same year. He is now riding across Canada, a whopping 6,000 kilometres, to raise 1 million dollars for MS research, support services as well as awareness.
He set off Vancouver on May 7, and his ride will finish on June 26. So far, he’s raised over $60,000. Allenger is a keen cyclist and has been training hard for the ride, with a mix of running and cycling.
His team has a plan for the ride, but as most cyclists know, you can only plan so much. Weather, wind, mechanicals—Allenger is aware that some days will be harder than others, especially with his own personal challenge of living with MS. But he’s driven by his goal and will do whatever it takes to make it to St. John’s at the end of June.
“I spent the least amount of time during this project planning day by day because I knew that would be the most variable, the reality of my situation and having MS,” Allenger explains. “Plus, there’s the weather, road closures, who knows.”
Allenger is starting his cross-country ride earlier than others who have done it in the past and realizes it may be wetter and colder to begin. For him, that’s also because the colder weather can help with his symptoms from MS, though the rain does not.
Riding in 30 degrees is pretty much like being in an oven. The hot temperatures seem to bring on symptoms more, so I try to stay cool,” he says. “I’ve used ice packs on my back or on my head under the helmet to keep me comfortable. So, generally speaking, cooler temps are easier on my body.”
“Riding in 30 degrees is pretty much like being in an oven. The hot temperatures seem to bring on symptoms more, so I try to stay cool,” he says. “I’ve used ice packs on my back or on my head under the helmet to keep me comfortable. So, generally speaking, cooler temps are easier on my body.”
A team effort
His support team will follow in an RV camper to in whatever way they can, whether that’s encouragement, fluids, snacks, or mechanical assistance, they will be there. The RV will also be their mobile base and home for the two-month journey.
“This would not be possible without a team of volunteers. Everyone has graciously donated their time to create videos, help out with social media, help on the fundraising service strategy, help secure sponsorship,” he adds. “I’m pushing and pushing and pushing, but at the same time, my energy levels are fluctuating. So, if it wasn’t for the help of volunteers, I wouldn’t be where I am, and we wouldn’t have raised more than my annual fundraising already. I’ve been raising money for MS since 2014.”
A long steady ride
Allenger does know that he will need a few days off the bike along the way to recover. “My goal is to do this for 50 days with five rest days scattered around,” he says. “There’s no pushing. I don’t have a time to make. The goal is 150 kilometres a day. That’s what I plan for. We have fixed start and end dates because of the RV rental and time off work. I’ve taken 25 days unpaid to do this journey, so I can’t extend it anyway.”
He’s been cycling seriously for almost 10 years and participating in MS Bike just as long, but this is his biggest challenge yet. “I’ve ridden my bike all my life to get to school and work. It’s part of my daily routine,” he says. “I started off just by cycling to and from the office, five kilometers away from home. And then it got progressively further, going on 40 km rides and progressively longer distances. At first, it was just having fun with friends. Some days are harder than others, as MS fatigue is a real thing.”
Roller coaster of preparation for the ride of his life
Getting fit for this sort of unique ride was important, but given the timing, it meant a lot of indoor ridingnd there have been challenges along the way. “I have been riding the trainer, I wish I’d ridden more, but I fell off the proverbial cliff a couple of months ago,” he says. “I had a lot of anxiety that was a result of speaking to neurologists who told me that my disease was progressing based on the MRI scans.”
His training had been going well in the fall and wintere even ran a half Marathon in November and was running regularly for his cardio. Due to his anxiety about MS, he lost six weeks of not being able to ride, but he overcame that challenge and jumped back on the horse, averaging 300 km a week.
“I think I’ll be alright. What I’ve come to realize is I might not do the 150 a day that I wanted to, but that’s okay, too. That’s part of this journey. I have MS, and I’m doing what I can,” he says. “The thing about cycling that I really enjoy is that it allows me to push and challenge myself.”
To learn more about MS Bike, visit msbike.ca.