An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Seattle-to-Portland Classic, from the repair stand

I had explored the idea months before. A way to help the riding community while putting the Mjolnir Cycles name in front of probably THE largest gatherings of riders each year.

Volunteering to provide mechanical support for the riders of the Cascade Bike Club Seattle-to-Portland Classic at the first major rest stop. Which happened to be about 3 miles from my new dwelling place. Convenient for me.
I contacted the organizers, and eventually my inquiry landed on the right desk -- I was immediately accepted. Apparently there is more need than volunteers.

There was a span of no communication, and suddenly it was two weeks before the day. I hadn’t been given any direction on just what should be provided (I was told that we weren’t expected to give away any repair parts, and that riders were instructed to carry cash to pay for any needed items – we were volunteering our time and knowledge), so I made my best guess and put in a large order for tubes, patch kits, cables, and other items I thought would be needed. 

With that plus tent, banners, work stand, tools, and bike rack loaded into the truck on Friday evening, I set my alarm for 4am and went to sleep.
The st-up, next to the entrance road.

The opening time for the rest stop was 6am, so I arrived about 5:30 to set up shop. A local middle school (where my daughter will eventually attend, given that we stay in our current house for another 7 years) provided the area where riders would enter, pass the repair area, and on to the port-o-potties, medical support, and food. I made full use of the proximity to the only entrance, and set up just at the curb. Ready to greet the ten thousand of my new best friends.

Duran Delgado -- a godsend
of previous experience
and gregarious nature.
I had a working partner in Duran Delgado from FSA/Vision Tech, who had volunteered the previous year. He had some valuable first-hand knowledge of the volume of work coming, and the types of repairs we would be performing. And a lot of stories to tell of his growing up in the Dominican Republic.

I’d also brought my own road bike, sporting the Kinekt seatpost, which generated some interest and conversation through the day. Courses like this one are tailor-made for the Kinekt, with many miles of rough chip-seal.

At 6:01, the first riders rolled into the rest stop. Just a few, well spaced. With this stop situated some 50+ miles from the start, I had to wonder just how early these riders set off. I didn’t see lights on all their bikes, and I know it was well before sunrise. Regardless, these riders didn’t need any mechanical help, and we just watched them roll by. But it wasn’t long before our first customers arrived for bike first aid.
The surge begins.

And from that point it ramped up to… the only term I can come up with is “frenzy”… of going from one bike to the next, making adjustments to shifting, airing up tires, changing tubes, lubing chains. There were a few broken spokes, and while I didn’t have any replacements (and the rider was loathe to spend the time waiting for a full repair anyway, with removal of cassette, brake rotor, tire, tube, rim strip… just to get AT the spoke), I could make it better than it was. 

Gregg’s Greenlake Cycles was ready to help with repairs at near 10. I had been told that they hadn’t brought any spare parts, but it turns out they did – they just ran out of a few things (specifically tires, which I had run out of as well by that point). 

I sold a lot of tubes, CO2 cartridges (which I wasn’t sure I would even want), all the tires I had brought (as an afterthought, and I could have sold a couple more), a few brakes pads, a chain. I didn’t move any of the spare cables or housing, or patch kits. Which is fine – I can still use them.

The front table set-up. Tips welcome.
I also had a tip jar, “Mead Money”, placed on the front table. I took payments for parts in cash to that container, and also had Paypal set up through my business email address. It was amazing how generous many of the riders were. Tips poured in. In one case I spent as little as 30 seconds making a derailleur adjustment, and the rider tipped me $20! While I’m sure there were more a couple tubes or such that got out without payment (especially when given the option to pay via Paypal after the fact), overall I didn’t lose money, for sure.

No saving this one.
The most extensive repair inquiry came from a young gentleman aboard a Novara (REI house brand) road bike, whose downtube had completely failed. Truly, there was nothing that could be done for that one, and the best I could offer him was a call to REI for a warranty replacement. I saw him a couple hours later walking out to catch his rescue ride, his STP done at 50 miles.

This Firefly is a rare bird in the
PacNW, and a relief lifting into
the repair stand.
At around 12:30, things tapered off a bit, a good three-and-a-half hours of steady work where I didn’t sit, didn’t eat or drink, just jumping from one bike to the next, performing triage and first-aid to bikes. And in all of that, there was only the one bike we couldn’t get back on the road in short turn-around.

As I was breaking down my tent, one lady pulled into the rest stop with a rather shell-shocked look.

“Oh no, did I miss the lunch?”

I directed her to the area behind the school where they had a veritable banquet set up still. The relief on her face was apparent. 

I was packed up and on the road back home by 2:00. I felt good about the morning, and was already thinking about how I could better support the ride next year.

And I’ve already put in my offer to volunteer at the 2019 edition.

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