Benefiting the National MS Society, Bike MS is a two-day, 150-mile cycling journey. Mike Bartell, his neighbor and neighbor’s son were among the more than 3,000 cyclists that rode from Duluth to the Twin Cities on June 10th and 11th.
“This is my fourth Bike MS ride. Training for the event is critical,” explains Mike. “I started in the spring – first biking 10 miles, and increasing the rides to 30 miles. Ideally, on weekends a person training for this event will cycle 40 or 50 miles. Unfortunately, weather didn’t cooperate and I only finished one 38-mile training ride. The last route started in Maple Grove, went around the lakes, and back to Maple Grove. This year I got in 280 miles of training. In previous years, I completed nearly 450 miles or more of training.”
Initially, Mike participated in Bike MS for the adventure. He also knows several people, including a very close friend, that have MS. He raised over three-hundred dollars prior to Bike MS 2017.
The adventure began with a shuttle to Proctor, Minnesota, near Duluth, on Friday June 9th. Once in Proctor, participants settled in for the night. Some cyclists booked hotel rooms well in advance. Others camped or stayed in the gymnasium at the local high school. Mike and his team opted for the gym, where many slept on a hard floor in sleeping bags surrounded by loud snoring cyclists. After an insufficient night of rest, the group was shuttled to the starting line.
Weather conditions on Saturday started out cool. As it became warmer, the headwinds increased. Participants stopped every 10 to 15 miles for a rest, food, refreshments and to replenish their water bottles. There were five or six rest stops on each day.
When Mike and his friends rode into Hinckley, temperatures had climbed to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. And the winds increased to approximately 20 miles per hour with significantly higher gusts. Team Bartell, set up tents in Hinckley near the Casino. While food was provided in the camping area, Mike, his neighbor and neighbor’s son went into the casino for some welcome air conditioning and a hearty meal.
Sunday started out cool and the wind had died down overnight. However, the radar showed storms developing over the Bike MS route. At the second rest stop, it began to rain. Mike and his group put on rain gear and continued the ride. The cyclists were greeted in Rush City by a patrolman that directed participants up the street to a church basement, where they waited out the storm. Just as the group started for the church a big wall cloud formed, the lightning began, and the rain and wind increased.
Some of the cyclists were exposed to the downpour and pea-sized hail before they reached Rush City. Participants that hadn’t left the rest stop in Pine City were told that the remainder of the race was canceled and were bused home. Mike and his team remained in the basement shelter for an hour and a half. After the storm cleared, they were notified that transportation was available for those that wanted to leave. Cyclists that wanted to finish the ride were told to proceed with caution because of downed trees and debris from the storm.
“A lot of people quit,” says Mike. “About 60 percent decided to head home. It was very windy and cold. We decided to not give up and kept going. We were met with strong shifting wind that eventually moved to the south making for a powerful headwind.”
Mike and his group finished on Sunday at approximately 3:40 pm. While he plans to ride in Bike MS again, Mike is not going to participate next year. When he wears the t-shirt from the event, several people that have or know someone with MS stop and thank him for participating.