ST. CHARLES, Ill. — The bikes and signature blue jerseys are the same, but for the first time in decades one tight-knit team will join the Bike MS ride without the man they call "Go Johnny Go" leading them on.
The eldest and ring leader of four brothers, Johnny Koys was diagnosed with MS when he was about 20 years old. Still, his brother Bob Koys said he remained, "one of the most optimistic and positive people that I knew."
"He was just an inspiration for everybody he met," Bob Koys said.
There were no drugs then to slow the progression of MS, so when the brothers heard about a bike ride to raise money for research, they saddled up. They returned every year for over three decades, even after multiple sclerosis robbed Johnny of his ability to walk.
"We tried to not let that wheelchair stop us," his other brother Fr. Tom Koys said.
They'd travel on two — and three — wheels for up to 150 miles together.
"I'd think, 'how does John do this?' But somehow he did, and his inspiration would help us get though our difficult times," Tom Koys said.
As word about Johnny got around, their team grew. Team member Tim Feldballe said he joined after he was diagnosed with MS himself in December of 2010.
"I said immediately, 'I'm in... I'll do whatever I can,'" Feldballe said.
Over the years, money raised by teams riding across the country added up to enough dollars that there are now 15 treatment drugs, but still no cure. Hundreds of cyclists will continue the tradition with Bike MS rides this weekend, traveling mile after mile in the name of raising money for research .
Johnny Koy lost his battle to MS last November. Now his brothers are pedaling in his honor.
"It's a bittersweet story that he provided this motivation for us to raise money," Bob Koys said.
For the first time in more than 30 years, they will ride not with their brother, but for their brother and the thousands like him.
"We work to help all those who have such difficult times, and that's why I think this is a great race," Tom Koys said.
You can help support team Go Johnny Go on the Bike MS website.