Ride to Conquer Cancer, 2010

The Ride to Conquer Cancer is a charity ride that goes from Toronto to Niagara every year. The proceeds benefit the Princess Margaret Foundation. I volunteered as a mechanic on last year's ride, and had a great time volunteering again for this year's ride.

My favourite repair story from this year was one I did for a guy whose inner real derailleur pulley had fallen off. He was between 15 and 20km from finishing when this happened. I told him that I didn't have the right tools to fix it, or the missing part, and that he'd need to get a ride for the rest of the way in one of the sweep vans.

He and his group were all wearing shirts that said something to the effect of "Riding for Joe," and they each had a picture of a man taped to their top tubes, facing upward. One of the riders said the classic line of a rider in distress: "it's really important to us that we finish this ride."

I decided to do whatever I could do to get the guy back on the road, even though his bike wouldn't be configured by the book. Fiddling around with the chain and derailleur a bit, I found that I could run the chain around the outside of the outer pulley, and that the derailleur would act as a crude tensioner when the chain was in the right pair of gears. It was basically set up like the orange line in the image to the right.

I told them to take it easy for the rest of the ride, because the chain would probably derail if he hit any bumps too hard, and that he wouldn't be able to change gears at all. With that, they set off. I did see him again 20 minutes later; his chain had derailed again but, determined to finish, he was putting it back on himself this time.

After their team crossed the finish line, I went to shake the rider's hand and congratulate him. He was very happy to have finished the ride. One of his team mates, maybe an uncle, told me that Joe, from the t-shirts and the photos, was the rider's father.

It makes me pretty happy to play a small part in a nice story like that. To me, the story also illustrates that the RTCC it's more than just a bike ride. Aside from raising many millions of dollars for cancer research, the ride is also an emotional feat for the riders who've had a personal encounter with cancer, and a victory against the disease which has done them wrong. Whether they are riding for a loved one, or are a cancer survivor themselves, it's clear that the strongest riders aren't the first across the line at the end of the day.