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Bike rider and fundraiser are inseparable words to describe Roy Cundiff.
On Saturday and Sunday, the Sea Trail resident will participate in Bike MS. This is a 150-mile bike ride from and to New Bern to raise funds to support people living with multiple sclerosis in eastern North Carolina and throughout the United States.
“To me,” Cundiff said, “it’s a good cause. Secondly, it’s good exercise. And it’s a goal, my objective for the year.”
Bike MS is expected to attract 2,000 cyclists and volunteers. Organizers hope to raise $1.6 million. Cundiff hopes to raise $5,000 in pledges. Last year, in a different ride, he raised $8,400.
Cundiff first rode in an MS fundraising ride in 1991, when he was living in Charlotte. But that ride, Breakaway to the Beach, also was a learning experience.
“I began raising funds and I realized I didn’t know anything about MS,” he said. “Many of the people I talked to about contributing to me had someone in the family—a brother, a sister, a nephew, themselves—with MS and I knew little about it. I was amazed to find so many people had MS.
“I did the first ride and I was hooked.”
Since then, he estimates he’s raised $35,000.
In Bike MS, he anticipates covering a one-day ride of 75 miles in five hours.
“You’re at your own pace,” he said. “There are plenty of rest stops. There’s a lunch break. A lot of people take their time and don’t get in till 2 or 3 p.m. If I average 16, 17 miles an hour, that’s fine.”
And he’ll ride no matter what the weather is.
“One year there was a hurricane,” Cundiff said about another ride. “We rode (from Charlotte) to Florence (S.C.) the first night but could not get to Myrtle Beach because of a hurricane. So we had to turn around and go to Rockingham.
“One year there were tornado warnings out. In fact, they took a lot of the cyclists off the road. There was a big truck that was picking people up to get them off the road.”
But Cundiff kept riding.
“I missed the truck,” he said.
If hurricanes and tornadoes are unable to stop him, a little rain will be no problem.
“I’ve ridden in rain for as much as 50 miles of a 75-mile trip,” he said. “But there is nothing to do but to ride when you’re out on a farm road in the middle of nowhere and it starts to rain. Everybody just does it, accept its, laughs it off and just gets to where they’re going.”
The camaraderie makes the rides fun.
“You talk to people,” Cundiff said. “You may get in with a group. You ride at your pace. To me, it’s just a recreational ride.”
Bike MS should not be difficult for Cundiff. Out of habit, Cundiff, 78, rides three days a week on his Giant bike.
“Island Hoppers has rides two nights a week and Saturday mornings,” he said. “I’ve been riding with them on Saturday mornings. We’ll ride anywhere from 35 to 50 miles.”
Fundraising rides draw cyclists of all age groups, with the younger riders sometimes sharing a tandem bike with a parent. Riders with MS also have participated, Cundiff said.
“I rode for the Bank of America,” he said about his former employer. “And the director of the Bank of America team had MS. She rode alone for a number of years, but as the condition got worse, she rode with her husband in a tandem.”
The most memorable moment for Cundiff occurred not during a ride but during a break.
“On the second or third ride that I did,” he said, “at one of the rest stops in South Carolina, everyone at the rest stop had MS. There must have been 10 volunteers at the rest stop filling your water bottles or giving you bananas or whatever.”
The memory of their charitable efforts causes his eyes to redden.
“Some of them were able to get around, some were in wheelchairs,” he said. “It was heartwarming to see.”
MICHAEL PAUL is the sports editor at the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.