When 32,000 cyclists take over the city for the TD Five Boro Bike Tour, it’ll be hard to make out just one face among the many. But among the helmeted masses are enough stories to fill a library—tales of family tradition, comebacks, impressive feats, and inspiring personal journeys. We’re bringing you some of those stories on this page— including those of riders preparing for the tour, and recollections from past Tours.

Email Samuel Slaton if you have a Tour-related story you’d like to share.

I Finished the Boston Marathon, and I Ride for Boston

I was a Boston (marathon) finisher and my sister who is part of the the “5 borough 7″ team was with me that day. At one point as we were in my hotel room watching the news reports, she turned to me and said,”I don’t know if I want to do the 5 borough ride” but we both knew we had to!

Laura Chessin

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We Ride for the Memories

We are born and bred New Yorkers transplanted to NC. We started riding the tour in the early 80s as I write this I am looking at the framed route map on my office wall from the tour when CitiBank was the sponsor, dated 4-29-1984.

We relocated to Charlotte NC in 1992 and missed the tour, however continued riding here. We came “home” to NYC  3 years ago and rode the tour then and had a great time ! We were amazed at the amount of riders and the incredible organization of this tour. It was a very very hot day and someone went down in our area, within minutes, the tour officials had the bikers stopped, medical help and the ambulance at the scene. The food and water stops and the entertainment were great,  it just reminded us that we although we live in NC  we ARE New Yorkers!

Riding together is one of our favorite things to do, and this year we will be riding with all of you to celebrate our 34th wedding anniversary on Sunday May 5th and to return to our city!

Donna and Bill Heusner
Charlotte NC

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I Ride for Happiness is Camping

I am riding this year to raise money for Happiness is Camping, a camp for kids with cancer and their siblings. The camp is free to children who attend, so they depend on donations to make the kids experience the best it can be! No child will be stared at because of a missing limb or lack of hair. All the campers have survived similar experiences and are eager to assist one another, to ease any visible discomfort with ready friendship and supportive smiles. What better cause to raise money for? To date I’ve received over $1,200 in donations. Can’t wait to ride and can’t wait to hand the donations over to the camp.

Sharmon Simonetti

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I Ride for My Brother and My Husband

Hello, I am Polly Godwin from Tupelo, Mississippi. I am riding the TD 5 Boro 2013 Bike Tour in a double honor of my husband who has lost 150 pounds by riding a bicycle each day and my youngest brother who died March the 11th with Cancer. I have never been to New York and I am excited beyond words having the opportunity to join such an event.

I pray for safety for each rider, no flats and celebration of each volunteer. Many thanks in advance for all the hard work each sponsor and volunteer brings to the tour.

Polly Godwin

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To Fund Parkinson’s Disease Research

I ride because it is so important to fund Parkinson’s Disease research and without research, I would not have the good fortune to have DBS surgery this summer. After having Parkinson’s for 11 1/2 years, this surgery should really improve my quality of life for a number of years. Many thanks to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for all that they do.

Vivian Branschofsky, Vermont Park and Ride for Team Fox

I ride in honor of my father who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2008. Go TEAM FOX!

Karen Faiman

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Celebrating 50 Years of Marriage and a New Hip!

My wife and I are celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary by visiting NYC for the first time and riding the 5 Boro. She had a total hip replacement 1 year ago and we’re celebrating that too ! We are so fortunate and look forward to riding for Boston.

Dave and Sig Novak, Penticton, British Columbia

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I Ride for Myself!

This year I am riding for myself! In the past few years I have made changes to my lifestyle and have been able to lose over 140lbs. I never would’ve dreamed of being able to complete something like this as my former self, but now I know I can do it. This will be my first year riding the the TD 5 Boro Bike Tour, as an employee of TD Bank I have volunteered in the past and it is a fantastic event. I am so excited to participate this year as a challenge to my new self, and to look back at my old self that I have learned so much from.

Melanie Bodnar

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I Ride Because …

I’m a New Yorker

Dr. Jose A. Castiblanco

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Remembering My Father

I ride in memory of my Father who passed away several months ago with metastatic melanoma. For over four years, he bravely fought against this cancer, a disease without a cure or even an effective treatment. Melanoma is one of the most rapidly rising cancers in North America. I am raising money for research to support others who are facing the same battle with this nasty disease.

