Jacob Koomen doesn’t see a 50-plus kilometre bike ride as much of a challenge.
In fact, the 73-year-old regularly rides up to and over the 100 kilometre mark, and those are just his training rides. Koomen doesn’t just do this for fun though. To him, long days on the bike are a way he can make a difference in the world by raising money for cancer research.
Koomen is currently training for a two-day 500 kilometre ride from Victoria to Port Hardy, which he will do over the father’s day weekend in June. While in previous years, he has taken part in more group-oriented long rides to raise funds, he has had to go it alone for the past two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Last year I decided to ride from Port Hardy to Victoria, 500 km, and this year I’m going to do the same thing, but start in Victoria and go up to Port Hardy,” he said.
Those long miles in the saddle translate to long days out there on the road alone. Last year the day he rode from Port Hardy to Campbell River he spent a total of 9 hours and 57 minutes in the saddle.
“I don’t mind riding by myself,” he said. “People always ask me what I listen to, I say birds, sounds. I’m on the highway, I have to make sure I’m aware of the surroundings.
“There’s lots of people who cycle and say there’s no way I could do that by myself,” he added. “You focus on it and as long as people in the cars are able to see you. I had no mishaps and everything was fine.”
Through the winter, Koomen keeps up his miles on Zwift, a virtual training and racing platform where people ride on indoor trainers against other riders from all over the world. He has started to move his training outside again, with some planned rides to Buckley Bay and Qualicum Bay to get a feel for his bike and legs again.
“I do training rides to places like Buckley Bay and Qualicum Bay,” he said. “Before I do the ride, I have to get a couple of rides to Parksville and back, Coombs and back, that sort of thing.”
Koomen has been riding for his whole life, but started riding to raise money for cancer research in 2009 after losing two family members to the disease. Stories of his grand expeditions have graced the pages of the Mirror for years since that first ride, but no matter how much he raises, he says there is always more that is needed.
“There are so many different cancers. What the ride to survive does is, although it is to benefit the Canadian Cancer Society, is at the end of the year they put out a survey asking people who have been involved in it what kind of cancer they want the donations to go to. Some people may have family members who have gone through that type of cancer. Once that is made, they usually find an organization or a business who will match the amount of money.”
Since 2009, Koomen said he has raised over $90,000 for cancer research. To add to his total, visit his page on ride2survive.ca or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.