It does not take superhuman effort to power Heart and Stroke's Big Bike, but it does not hurt if you have superheroes on your team.
Anytime Fitness, a returning Tillsonburg Big Bike team, had two of them Monday afternoon for their 2 km ride with Scotiabank – Captain Running Man and Xpressa, both dressed in eye-catching purple costumes.
"A lot of people were really excited to do it," said Anytime Fitness captain Melissa Barnim, aka Captain Running Man. "If they weren't able to be here because of work, then they showed their support sponsoring us."
"We had seven teams today," said area coordinator Jessica Thomas (Heart and Stroke Foundation – Brant, Haldimand, Norfolk and Tillsonburg) from their base at Kelsey's Tillsonburg on Broadway.
"It's really a unique experience," said Thomas. "It's not something you do individually – it's a team effort, and that's why a lot of groups that ride are businesses that are team building... really unique team building."
The Big Bike does not come with a motor. It's powered 100 per cent by participants – minimally 15 people, up to 29 plus one for the driver to get the 'full-house' experience.
"Several organizations are smaller but still want to ride the bike, and we're all for that," said Thomas. "So we offer half-team options. One team does 15, the other has 15, and they're good to go."
"I would think it would be easy with that many people," said Barnim, a first time Big Biker, looking forward to a small-team ride. "But we'll see. I've heard the hills can be a little bit tricky."
"The incline is the hardest part," nodded Anytime Fitness rider Chip Barkhouse, "but everyone pulls together and they really make it a team effort. We also help each other, riding with a team that doesn't have enough, so it's good community support system we have here."
Barnim agreed, teamwork would be important.
"If we're not all pedaling, how are we gong to go forward?" Coming from Anytime Fitness, she wasn't worried on that score. "We all like to work hard," she smiled.
Just past the midway point of their two-and-half-hour fundraiser, Heart and Stroke had collected more than $7,000 in pledges. Nearly half of that came from the leadoff team, Tillsonburg Community Centre, which included leading fundraiser Darrell Eddington, who single-handed brought in more than $775 in sponsorship.
Also riding Monday were Tillsonburg Realtors, Curves, Get Hired, and Maple Manor.
"We had a lot of repeat teams," said Thomas. "Tillsonburg Community Centre actually celebrated their fifth year doing the Big Bike, so we had a cake and celebration – we truly appreciate their efforts. Five years is a long time."
The Big Bike has been operating as a Heart and Stroke Foundation fundraiser in the province for the past two decades.
"This is our 21st year having Big Bike in Ontario," said Thomas. "And the goal for the overall program, for our office this year, is $139,000. Last year we had our best year ever. It was absolutely phenomenal and we raised $129,000... super exciting!"
The Big Bike arrives in Tillsonburg once a year, but it also has five ride dates in Brantford and solo rides in Simcoe, Ohsweken and Hagersville.
"Tillsonburg is our office's first official bike ride of the year. You're our kickoff to the whole thing.
"It's always nice to start in Tillsonburg," added Thomas, expressing their gratitude to Kelsey's Tillsonburg for allowing use of their parking lot to stage the bike, and outdoor patio for registration table.
"They are an extremely generous host site, we couldn't do this Bike Ride without Kelsey's," Thomas summed up. "They do so much for our teams... they are just an absolutely fantastic host site."