Kelly (London, Ontario, Canada)

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I Ride in Memory of My Sister

I started riding my bike seriously in 2010. I sustained an injury to my hip at the time and could not run anymore, so I started riding. At first, just around the neighborhood was fine. But then I wanted to ride further and further. I was (and still am) riding about 100 – 125 miles weekly (and working 40 hrs a week). At the same time in 2010, I got the devastating news that my sister and best friend was diagnosed yet again with metastaized breast cancer which spread to the liver, bones and lungs. We thought she beat the breast cancer in 2008, having had the mastectomy and aggressive chemo treatment. Now we (she) were on a very difficult journey of very aggressive chemo treatments and dealing with those side effects in addition to the painful side effects of a failing liver and cancer in her bones. I was thankful during this time to have my long bike rides to do when I was not caring for my sister (many early morning rides). My bike rides were my emotional outlets. I thought of her the whole time; crying sometimes entire bike ride. I first rode in the 5 boro bike tour in 2011. I thought of her the whole time. It was a challenging ride for me, but nothing compared to her challenge of just living her daily life.

My sister passed away on Feb 19, 2013. When I signed up for the ride in January, I was not sure if I would even be able to ride, in case my sister needed me that day. But I was only hoping that; the reality of it was that I knew it would be soon. Chemo treatments were not an option anymore and she was on hospice. I miss her so much. She was so strong and brave and just a beautiful person all around. She is my sunshine, my rock and my compass in life. I will ride this year in her honor. I will think of her the whole time and I hope she is smiling and looking down on me. Her name is Donna Wayne: may she rest in peace forever; she was only 53 yrs old. Too early for her to be taken from me and her family.

Pattie Nolan

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I Ride to End T1 Diabetes

My partner Tim and are taking part in the ride, as part of our New York trip. We live in Sydney, Australia and the chance to see New York in an event like this, on our bikes, was too good to pass up. We are riding for team JDRF – where I have a strong personal interest, having been T1 diabetic for over 20 years. We’ve been covered by our local newspaper – which will assist in our fundraising efforts here and look forward to leaving to arrive in NY on 26 April.

Toni Leemen

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I Ride to Remember My Father

I am riding to honor my father, Alfred Rebmann, who died last May from cancer. His proudest accomplishment was building the Brooklyn tower of the Varrazano-Narrows Bridge. When I was little and we traveled my father would point out what bridges and buildings he had built. Most people may not appreciate the enormity of the statement “I built that”, but he was truly responsible for building the bridges will traveled over. He was the lead fitter at Harris Structural Steel working in shop 6 where they would take every piece of the bridge or building that was being constructed and make the final adjustment to fractions of an inch. Hundreds of 50 – 100 foot pieces of steel that had to be adjusted to exact measurements, so that when they went to their location they could be assembled hundreds of feet in the air with no adjustment necessary. He carried a medal from the Triboro Bridge and Tunnel Authority issued in 1964 to the workers of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in his wallet for almost 50 years, and would show that medal when people asked what he did for a living. I will be carrying the medal with me as I ride and will stop at the tower that my father built to spend a moment of silence to honor his legacy.

Wilhelm Rebmann

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Checking Off a To-Do on the Bucket List

This will be my first ever TD Five Boro Bike Tour but it has been a “bucket list” item for many years. About 15 years ago whilst sitting on an international flight to somewhere, I watched a documentary about this ride and one of my favorite cities in the world and decided that it was just something that I had to do. I kept on thinking about doing it but finally got around to making that decision to register and turning an idea into action. So, this year, I’m flying in from Melbourne, Australia together with another keen rider, and we have another friend joining us from Singapore. It is a long way for a couple of days for all of us but sure it is going to be just a great weekend and hoping that New York is going to turn on its best weather for a fantastic ride. I can still remember the excitement of people in that documentary that were being interviewed and telling how much fun they had, and it appears that each year you manage to keep putting on a tremendous day for everyone involved. Thanks for all the hard work that goes into the organisation of an event like this, and for the chance to do something really special. It will be another one off the “bucket list” but suspect it may not be the last time I will do it.

Andrew Macdonald

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A Transforming Tour

Have you spotted Sheryl Yvette and her pink Hello Kitty cruiser during The TD Bank Five Boro Bike Tour? Here, she shares how the event changed her life:Most grown women probably don’t consider a 50-pound mass of metal and rubber their best friend. But I do.I received my bike as a gift in 2004, but was too out of shape to ride. It took three years and losing about 40 pounds to build up the courage I needed.

My first ride was an ambitious one: from my apartment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, over the Williamsburg Bridge to Manhattan.

