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Cyclists make their way through Havre for a cause

Bike the U.S. for MS team rides along Hi-Line on cross-country fundraiser


Havre Daily News/Ryan Welch

Bikers Franz Hoppe from Germany, right, and Ed White from Rhode Island, who are with Bike the US for MS, leave Havre heading to Chester Tuesday, this morning. These bikers, with roughly 20 others, are doing what is considered the Northern Tier segment of Bike the US for MS, which had them starting in Bar Harbor, Maine and finishing in Seattle. The group left Maine May 27 and is expected to get to Seattle August 4.

Bike the U.S. for MS made a stop in Havre Monday on the long Northern Tier section of the ride, which began May 27 in Bar Harbor, Maine, and will end in Seattle, Aug. 4.

The ride is in support of multiple sclerosis, or MS, which is a chronic, often disabling disease that affects the central nervous system, the official website for Bike the US for MS says. Symptoms may be mild and cause numbness in the limbs or they may be severe, to the point where it causes paralysis or blindness.

"The progress, severity, and specific symptoms of MS are unpredictable and vary from one person to another," the website goes on to say.

Northern Tier summer intern Matt Herceg, who is an undergraduate from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, said he joined because he wanted to do something to help others, and he enjoys being active and traveling.

"It sounded like a good cause ... like an awesome trip," Herceg said.

The application for cyclists says riders can sign up to ride a full tour, a segment, or self-contained, which lets the cyclist choose any route they would like and can start whenever is convenient for them.

The ride raises money by having the cyclists fundraise for the miles they will ride. Self-contained riders must raise $0.50 per mile while segment cyclists must raise $2 per mile if riding less than 1,500 miles and $1 per mile if riding more than 1,500 miles. Full tour riders must raise at least $1 per mile.

Each cyclist gets their own page on the official website with a small biography and a button to donate, Herceg said.

The cyclists have also met people who see them riding and hand them donations, he added.

"People want to know, 'Where are you going?' And, 'What are you doing?'" Herceg said, adding that it is surprising to find how many people have been impacted by MS or even have the disease themselves.

The money raised goes toward expenses on the tour, including all overnight accommodations, tires and tubes, maps, team apparel, support vehicles, paying route leaders, minor bike maintenance and some team meals, the official website says.

The route leaders are in charge of finding the accommodations; where to stay and where to eat at each stop, Herceg said, adding that they are mostly on their own for meals, and they have their own sleeping pads so they can sleep just about anywhere.

A lot of the accommodations each year are the same because this has been going on for a while, he said, adding that he thinks the Northern Tier has been ridden since at least 2011 and the route leaders seek out places, such as churches, that may be able to house the riders for free.

The less money they spend on things such as places to stay, the more money that can go to the MS Society, Herceg said.

During their night in Havre, the cyclists stayed at the First Presbyterian Church.

The group was very thankful for the place to stay, as well for the dinner that was made for them by some of the parishioners of the church, Herceg said.

Bike the U.S. for MS is done to not only help fund research to end MS but is also to bring awareness to the challenges that are faced by people affected by MS, the website says.

Herceg said they donate the money they raise to the MS Society, and the society distributes the funds where they are needed.

The cyclists also like to help out in the communities they visit, Herceg said, adding that the group has "Rest Stop Days" where they do not ride any miles and, along with recuperating, they try to coordinate service projects.

One of these days happened when they visited the Fairview MS Society in Minneapolis, Herceg said.

"All the patients in the MS Society cheered us as we left," he added.

Another time they painted the inside of the house of a woman with MS who was hoping to sell her house, Herceg said.

Along with the Northern Tier, riders travel along the TransAm, Southern Tier, Pacific Coast and Atlantic Coast. An international ride is also hosted in the UK, called Bike the UK for MS, the website says.

Two men on this tier actually started their ride in Florida, Herceg said, adding that the men are planning to do the whole US route, which takes about six months, Herceg said.

On this tier, they have riders from all over, including Florida, Georgia, Montana and even Germany, he added.

During the ride, they are able to see a lot of small towns, which is a cool perspective for people like himself, Herceg said, because he is from a bigger city.

Havre he would call a small city but big enough to have "awesome stuff to do," he added.

In a lot of cities they stay in, he said, they enjoy going to places like bars and pubs at night to meet people and learn more about the city.

Havre Daily News/Ryan Welch

In Havre, he was looking forward to going to Dairy Queen in the evening after dinner, Herceg said.

During this tier, one of his favorite memories so far was being able to visit a MS center where a woman who made them lunch had also kept a written account of personal stories of people with MS who have benefited from the money that has been raised by the ride, he said.

He is also looking forward to visiting the Swedish MS Center when they arrive in Seattle, Herceg added.

The cyclists all appreciate everyone who donated to the cause, and helped them along in each city they visited, Herceg said.

"It is an awesome cause," he added.


Online: Bike the U.S. for MS website: http://biketheusforms.org/.


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