Preparing for The Ride: Cycling, health, community service and business relationships


By Mark Buckshon

Publisher, Ontario Construction News

As this issue of Ontario Construction News goes online, I’ll be in final preparations for a 109 km bicycle ride in support of research at the Ottawa Hospital. This is my ninth The Ride – and the experience is indelibly linked to business decisions and personal health.

The process started 10 years ago, when Robert Merkley of Merkley Supply Ltd. asked me to join the first Ride. Merkley has been a client of ours since the business started in 1988-89 – he purchased an advertisement in the inaugural issue of Ottawa Construction News.

So obviously it was hard to say “no”. However, I had a serious scheduling conflict so copped out with the second-best solution – a reasonably large (for) me cash contribution to the cause.

The next year, in 2010, I didn’t have any excuse to stay home. So I pulled out the old road bike I had purchased (used) shortly after I had arrived in Ottawa in 1981-2. I think the bicycle was 10 years old at the time. Essentially, I would be riding a 30-year-old machine with little training and preparation, for the full distance.

In hindsight, this was crazy, but somehow I completed the journey; not quite last in the pack, but nearly that. I was wiped. The next two years I kept the same old bicycle, but had started training by commuting about 12 km each way to and from work during the warmer months.

With ancient equipment but more practice, I certainly didn’t break speed records, but had no reason to be embarrassed about my performance.

(The Ride is NOT billed as a race; so there is no urgency to complete the journey – and in recent years, softer 50 km closed circuit options have been included for riders wishing to take it easier.  After an unfortunate fatal accident during one Ride, organizers reviewed and revised the route to ensure safety going forward.)

I then graduated to a new exercise bicycle. Not a high end machine, that is for sure, at $700, but obviously much better than the old one. Now I was hooked on cycling, and virtually every day I would commute upwards of 30 km each way, often to the gym, where I would exercise some more.

This exercise had rather good implications for my health. In 2009-2010, my doctor had warned me that I had signs of pre-diabetes (my father died from complications of the disease some years earlier at age 67). The intensive exercise caused all the blood sugar issues to disappear.

This year, I decided to take things to another level. I traded in my basic exercise bike for a carbon-frame endurance bicycle, and purchased proper cycling gear. I also went on a self-guided week-long European bicycle tour, raking up several hindered kilometres on the bicycle.

So I’ll be ready for Sunday’s Ride, and probably will complete the course much more rapidly and with less stress than before.

Mark Buckshon preparing for The Ride

There are studies that indicate that extensive cycling increases life expectancy and some insurance companies offer lower rates for serious cyclists. I’m not sure about cause and effect here though. If you are healthy enough to handle endurance rides, you probably are healthy enough to live for a longer time.

As for business, Merkely says he will conclude his active leadership of the Brick Peddlers team and The Ride this year. His own family scheduling conflict, his daughter’s wedding, precludes his participation. But his team has raised so far more than any other this year– $139,000 as I write this note a few days before the event – and he has personally raised almost $35,000. Over the decade, his initiatives have resulted in several millions of dollars in funding.

Paradoxically, while The Ride is a charitable initiative, and participation should (and I hope is) motivated by selfless values, the experience has been healthy both for my physical condition and my business. Relationships developed through supporting the initiative have ultimately led to significant sales and profitability. And I know that my physical condition has evolved to the right side of the bell curve for someone my age.

Here’s Merkley’s message posted on the team website. It should give some inspiration and encouragement to anyone wishing to reach out, do a bit of good, and help and support the community. You can find your own “Ride” options where you live, within your interests, values and goals. Even with stress and strain, the rewards for the effort cannot be understated.

Good morning everyone:

 A warm welcome to our new “Brick Peddlers” and a special welcome to our repeat “Brick Peddlers” I sincerely and greatly appreciate your commitment and your continuing commitment as “Brick Peddlers” to raising much needed funds for Cancer Research as participants for this year’s 10th Anniversary of “The Ride”

 There are no more devastating words then “you have cancer” and as a member of “The Baby boomer” generation (I turn 65 this summer) the incidence of cancer will increase dramatically for the remaining years as a baby boomer.
The incidence of cancer is one in every two man and one in every 2.5 women. Although the incidence in woman is marginally less than men, women get cancer far earlier in age.

 As many of you know, part of my “ask” was “either you or I will get cancer; I hedge my bet on raising funds for cancer”. Little did I know in 2014 my wife Susan would be diagnosed with ovarian cancer, a particular difficult cancer. We were told that Susan’s prognoses would be 5 to 10 years. This is Susan’s fifth year and so far she has no signs of cancer.

We are very fortunate to have The Ottawa Hospital Foundation as the creator and manager of The Ride. Not only has The Ottawa Hospital Foundation done a tremendous job of running The Ride but as well The Ottawa Hospital Foundation as one of the top foundations for managing costs.

 That is for every dollar you raise, 82 cents goes directly to fund much needed research. The foundation also leverages every $1 donated to generate up to $10 in external funding.

So not only do you get maximum use of your funds raised, our funds raised have largely been used to support Dr. John Bell along with his doctors and clinicians in the research in using oncolytic virus therapy to fight cancer. Dr. Bell has since received substantial funding for this most promising cure for cancer.

If you are participating in this year’s The Ride, I hope to see you on Sunday.  If you would like to contribute some money, you can go to this link.


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