Monday, July 27, 2009

Mechanical Support on the Seattle Century


I have a backpack full of inner tubes, a bag full of tools and spare parts, but I don't have a seatpost clamp. I'm working as roving mechanical support for the 2009 Seattle Century but the fellow with the broken clamp needs what I don't have. We're just outside Bothel and I can give him advice, "Hose clamp," I say, "head into town and find a hardware or an auto parts store. A hose clamp will get you to the end of the ride."

I've been up since before sunrise, leaving with the bulk of the century riders at 7:00 AM. Along with David McClean (working the 50 mile loop) and James Whitesides from uBRDO (another roving 100 mile mechanic) we're riding with an eye toward helping the broken down. So far, the folks with flat tires have been prepared and have their problems well in hand.

At Redmond my cell phone rings twice in five minutes. Melanie, who is roving the course in the Bike Works van, first calls with a report of a fellow with a flat tire, a bolt-on wheel and no wrench. James sprints off to the rescue. Minutes later, I take the call about the fellow with the broken chain on Novelty Hill Road. "I'll be there in ten minutes," I say. My stock of master links comes in handy, a Wipperman link patches the fellow's busted Shimano chain just fine.

At the Cherry Valley stop I see the busted clamp guy is doing fine with a new hose clamp and while I'm scarfing an ham sandwich the guy with the chain rolls in and tells me his repair is working great.

I see big splashes of orange paint marking the course, bigger than the labels Mark and I had laid down earlier in the month. Ruth and the others fill me in on what happened. Some local anti-cycling yahoos had not only taken down some of our "hundreds of bikes on road" warning signs, they'd gotten the creative idea of making their own fake marks, sending some of the early riders up a huge, dead end hill. I guess there is a small percentage of folks whose idea of fun consists solely in trying to wreck the fun of others. Ruth did a quick restoration of the true course and most riders were unaffected.

The Seattle Century is known for good food and I make sure to get some pie at Remlinger Farms stop. Everybody seems to be having a great time. The weather is not as hot as we'd feared but warm enough that a bit of light rain is welcome and not worrisome.

What does worry me are the fire truck, police car and ambulance that pass me, sirens blaring, as I ride down Snoqualmie Valley Road. A couple riders touched wheels and as I ride past the medics have things well in hand. One rider is down, but she's talking to the medics. I call and chat with Melanie and Ruth, who route support out from the nearest control. There is nothing I can do at the scene other than be in the way, so I roll on.

On the climb up to Preston, I come across two women stopped with a flat. When I ask if they have what they need, they reply that they do, but they don't know how to change a flat and are about to call in for support. "Don't bother," I say, "I'm the guy they'd send." I fix their flat, showing them the tiny nail that they'd run over and walking them through the basics of flat repair.

The Preston stop is sponsored by Talking Rain and I hydrate with flavored water that is supposed to give me "Power" and "Energy." I think the peanut butter sandwiches and cookies actually provide more power and energy than the drinks, but on a warm day it's good to stay hydrated and the water is pretty tasty.

I'm not riding the whole course today. Since the route goes right by my home in Issaquah so I'm ending things there, skipping the last bit on Mercer Island and the finish line feast, but partway between Preston and home, my phone rings and I backtrack to Talking Rain to do a quick derailleur adjust for a fellow.

I'm home by early afternoon. It's been a fun, mellow day on the bike and from what I could see, most of the century riders seemed like they enjoyed the ride. After weeks of exclusively riding the Monocog Flight, riding the Shogun with it's skinny tires felt a bit odd. Heck riding with people feels a bit odd compared to the solitude of the trail. But bikes are fun, no matter how fat or thin the tires.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent
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