Every spring, about 13,000 cyclists pedal from Houston to Austin as part of the BP MS 150 bike ride.
The strange thing? Only about 900 of those cyclists – less than 7 percent – come from Austin, even though the ride ends here with a big bash near the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum.
“People see it as a Houston event,” says Gena Hyde, regional director of communications for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, which puts on the event, the primary fund-raiser for the non-profit organization.
Hyde wants to change that, so she’s on a mission to let folks know that if you’re worried about logistics, they’ve got that covered. “We want the Austin community to feel a part of this,” she says.
Riders can pay a small fee to catch a ride on a shuttle from Austin to Houston, where the ride begins, the night before the event. You’ll still have to book a hotel room, but you don’t have to figure out how to get your car home.
At the end of the first day, your registration covers a place to camp, showers and meals in LaGrange. Crews even haul your tent and overnight gear for you. The ride is fully supported, with aid stations and SAG support along the way.
I did the ride eight or nine years ago. The shuttle worked like a charm, I didn’t have to wait too long in the shower line, and my quads survived the 180 miles of pedaling. (Because even though the name is the BP MS 150, it’s actually 180 miles.)
This year’s two-day ride is set for April 16 and 17.
“It’s an extraordinary experience for people,” Hyde says.
About 80 percent of cyclists join teams to do the ride. In Austin, Team Taco Deli wins the crown for the biggest team, with about 150 members. The average age of participants hovers in the 40s, and slightly more men than women make the ride. Most sign up for the physical challenge; the multiple sclerosis connection comes later.
Last year, just under 13,000 people registered for the ride. Rains turned the campground in LaGrange into a swamp, so the first day of pedaling was cancelled. Just about everyone showed up for Day 2, though, covering the hilliest portion of the ride into Austin. The event still raised a single-year record of $20.3 million.
Interest in the event seems to have peaked about 7 years ago, when registration filled in less than 24 hours. That doesn’t happen now, but the ride usually does fill up.
Registration is $130, and participants must raise $400 before they can pick up their rider packets. To sign up, go here.