15 years into Bike to Beat Cancer, for this rider it’s about the people, not the pedaling

The Rev. Ronald C. Oliver mentors Bike to Beat Cancer riders and knows they often have a very personal motivation for riding.

For the Rev. Ronald C. Oliver, Bike to Beat Cancer is not about the bike, the route or the pit stops. It is about the people. 

“During the Bike to Beat Cancer, I love to ride alongside someone who I can tell just got on their bike not long ago and ask, “Why are you riding?” Ron said. “You know riding is not what they do. They are there for some important personal reason.”

The riders will share their story about why they got on a bike to ride 35, 65 or even 100 miles. Sometimes it is for their mom, dad or another loved one. Sometimes it is for a friend.  Sometimes it is for themselves.
“It’s those folks who inspire me, and I just go, ‘Wow!’” said Ron, who is system vice president, mission and outreach, Norton Healthcare.

Fifteen years ago, Ron got on a bike for the first time since childhood to ride in the first Bike to Beat Cancer. A friend helped him purchase a bike off of eBay and gave him a pair of his old bike shoes.

Ron laughs as he describes his first time on one of the “long” training rides. He had just started using clips that secure a rider’s shoes to the pedals and describes riding up a “hill,” which now, as an avid rider, he says was just a small incline. 

“People were falling over as we went up, and I remember thinking, “I can’t help you. I don’t know what I’m doing myself!”

Bike to Beat Cancer

Sept. 9, 2023, at Norton Cancer Institute – Brownsboro

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On that training ride, Ron got separated from the leader, lost his paper that had route instructions and didn’t bring his phone. He eventually made it back to Middletown with a great sense of relief.

Hundreds of miles and many years later, Ron is captain of the Holy Rollers team in Bike to Beat Cancer. He also is one of the ride’s mentors, helping newer riders as they begin their own journey. Several years ago, Ron started and helped organize a rider support team for the day of the ride. This is a group of seasoned riders serving as a presence of support and assistance for all riders as they are out on the Bike to Beat Cancer routes.

I tell new riders, “It’s going to be OK. We’ll take care of you and get you home. It will be worth it. Just keep pedaling to the next stop,” Ron said.  

As a veteran of the Bike to Beat Cancer planning committee, Ron has had a hand in many of the signature pieces of the event that help with the rider experience. He built two large stands for banners that each year riders, volunteers and loved ones can write on to remember and honor friends and loved ones who experienced cancer. These banners have become a beloved tradition at the start and finish line for Bike to Beat Cancer and are filled with names by the end of the ride.

He also established and helps to oversee the ride’s Mile of Silence. This is a section of the route in The Parklands of Floyds Fork in which riders have the opportunity to reflect on why they are riding. Bike to Beat Cancer “I ride for …” signs are placed alongside signs signifying loved ones, friends, patients and colleagues the riders are honoring. Some 25 banners from previous years line the bridge, and soft music plays at the beginning of the experience. This is a beloved part of the Bike to Beat Cancer route, with many participants determined to ride at least 35 miles so they can experience it.  

Whether it is helping to organize one of the special parts of Bike to Beat Cancer or riding alongside the last group of riders to make sure they cross the finish line, for Ron, it is about connecting riders to the experience. 

“It is about the mission. Not the mileage,” Ron said.

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