Riding to defeat multiple sclerosis is now a tradition for Langley’s Tim Baillee.
The retired Surrey firefighter has seen the progressive neurological condition up close for 33 years, ever since his mother, Birdie, was diagnosed with the disease.
“We started with the MS Walk in White Rock,” said Baillee.
But then his friend Pat Wilson started a team for the MS Bike events. The local ride, now called The Fraser Valley Experience, sends riders around to various eateries and wineries, mostly in Langley.
There are so many wineries on the trip, the ride used to be called the Grape Escape.
“And I am a big fan of drinking wine,” joked Baillee, who lives across from a winery in South Langley.
The Easy Riders have been raising money since around 2011, and they’ve passed a team total of more than $100,000 over the course of this decade, which Baillee credits to team captain Wilson.
Most of the team, including Baillee’s partner Karen Belcourt, will be riding road bikes for the big fundraiser when it kicks off July 15.
“For a couple of years now, I’ve been the only guy riding a dual suspension mountain bike,” Baillee said, showing off his heavy ride.
Road bikes are light and come equipped with thin tires that provide limited resistance. They’re ideal for riding over smooth asphalt over long distances.
Mountain bikes are heavy, and have big, fat, knobbly tires that are suitable for riding over rocks and dirt trails. They aren’t exactly suited for taking a long ride over the roads of the Fraser Valley.
The longest ride of the MS Bike route this July will be 172 km spread over July 15 and 16. The shortest is 48 km. Baillee will be doing one of the longer routes. “It involves one more winery,” he said in defense of putting in the extra effort.
Baillee said he was inspired to ride a big, heavy bike by his mother’s struggles with MS.
“She’s not taking the easy way out,” he said. “The least I can do is not take the easy way out and ride one of those damn roadie bikes!”
The only time Baillee has ridden a road bike was last year – after he had a kidney removed.
Like Baillee, most of the Easy Riders have a friend or family member with MS. Team captain Pat Wilson and her husband Gerry, another retired Surrey firefighter, are running for their son, diagnosed 25 years ago. Belcourt is riding for another family friend.
That means they take their fundraising seriously.
That said, they also take their time and have some fun on the ride.
The team’s philosophy is to be neither the first nor the last.
Team members have been getting out onto the roads and trails in an effort to be ready for the big ride. Or at least imagining doing some training.
“Mentally, I’ve been training every day,” Baillee said.
Whether he’s trained enough or not, Baillee’s mother Birdie said she’s confident he’ll be alright.
“No, I think he’s quite sensible,” Birdie said of her son’s dedication to the annual ride.
The ride departs July 15 at 9 a.m. from the Coast Hotel in Langley City, and the longer routes may head out into Abbotsford.