Susie Q Ride brings together women, and bikes, and cancer support

Sue McCann loved the number 3. It was always her favourite number, always the one she chose when asked to “choose a number between 1 and 10” — that sort of game.

She moved to Utopia in 1982 and immediately put her sales skills to work in a “man’s” world, selling bolts, and nuts, and parts of machines for Lawson Products. Enthusiastic, committed, happy, and smart, Sue was the energy behind the drive to save the Utopia Grist Mill, plying her creativity to raise funds and write proposals and find help to keep alive an important part of the village of Utopia’s history. The fund sits at $400,000, a testimony to Sue¹s enthusiasm.

When she battled breast cancer first in 1990 and a decade later in 2000, she kept her optimism. The number 3 stayed with Sue throughout her life. She died 3 days before her 53rd birthday, in 2003 on January 19. She was buried on her 53rd birthday, and on her daughter¹s 33rd birthday.

Her daughter talks about the tremendous feelings of helplessness as her Mom was struggling for nearly three years, first with chemo, then with diet, then with hope. “I felt helpless. I couldn’t do anything to make her feel better, to make it go away. I had all this energy and no where to put it,” says her daughter, Teresa Vincent. But she’d learned pro-activity from her Mom.

Teresa took her considerable energy, her love of motorcycles, and her desire to do something useful and founded the Susie Q. Ride For Cancer in 2002. She put out the word to women bike enthusiasts, women who just love to ride. She designed pledge forms, found donors for a hall, musicians for a dance, hot dog vendors for food, merchants to give prizes.

The first Susie Q. ride had 19 riders and Susie Q. herself (aka Sue McCann) dropped the flag on the race. The ride raised $8000 for cancer care at Royal Victoria Hospital. Teresa was so grateful for the care her mom received that she wanted the money spent right there, in practical ways.

In last year¹s ride, it was Susie Q’s spirit that dropped the flag, as Teresa had buried her mom six months earlier. And $12,000 was raised for cancer care at RVH.

Today, in 2004, the Susie Q. ride has its own website ( and it’s through the internet that women riders are discovering the site, the event, and downloading pledge forms and signing up. The 125 km ride differs each year, and in 2004 it’ll take in Mono Mills, Hockley Valley, parts of Airport Rd and County Rd 27 (which used to be a highway!) The ride leaves next Saturday, August 21 at 1:30 pm from the Essa Recreation Centre in Angus. Registration starts at noon. Teresa is respectful of women who are just learning to ride and the beginners category gets special treatment so riders aren’t overwhelmed. She says a girls’-only ride makes it comfortable for new bikers. Though she’s had some criticism for being “discriminatory” she says it’s a deliberate decision..

“Why just women? Women mostly get breast cancer. I don’t want to focus on breast cancer, but I do want to focus on women. We¹ve been very successful with this because it’s unique.”

People who never ride send Teresa pledges. “I have an envelope on my desk right now from Mrs. Wells in Angus. She sends us a cheque every year. She’s never been to an event.”

The Susie Q. Ride is heart felt, the before and after events, the vendors circle, the awards and prizes include the fellows, but the riders are gals.

And while Teresa is the energy behind the Susie Q. Ride, it wouldn’t occur without tremendous generosity on the part of a lot of area people. Essa Township donates the space; Star 107 and Rock 95 send riders and bring their fun team. Select Leathers donates bike prizes as does Teresa’s business, Utopia Custom Airbrushing. Teresa donates a full motorcycle paint job. Dee Jay Dave Stevens, gives the music for the dance, and gives the creativity for the Susie Q. website. Rogers Cable gives lots of publicity as does VR. Vendors include Mad Surplus (a brand new store on Saunders Rd) and tattoo artists, permanent or temporary. The Base Borden Motorcycle Club and Doug Burden from the Angus Lions Club help with organization.

This year’s proceeds (the goal is $15,000) will go to the new regional Cancer Care Centre.

“Those of us volunteering for the ride are 100 % volunteers. We don’t participate in prizes, we fund all our own stuff,” says Teresa. So if you’re a woman with a bike and you¹re called by the open road, you¹ll be called by Susie Q, too. Just dial 725-0598 and say “I want to ride.” Teresa will do the rest.

How many riders personally knew Sue McCann? “Only four or five,” says Teresa. A lot of people don’t know that Susie Q. was a real person. Once they get there and see the photo albums, they realize that Susie Q. was a real person.

She sure was. Thanks, Sue. And thanks, Teresa!