With some self doubt, but even more determination, I rode to Williamsburg. I confronted that steep ramp—and just started pedaling. To my amazement I was strong enough to pedal a bike (with no gears!) up that bridge, all the way to Manhattan and then back to Brooklyn. I went home, wrote about the experience and cried, simultaneously amazed and proud of that accomplishment.

But it wasn’t until 2009 that I signed up for my first bike tour: the Five Boro. A friend of mine encouraged me to register. He believed in me, even when I did not.

My training was simple: Just ride a little more every weekend than the previous weekend. By that first Sunday in May, I was nervous, but pretty sure I was ready.

What I hadn’t anticipated was the worst weather in Five Boro’s history. It was cold and rained all day. I was not prepared—mentally or physically.

Despite the unfortunate weather conditions, I rode. I was freezing and drenched. But I told myself I wasn’t giving up; I would complete that bike tour, no matter what. Though it was the toughest thing I’d done in my life thus far, I did it! I arrived at the muddy party in Staten Island, taking the ferry back to Manhattan, and biked home to Brooklyn.

That experience, the Five Boro Bike Tour, changed me. That day I proved to myself I was capable of so much more than I ever realized, that I could set a goal and complete it, that I could overcome challenging conditions, and that I was more fit than ever.

It’s been two years and I’ve done many bike tours since, but the Five Boro will always be the most special. My life has changed for the better in so many ways because of that first bike tour.

Now my bike and I are world famous—thanks to my blog and the thousands of miles I’ve ridden around NYC. And that’s the same bike I ride in every bike tour: my best friend, a pink Hello Kitty cruiser with no gears. I wouldn’t consider riding anything else.

Victory Laps

Terry Jackson loves the TD Bank Five Boro Bike Tour because he’s a passionate cyclist. “I had to be maybe 2 years old when I first got on a bike, and I haven’t stopped since,” he says. May 1 will mark his third Tour, but this year’s ride will be even more special for the 48-year-old New Rochelle, NY resident. Jackson is recovering from cancer, and for him, the Tour will symbolize victory.“This ride will be major step in my recovery,” Jackson says. “[Completing the Tour ] will tell me that I’m doing fine.”

Jackson was diagnosed with colon cancer in October,2010, after going to the emergency room with a pain in his side. Within two months, he’d had two surgeries—including one to remove a portion of his liver after the cancer metastasized. Today, he is cancer-free and in the middle of a 24-week course of chemotherapy. He says his doctors expect a full recovery, and they’ve cleared him to train for and participate in the Five Boro.

“I see it as doing what I always do,” Jackson says of training for the Tour, adding that, before he became ill, he went on a long ride every Saturday.

Jackson has the same attitude when it comes to work. Throughout his illness, he has continued to hold down his job as an IT manager at Boar’s Head.

“It’s just how I am,” he says. “It’s my nature. When I go to work, all the guys say to me that they wouldn’t have my strength—that they would want to be like me. But what am I supposed to do? Stop living? I don’t know what else to do besides just keep being me.”

He adds that his coworkers at Boar’s Head have been a source of strength throughout the ordeal, and to honor that solidarity, a group of four will ride with Jackson in the Tour on May 1, decked out in Boar’s Head jerseys and flags.

“Before this, I always did the Tour on my own,” Jackson says, “but the amount of people just amazed me, and it made me feel a camaraderie that really inspired me.”

This year, Jackson will be the one to inspire. He says he’s also planning to use the opportunity to advocate for early colon cancer screening for African Americans.

A Ride of Passage

In 2011, Cole Tallerman, then 13, rose early on the morning of the TD Bank Five Boro Bike Tour, looked out his window, and saw rain. Lots of it. His mom came into his room, letting him know he didn’t have to ride if he didn’t want to.But Cole wanted to ride. After all, he’d been prepping for the Tour for months, and people were counting on him. As part of a community-service project leading up to his bar mitzvah–the Jewish rite of passage marking a child’s entry into adulthood–Cole had worked tirelessly to raise money for BronxWorks (formerly Citizens Advice Bureau), a Bronx-based social-service organization that is one of the Five Boro’s official charity partners.”I felt like the ride would be even cooler if I was doing something for it,” says Cole, now an eighth grader. “I wanted to ride for a cause.”

Cole rallied his friends and family, who generously donated on a website set up for the effort. Within a month or so, he had raised about $1,350, far exceeding his initial goal of $500. Then, at his bar mitzvah reception, Cole spoke about his experiences in front of a poster-size photo of him in his riding gear.

