Ken Hoffman’s 5 tips for easy ridin’ at this year’s MS 150 Texas

The Bike MS: Texas MS 150 charity bike ride from Houston to College Station is back — and smaller than ever.

After a one-year hiatus due to COVID-19, MS 150 organizers have arranged a one-day ride on Saturday, May 1 instead of the usual Houston to Austin weekend butt-buster. One day? Piece of cake, which you’ll be eating plenty of when you cross the finish line. Riding a bike all day makes you hungry.

There will be three starting points: Rhodes Stadium (102 miles to College Station), Waller ISD Stadium (77 miles), and the Renaissance Festival location in Todd Mission (68 miles). I will be starting from the Ren Fest because it’s the shortest route to the 50-yard finish line at Kyle Field on the Texas A&M campus. (Go Aggies! This is the year, national champs!)

Due to COVID, there will be extra safety measures. Riders must wear a face covering while waiting to start, at rest stops, at lunch — except when actually eating. Please wear your mask properly, over your nose. You don’t have to wear a mask when riding. Social distancing will be observed at starting points, at lunch, and rest stops. All riders must wear a helmet on the road.

Rest stops, approximately every 10 miles, will feature the usual array of snacks and energy drinks. Hand sanitizer stations and port-a-potties will be available, also observing social distancing. (Fun fact: I have never used a port-a-potty. I will call Life Flight first.)

Veteran tips for the MS 150 first-timer

As a veteran MS 150er, I have some tips for the casual bike rider who just wants to experience the event without walking like Woody from Toy Story the next two weeks.

I have done most of the past 20 MS 150 rides. I missed one because I was on vacation, and another year I was at St. Luke’s getting my X-rays touched up.

It ain’t The Tour

Serious bike riders don’t like when I say this — and it’s contrary to organizers’ advice and plain common sense — but you don’t have to train like you’ve signed to box Apollo Creed. This is not the Tour de France. There are some hills between Houston and College Station, but you’re not spending three days in the Alps.

Except for the MS 150, the farthest I ride the rest of the year is to the supermarket.

Take your time

The MS 150 is not a race. So take your time. I have been passed on the road by children, by tandem bikes and unicycles, and I’m serious, people on roller skates. You’re supposed to say “on your left” when you pass another rider. I rarely have to say that.

The MS 150 usually runs two days. Day One is from Houston to La Grange. Day Two is La Grange to Austin. There are bike maniacs who ride this event. They pedal straight to Austin on Day One and pass me riding back to Houston before I reach La Grange.

Don’t ride past the stops

Important: do not ever miss a rest stop. They usually have Oreo cookies, fruit, and energy drinks. I eat a banana at each rest stop. Bananas may be nature’s perfect food (Oreos a close second) and they help you avoid cramps.

To Spandex or not to Spandex?

Serious riders wear Spandex bike shorts and skin-tight bike jerseys. If you’re a guy who’s put on the “COVID 15” pounds, you might want to consider wearing regular shorts over the Spandex. Nobody needs to see that. (And you’re not fooling anybody. You’ve put on more than 15 pounds.)

Organizers will provide lunch but I always look for a local restaurant. I will miss the Dairy Queen in Bellville this year. Another reason not to train too much: Once, I actually did a couple of practice rides. I reached Bellville before the DQ opened. Lesson learned.

Stay classy

If you’re a first-timer, you will return home exhausted and absolutely famished. I remember bringing a chicken parm sandwich into the bathroom and eating it while taking a hot bath. Very classy.

One year I stayed in a discount hotel in La Grange on Saturday night during the MS 150. I noticed cigarette burn marks on the side of the bath tub. At least I’m better than that guy.

You don’t need a $4,000 bicycle for the MS 150, any bike with gears will do, but definitely invest in a soft, cushy bike seat. Serious riders use a seat that is hard as rock. They also call a bike seat a “saddle.” That’s not you. You need a jelly seat for your jelly butt. Bike stores sell cream that you rub on your rear end to prevent chafing.

Last thing: if you’re not feeling well, or running a temperature, or exhibiting any symptoms of COVID: stay home. There’s next year.

The Bike MS: Texas MS 150 kicks off Saturday, May 1. Riders must be aged 12 and older; minimum fundraising requirement is $400. For more information, including fundraising details, visit the official site.

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