By CASEY CHAFFIN
Keizer resident Brent Bundy, 50, began his sixth cross-country bike ride for breast cancer awareness on June 1. He plans to take the “straightest and legalest” path through the country and arrive in Staten Island, New York in mid-October.
Bundy’s bike rides began in 2006, two years after his best friend since high school, Gina, died of breast cancer. To commemorate her, he rides dressed in pink and with a sign strapped to the back of his bike to encourage women to get screened early. Catching the cancer early is the best way to survive it, so he felt embarking on his one-man campaign to promote regular screenings would be the best way to prevent people as loved as his friend Gina from succumbing to the illness.
“Maybe [seeing my bike] will remind you to get tested,” he said.
In addition to the breast cancer awareness message, Bundy has written several other names and causes on his bike. These include Newtown, Conn., and Parkland, Fla., the cities of two school shootings in 2012 and 2018, respectively, the name of war correspondent James Foley, who was killed in Syria in 2014, and the hashtag “So I Stayed,” referencing the plights of women caught in abusive relationships. He describes these names and causes as “the closest to my heart.” Raising awareness about breast cancer remains his primary goal, and Gina his primary motivation to continue.
“I pretend she’s helping me on the big hills,” Bundy said. He also attached her name to his helmet, and he taps it for encouragement.
Other obstacles arise on the road, however. Bundy described several accidents throughout his biking trips, the worst of which he remembers in Omaha, Neb., last year. He fell and hit his hip, but, he said, pushing harder and continuing the trip helped heal the injury.
Bundy learned about his own endurance during his bike rides. “I learned you can actually push yourself harder than you expect and recover,” he said.
Other incidents aren’t accidents, however. Throughout his trips, Bundy said he’s “run across all kinds of people,” including those driving cars who have hit him and spit on him as they drive past. Bundy said these encounters upset him, but ultimately any kind of response from him could worsen the situation in the moment.
“It’s really hard not to react, but you have to remember you’re on a bike and they’re in a car,” he said.
Bundy describes the bike ride as difficult and strenuous but biking across the country isn’t the most difficult thing he’s ever done. In 1997, a car crash broke his neck and he suffered seven strokes. During his time in the hospital, his mother told him to “make life worth living.” Riding his bike for breast cancer awareness is one way he sees himself fulfilling that advice. He describes his health as back to 90 percent of where it was prior to the crash and says that injury hasn’t impacted his ability to complete the rides.
Making a positive impact on others is a key motivator for Bundy. Throughout his route across the country, he stops to volunteer at Habitat for Humanity ReStores, which provide low-cost home goods and building materials to the communities they serve. He estimates he’s made over 100 volunteering stops over the course of his ride. Despite some of his negative encounters while on the road, he said there are “mostly friendly people throughout the country.”
At 50 years old, Bundy thinks he’s getting too old to keep up the pace of the bike rides and, despite saying every year will be his last ride, he thinks this year’s sixth ride will be his last cross-country trip.