Today’s blurb is a long one, but it’s a feel good story, so that makes it good. Jason, for those that don’t know, is our head mechanic, an alternatively cantankerous and jovial fellow, as all good head mechanics are. Here is his story.
The shop scene was burning me out as the busy season wound down, and I felt kinda blue. Why not jump in and help some brothers and sisters out for the 9/11 Ride 2 Recovery? As a veteran of several of our nations conflicts, and an army retiree, I was honored to serve as a supporting volunteer mechanic for the Ride 2 Recovery’s (R2R) 10th Anniversary Memorial Ride. I had been feeling the call of duty again…what better way than to help veterans recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on a bike ride? I was in need of a change of scenery. What an opportunity: combining two of the most influential areas of my life; cycling and military service!
The most intimidating aspect of the entire endeavor was the thought of helping over three hundred riders build, fit, and tune their rides in a scant thirty-six hours. I was assured by the R2R staff (very professional and caring!) that I would adapt quickly and fit in in no time.
Still, all the mental preparation helped little as I walked into the hotel ballroom with wall-to-wall riders, trikes, hand-cycles, and bike boxes. Thank God there were four other mechanics to share the endeavor with!
The other mechanics were really nice and thoroughly professional. Ray, the lead mechanic for R2R, and former service manager at Wheel Base in Frederick, kept me pointed in the right direction and provided immeasurable guidance and support. Tyler, a mechanic on loan from Shimano to support R2R for the entire year, also inspired with his humor and help-at-all-costs attitude. Kollin, a former “wrench” for several pro continental teams, impressed with his easy wit and unflappable nerve no matter the circumstances. Finally, there was a mechanic from the Baltimore area (sorry, I can’t remember his name!) with a great sense of humor. We didn’t take long to measure each other up and assume our roles and responsibilities. We worked
well as a team throughout the ride.
I couldn’t attend the ride from start to finish; missing an entire week of work is difficult on a bike mechanic’s budget. But I was able to get them started on the first leg from Liberty Park near Ground Zero to Princeton, New Jersey.
I then rejoined them for the final three legs from Bedford, PA to Cumberland, MD, from Cumberland to Winchester, VA, and then from Winchester on to the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Almost five hundred miles of road tested our participants; an interesting mix of cycling newbies and seasoned riders, veterans and fundraising civilian participants, volunteers and professional staff members.
I had the pleasure of providing ride support following the riders in my car with spare wheels and tools. As riders experienced flats and mechanical failures, I pulled over, and in most cases had them underway again in moments.
With three mechanics in cars and two on wheels, the work was few and far between, but fun none-the-less. Pre- and post-ride maintenance and rest stop repairs were where we earned our stripes. Most riders waited until five minutes prior to the days’ ride to inflate tires, adjust derailleurs and brakes, amongst other repairs. Traffic control and safety also kept us busy…you haven’t lived until you’ve tried to control traffic in New York and Washington. People are nuts!
The most inspirational aspect of the experience was witnessing the camaraderie, team work, and mental and physical toughness of the riders and staff. Many times I witnessed words of encouragement, kind gestures, and helping hands. For example, the veterans riding recumbents and hand-cycles had particular difficulty on the hills of western Pennsylvania and Maryland. But other riders would push them up the hills using handles we attached to the frames, often pushing to the point of exhaustion. Then other “pushers” would step in and the cycle would repeat itself until the ride concluded at the end of the day.
The personal highlight of the experience occurred at the start of the Cumberland to Winchester leg of the ride. Due to limited accommodations, our large caravan of riders and support staff were split into two hotels several miles and a large mountain apart from each other, creating logistical issues and confusion. Bill, a veteran rider, had his hand cycle delivered to the wrong hotel, and he needed a new derailleur installed so he could finish the ride. I didn’t get the hand cycle or the derailleur until five minutes before the ride’s start time.
Bill nervously checked his watch repeatedly as I worked, saying several times, “man, I really want to ride.” Somehow I managed to cut the chain, remove and install the derailleur and cable, adjust the shifting, and reinstall the chain in about three minutes. As I rolled him to the start line, he smiled and thanked me profusely. The ride coordinator then said, “Great job…you’re a miracle worker! You mechanics are awesome and provide an invaluable service.” I was pumped the remainder of the day.
Shimano has invested heavily in the Ride to Recovery. In addition to the full-time paid mechanic on loan at their expense, they also provide a support truck stocked full of parts and accessories to keep the riders’ bikes up and running…all at no charge to the riders or R2R!!! Chains, tires and tubes, derailleurs, shifters, etc., are all replaced on the spot, no questions asked. Folks, that level of service is not cheap, and shows Shimano’s commitment to our veterans. First class, all the way!
Ride 2 Recovery is an organization dedicated to helping “wounded warriors” recover from the scars of battle. They are worthy of your support, however you feel of our involvement in the Middle East. I highly recommend you visit their website at www.ride2recovery.com and get involved, whether through donations or active participation. They ride all over the U.S. and Europe. Check ’em out! I guarantee you’ll get more out of it than you give!
This week’s ride schedule:
Just a Thursday ride, at the bright and early hour of 7 am. Meet us a the 7th street Starbucks, pound an espresso, and lets hit the road for 40ish miles of rolling roads! We’ll see ya out there.
Next week we will return to our regular ride schedule. Thanks for following our updates!
Check our blog, and our facebook for more stuff.
-The Bike Doctor Crew