“I told them about the rain, and how I could have turned around early if I wanted to, but I kept going because I had raised so much money and wanted to finish. A lot of people thought it was really impressive,” he says.

Impressed friends aside, the true takeaway of the experience was Cole’s interaction with the homeless children living in the BronxWorks shelter, with whom he visited after the Tour.

“I went in, did some art activities with them, and told them about the bike ride,” recalls Cole, who will be riding again this year alongside his parents and his younger brother, Jesse, 11. “It was important to me to see firsthand who I was riding for.”

Spoken like a true adult.

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A Family Affair

Back when she was just a toddler, Erika Mayo‘s father would snap her into a bike seat and cycle from their Brooklyn home to her East Village school every morning. She loved feeling the wind in her face and watching her father’s strong pedal strokes as he navigated the city streets. This shared love of biking has carried them through several TD Bank Five Boro Bike Tours.

Their first, in 1990, was a family affair: 8-year-old Erika rode alongside her father and her 10-year-old brother. Her dad’s bike had a basket crammed with a jug of water, a pack filled with snacks, and a heavy radio whose music allowed the young children to easily locate their father amid the dense crowd.

“My-eight-year old legs burned, and my dad still tells me he has never seen my face as red as it was on the climb up the 59th Street Bridge that day,” recalls Erika. “But we stuck together for the Tour, and it was unforgettable.”

In 2009, Erika’s father suffered a knee injury and could not ride. Erika cruised the five boroughs solo. “Between the rain and the solitude, it was more meditative than in years prior. I made a few friends along the way. The harder the ride, the more people seem to come together.”

These days, Erika is prepping for her next Tour by “riding everywhere,” including daily spins from Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, to her Midtown office. And just like her dad did years ago, she’s attached a basket to her three-speed city bike. In it? Some water, some snacks–and tunes, thanks to an iHome boombox. Some things never change.

A Changed Woman

“It’s really not hard; you’ll enjoy it.”Those were the words Janis Gibson‘s friend used to convince her to register for the 2009 TD Bank Five Boro Bike Tour.”To me, the idea was laughable, as I had been pretty sedentary for the prior ten years,” says Janis, a 58-year-old from Danbury, Connecticut. “Yet, when I was a kid, I was on my bike constantly, so I knew it was something I once enjoyed.”

Janis registered, dusted off the Cannondale that had been sitting in her garage for a decade, and rode through all five boroughs with her friends.

The experience sparked a transformation. “I found real pleasure in the mechanics of riding a bike. Once I start riding, I want to keep going. I love it when you get the cadence going and it’s almost like being on autopilot.”

Janis continued to ride, soon participating in the Bloomin’ Metric ride closer to home. There she won a drawing for a six-day bike tour that covered more than 150 miles through Italy’s famed Tuscan countryside. As a copy editor for two local papers, the trip was a splurge she could not have afforded on her own–just one of many wonders she credits to her bicycle.

In keeping with her philosophy of doing good while having fun, Janis is fundraising for City Harvest during this year’s ride. We wish her good luck on all fronts.

A True Friend

Brad Klein only knew Richard Kannady for a short period of time, but Richard’s impact is lasting far longer.Brad and Richard met in 1999 while working for Best Buy in Athens, Georgia, and as bouncers at area bars. When Brad relocated to New Jersey to open up new stores, they lost contact until social media reconnected these two friends for what would be the remainder of Richard’s life. Richard lost his battle with non-Hodgkin lymphoma last SeptemberAn avid cyclist, Brad, 36, bikes frequently at Cheesequake State Park and the Delaware and Raritan Canal parks near his home in Old Bridge, New Jersey. On Sunday, May 2, Brad will be riding as a member of Team LRF for Lymphoma Research Foundation. “When I discovered I could combine my passion for bike riding and raise funds to find a cure for lymphoma at the same time, it was a no-brainer,” commented Brad.

Originally setting his fundraising goal at the required $1,000, Brad and his friends have raised over $2,100 in Richard’s memory with the help of Facebook.

Brad’s hope is that his ride will let more people know why it’s so important to find a cure for lymphoma—the most common form of blood cancer and the third most common childhood cancer. “I actually had surgery on my hand in December and find that riding is a challenge due to some carpal tunnel going on but, it’s not nearly the challenge that people living with Lymphoma go through. So if they can continue to live and love then I should do what I can to support them.”

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