Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a painful disease that many suffer with silently — but perhaps not for much longer, thanks to the powerful ad campaign "This Bike Has MS" from Grey Australia that's getting people's attention. The campaign was created to help raise awareness for the MS Melbourne Cycle taking place in March of next year and involves an actual bike, specially created to address all of the challenges someone with MS faces.
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, MS "involves an immune-mediated process in which an abnormal response of the body’s immune system is directed against the central nervous system." It's a complicated disease that results in a lot of different symptoms and side effects; however, these symptoms may not be obvious to casual observers. As Angela Natividad of AdWeek explains it, living with MS is like having small bodily annoyances all of the time and magnified in intensity. "Take all the tiny icks that result when you've sat too long on your foot, had an off-season allergy attack, walked too long up a hill, or haven't eaten in awhile. Combine them, magnify them by 10, and try living that way," she writes. That's what having MS is like.
The symptoms of MS vary from person to person, which can make diagnoses and treatment extremely difficult. On top of that, symptoms can wax and wane over the course of a patient's life, incluging primary, secondary, and tertiary symptoms. MS is also a somewhat invisible disease, which means that it's not easily recognizable to most of us; as such, those suffering from it often feel alone and misunderstood.
That's where the MS bike comes in. Both the bike and its corresponding campaign were created to gain support for the MS Melbourne Cycle in 2016, which will be the event's 10th anniversary. The bike, which was designed by a team of expertes headed by Paralympian Gold Medalist Carol Cooke, will actually be ridden in the race, taking awareness raising to the next level.
The symptoms mimicked by the bike make it extremely difficult and uncomfortable to ride, although it doesn't look that hard to an outsider — making it the perfect metaphor for what those with MS go through every day. Some of the mechanics of the bike include a heavy front wheel, which make it harder for the rider to move forward; a saddle-back seat made for BMX racing, limiting comfort; gears with broken teeth that hinder a rider's control of the bike; a frame with an off center of balance; and handlebars with small ball bearings attached beneath their tape that vibrate while you ride.