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Reluctant cyclists Pedaling for Parkinson’s in the County

Members of the Rigid Riders Cycling Club suffer from the debilitating illness Parkinson’s disease, but the club offers no comfortable refuge. Instead, organizers Steve Iseman and Mike Loghrin compel them to do things that make them uncomfortable, anxious and afraid, and every week their numbers grow.

Parkinson’s disease is a condition that causes slow, long-term degeneration of the central nervous system and sufferers slowly lose control over movement as simple as walking. One of the most common symptoms is tremors in limbs.

The group trains people with Parkinson’s to cycle. Many have doubts or fears that they will not succeed. But together they build skills as a team, allay fears, and over the weekend, were among nearly 200 people who participated in the Pedaling for Parkinson Canada, Prince Edward County event where all funds raised are dedicated to the Pedaling for Parkinson’s Research Grant through the Parkinson Canada Research Program.

Team Rigid Riders

While the reluctant riders cycled 40km through Prince Edward County to raise funds and awareness, their story is also about getting to that part of the journey.

Team Captain Steve Iseman said it’s the steps on the path to the ride that matter most.

“A Parkinson’s Disease diagnosis is hard news. It’s what you do next that really counts,” he said. Iseman rode in his first Pedaling for Parkinson’s event last year in Parry Sound and wanted to be sure he extended that meaningful opportunity to others – even the reluctant cyclists.

“I was astounded by the experience of Pedaling for Parkinson’s last year. The organizers who ran it were so committed to the cause, and so beloved that it was immediately home for me. When I got my diagnosis, had this experience and saw that there was something proactive I could do about it, it became really important for me to spread the word. If you’re an athlete of any sort and you can continue to do it, great. But that’s not who our team is for. If I can get them over the hump of just giving it a try, I think I can help make a lifestyle change for the better.”

Co-Captain Mike Loghrin is a Parkinson Canada Support Group Facilitator who sees the importance of going the extra mile to connect with people, and supporting them through their full Parkinson journey.

People connect to groups in many different ways, including through Parkinson Canada’s Information and Referral program led by Maria Marano.

Marano notes the importance of leaders like Mike and opportunities like the ride, particularly for those living with Early Onset Parkinson’s.

“Knowing I am sending potentially vulnerable clients with early onset Parkinson’s to Mike’s support group gives me such reassurance because I know they will be taken care of and guided through the diagnosis with endless support and friendship.,” said Marano. “Mike often talks to newly diagnosed individuals on the phone or meets with them in person. Outside the support group, the members often meet for barbecues and rounds of golf. These non-traditional settings, like participating in the Rigid Riders, are so important in forming bonds of mutual support along with the benefits of exercise.”

“It takes great effort to encourage people to choose to fight at the very moment that they feel their weakest. This is where the Rigid Riders come in – a collection of people living with Parkinson’s who have no intention of giving up. They support each other with a clear message, ‘We have strength to spare – strength in numbers, strength in our convictions, and strength in the knowledge that good people love us and want to help.’”

A group of Pedal for Parkinson’s riders at a refreshment stop in Bloomfield at Pedego Electric Bikes shop on Stanley Street.

In 2011, longtime friends, Peter Istvan and David Newall founded ‘Pedaling for Parkinson’s’, to raise awareness and research funds. Over three days, cyclists pedaled more than 100,000 pedal strokes – one  pedal stroke for each Canadian diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Their inspiration was David’s father, diagnosed with Parkinson’s and a close friend and neighbour of Peter’s recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s. That year, 20 riders participated and over $18,000 was raised. Fast forward to 2018, the final year of the Parry Sound ride, and more than 350 riders took place raising in excess of $700,000 for a lifetime total of $1.7 million in support of Parkinson’s research. Last year was the final year of the ride in Perry Sound.

County ride hosts Jim Redmond and Krista Simonett

This year’s flagship ride in the County was hosted by Jim Redmond and Krista Simonett, of Ottawa. Jim was diagnosed with Parkinson’s two years ago.

“Riding gives me my freedom back. I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s about a year and a half ago when I was 44. Somebody showed me a video about a guy with PD and how he could barely walk but could still ride a bike. I bought a second hand bike and gave it a go. It worked even better than I thought that it could. My mind and my body have a sense of freedom that I rarely get with just the medications. I feel like I can do anything when I am on my bike. It’s pretty incredible.”

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  1. Jim says:

    It is nice to see then doing this but if they keep riding three wide on our terrible county roads they won’t live to next year

  2. These people are incredible and I am glad they are coming back next year.

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