A link to the story, Cyclists with Parkinson’s participate in new Iron Horse event, was sent to me by a fellow Nanaimo parky. When I saw the title, my first thought was of a bunch of cyclists riding in some new, bicycle-only ultra-marathon thingy that was the rough equivalent of the ironman triathlon. Ironman… Ironhorse… ‘Horse’ could be a reference to a bicycle, right? The story is set in the American mid-west after all.

Well, the truth turns out to be not so dramatic but still makes for an interesting story. First, let’s clarify that an Iron Horse is just another name for a steam locomotive. Second, there is an iron horse that runs between the two Colorado towns of Durango and Silverton. The iron horse event, officially called the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, is an annual cycling event, now in its 46th year, where participants ride the 50 miles between the two towns riders trying to beat the train.

So what’s this got to do with parkies? Well, the article title actually refers to a “New Iron Horse” event for parkies called the Quarter Horse which runs 25 miles from Durango to Purgatory Resort. The ride involves a climb of 2,300 feet (just over 700 meters). Still not for the faint of heart.

In an attempt to “demonstrate what it means to live well with Parkinson’s disease“, the parky riders, many of which have balance and strength issues which would preclude them from participating, are using electrically assisted bicycles, or e-bikes, to make the trip. The riders still have to pedal because these bicycles just provide an extra push that is proportional to the effort of the person pedaling.

Now using an e-bike may seem like a cheat but after a little reflection I realized that it’s the effort and the social engagement that are important to us parkies. Put another way, parkies are in it to finish not to win, place or show.

Reading this story reminded me that when I signed up for the Shakin’ the Rock event I was uncertain about my ability to complete the race. At the time I declared that I would switch on an e-Bike if I didn’t think that my training was sufficient for me to finish under my own power. Happily, I don’t think an e-bike will be necessary. I will have more to say on parky mobility and e-bikes in a subsequent post.


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