Sunday, August 6, 2017

bike volunteer

The past two weekends, I've been volunteering my services: as a mechanic for the ZTrek ride, and managing the Robbinsville rest stop for the Princeton Freewheelers (PFW) 2017 bike event.

I'd seen the promo signs for the Ztrek ride ever since the Tour de Franklin (for which I was also volunteer mechanic), and, looking up the site, I found they had a neat idea for a mechanic: I could ride the routes in my car, stopping for cyclists in distress, and popping in at the rest stops or responding to calls in the cell. I could keep tools in the car, and use a trunk bike rack on the back of the car for a bikestand, so I signed up.

But I heard they didn't have ANY mechanic for sure; they'd contacted Bike 'N Gear (called "Deli Bicycles" by one of my associates, from their sign on Amwell Road; Bike 'N Gear shares a parking lot with a delicatessen), but Bike 'N Gear never gt back to 'em, so I was to be the mechanic. We figured I'd set up at the start at the Zarephath Church, from which the ride was to start, and then head to Veterans Park in Montgomery, which was to be their busiest rest stop.

It was a rainy morning, but, of course, the diehards were out.

And when I got there, the mechanic from Bike 'N Gear was setting up.

Well, he had the tent and the reputation; all I had was two pumps, a bike stand, and my tools and parts on a luggage hand truck. So after a while of being mostly ignored, I went to the park in Montgomery.

I didn't expect to be as busy as I was. There were a lot of underinflated tires, a few tubes to change, some shifters that needed adjustment, a brake that wouldn't brake, a brake that wouldn't release. One rider broke a cable, which I didn't have (won't make THAT mistake again), and a rider needed an O-ring for a tube valve extension for a carbon wheel that was deeper than your palm is wide (sorry; some parts are just TOO specialized for me to have in my kit).

I did about seven hours there. The next day, I went on this ride with Tom and Jack. I rode from home, wound up with over 70 miles, and the exhaustion after the day before didn't pass for the next two days.

Yesterday, I managed the Robbinsville rest stop for the PFW event. The club provides a lot of what we need, but experience has shown that the supplies need to be supplemented: they don't supply ice, for example, or chairs for the volunteers. We got hoses to fill the water coolers, but there's not a faucet to which to attach the hose in Robbinsville, so we needed to rig a fix. And there are a number of other things specific to the location to be addressed.

The day before, I took a couple hours off from work so I could get to Robbinsville to get the key to the stop (I've got to return it tomorrow). From there, I went to Andy C's house to get the car filled with supplies; on the way, I stopped for a few other things. When I got to Andy's, I saw that one of my team, Carol J, was there getting HER car filled up; then the rest of the stuff went in my Prius, including two cases of bananas, four bags of bagels, and thirty watermelons.

I had heard that Knapp's would not be there to provide bike maintenance services, so I had already had tools, my bike stand, two pumps, and supplies in the car, as well as a tray table, two chairs, and a 2'x3' cutting board. The car was running pretty low by the time I got home. (TEW had gone to Bergen and would drive direct to the stop to help.)

Don Sprague had run this stop for years, and I inherited it from him; I had a sign made up in his memory. I got to Robbinsville about 7 and started setting up, and soon Carol J was there with her supplies, and SAG driver Russ H brought the tables.

My team was TEW, Carol J, Rajesh, and Mindy and Jeff. I had Rajesh manage the liquids, and the others doing pretty much everything else, while I figured out routes, talked to riders, provided emotional support, and fixed bikes.

The Robbinsville stop was on every ride except the 70-mile-hilly (which was routed into the Sourlands) and on the 25- and 100-mile routes, riders stopped twice ( which was confusing to a few, and which resulted in jokes about time warps and the Groundhog Day movie). We expected a huge number of riders, but I don't think we got as many as expected; I think people were put off by the early rains. Still, there were people who came out. The fellow iin the picture below was our first, complaining about how his partners had dropped out.

All types of riders come out for the event. Some are ready, and ride all the time; some ride seldom; some have taken on more than they can handle. I think part of my job at the stop is being a cheerleader, psychologist, and confessor. There were families with kids, and groups of friends, and solo riders.

Above, some of the team take some exercise.

I loved this Outrider jersey:

The 100-mile riders stopped at Robbinsville twice: once at 70 miles, and again at 90. What I've learned from working this stop is this: as the hours get later, the riders coming in for their last stops NEED the stop. We cheated the closing time a little late so we could provide service to the riders coming in late, and SAG driver Russ stayed behind for a bit after I left for a last couple of stragglers (thanks, Russ; it was after 4pm by then; I'd been at the stop for 9 hours and I was wiped out).

This morning, TEW and I did this ride, and even with the short distance and slow pace, I'm done. I nodded out while I was writing this post. Tomorrow, back to Robbinsville after work to return the key.

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