Monday, March 2, 2009

We start down a long, dark road

As promised, today I would like to introduce all of you to the wonderful world of bike ride production. Hopefully, by the end of our little magical journey, you'll have a better appreciation as to what goes on in the weeks, and yes, even the months leading up to that morning when you show up at your local Saturday morning bike rally, pay your $25 to $40 dollars, collect your goody bag, and go for a ride.

As I have mentioned before, I work with Bikin' Mike Keel, (in Texas, we don't pronounce or spell trailing g's on words), here in the greater Dallas/Ft Worth metroplex, where he produces several bike rally's in the area. My official title, (actually, as an unpaid volunteer, I'm not sure how official it is), is Route Coordinator. Once again, I capitalize Route and Coordinator to add importance. Impressive, isn't it?

So what exactly does a Route Coordinator do? Excellent question. My duties as Route Coordinator include, but are not limited to:

* Getting the course ready for the ride. This means that I am the guy, who goes out in the days before the ride, and paints the arrows on the pavement that direct the riders around the course. If there's anything I've learned from the years I've been painting arrows on our rural Texas roads, is that if there's a way for a rider to get lost, they'll get lost.

* I'm also the guy who places the the route signs, or "signage" as we call it in the business, out on the route. This means that I have to be familiar with every twist and turn on the route, and make sure that we have a sign to go at every corner. The timing of the actual placing of the route signs out on the course gets a little tricky. It seems that if you place the signs out on the course too early, they tend to get bored and wander off. Some teenager here in the McKinney area, has a very nice collection of Collin Classic signs in his bedroom. So typically, we don't place the route signs out on the course until the day before the ride.

* One of the more stressful duties that I have is the coordination of the route volunteers that go out on the course and stand at the corners, making sure that you don't get lost. Why would this be stressful, you ask? Another excellent question. Quite simply, there are never enough volunteers to meet the needs of the Route Coordinator. There are never enough volunteers to cover all of the corners that I would like to have a volunteer at. Never. Never ever. There just isn't, ever. Also adding to the stress, is the one universal truth when it comes to bike rally volunteers; "If someone is not required to be somewhere, they tend not to be there." We always have a certain percentage of people, who no matter how many times they say there going to be there, don't show up. Not that I'm unsympathetic. Things come up sometimes. A child gets sick. Work calls and you have to go into the office. There's a really kick @ss rerun of Speed Racer on. All of these are what I would consider to be valid reason's for not making it to the ride.

So with these duties in mind, let me get you up to speed on my preparations for Tour Dallas. With the ride being on April 4th this year, we're about a month out from ride day. I received the route signs from Bikin Mike this past Saturday, so I now have 4, very large boxes of signs, occupying valuable space in my garage.

Just yesterday, we finalized the route for this year. But, aha, you might ask, "Fred, given that this is the 5th or 6th year of the Tour Dallas, wouldn't this year's route be the same as last year's route?" Once again, another great question. Well this year, we are moving the start of the ride from the American Airlines Center, (AAC), to Dallas City Hall Plaza. Wanting to leave our business relationship with the AAC on good terms, I won't go into too much detail on why we're moving the start, but suffice it to say, the good folks operating the AAC don't seem to be a terribly motivated group of people.

(The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not reflect the views or opinions of Bikin' Mike Keel, or anyone else involved with the production of Tour Dallas).

This, along with the fact that there is always road construction in Dallas, require subtle changes to the route each year. I have to document all of these subtle course changes, make sure that I have signs to accommodate the change, and when necessary, make sure I have a route sign to go on any new corners.

In my next post, we will discuss the much under appreciated skill of route map making. You'll learn how to spend hour after hour working on a map, that 90% of the people you give it to will never look at.

Peace out.....Nearly Famous Fred


Joe Bicycle said...


"Getting the course ready for the ride."
Do you get any help with this?

"The volunteer situation."
You will never get enough volunteers for events such as this. I only know this because I worked Sci- Fi and comic conventions for some years and got tired of the hassle of getting enough people to fill all the positions I needed to fill or having people come in, say they will be there for the duration of the show and then leave after a short period of time without saying anything....

Actually I am looking forward to reading more of this because I am going to be embarking on my first "tour" rides this year and am interested in getting to know some of the particulars of this scene. I have found some issues on some of the tours I am planning to attend and am interested in seeing how they are planned out in advance so I know what to try to expect.

Thanks for the insight............

Joe Bicycle

Nearly Famous Fred said...


I will be mentioning a lot of this in my upcoming post, but since you asked, (another good question), yes, I do generally have a small, but dedicated, group of volunteers who go out and help me paint the arrows and place the signs.