They’ve been with us since the beginning, (that’s 32 years and counting, folks!) and we are definitely missing our friends from Bike Gallery this year.
We spoke with Sterling Hill, Bike Gallery’s Director of Sales and a veteran himself of ten years supporting Cycle Oregon riders at events, about what the days are like under the Bike Gallery tent traveling with Cycle Oregon.
What is it like to volunteer at Classic? – “To be someone on the Bike Gallery squad for Cycle Oregon, I think you have to be someone who would enjoy riding through a small tornado. It is nine days of fixing bikes during early mornings (usually cold), late nights (usually with headlamps), grabbing whatever food you can as you race to the next stop, a ton of problem solving, your fingers get a year’s worth of calluses in a couple days, and the grease gets so deep it doesn’t come out for months. I love it! We all do! The hardest week of work all year but my favorite and we wouldn’t change a thing about it.”
Why do you do it? – “The pay off for the crazy hours and hard work – getting to save someone’s Cycle Oregon week by having a spare tube, knowing how to make that noise go away, or adjusting the shifting to work precisely so they can get into the small ring and get up that last hill. We not only get to see it happen right then and there but we have our beautiful state as the background.”
“What hooked me was not only the experience you gain by having to problem solve a year’s worth of mechanical issues in a week but the interactions with the riders. I look forward to seeing the same riders every year and remembering the crazy repair on their bike, which is still holding steady and rolling smoothly. I look forward to welcoming the new riders and working hard to make sure they are so impressed they come back every year. It is a family we are all very proud to be a part of.”
What specific repair challenges do you face? – “There is always an out-of-the-ordinary demand for a part or repair item that we can never seem to predict. One year it was Shimano SPD-SL cleats, the next CO2 cartridges, the year after that CR2032 batteries. Bikes keep changing every year too, so it is always a puzzle as to what parts to bring and how many tools can I fit in my van. We try really hard to be ready for anything and we usually are.”
(ed. – Be sure to get cleats replaced a little bit ahead of an event so there’s proper time to ensure they are in adjustment. If you use a less-popular style or brand, bring an extra set with you just in case. That van is only so big…)
Why is Cycle Oregon important to Bike Gallery? – “Bike Gallery continues to be a part of Cycle Oregon because we are improving peoples lives and the community through biking. It is an honor to be a part of Classic because it is more than just a week of riding, it is a way to enjoy bikes and give back to the communities that support us.”
“The lunch spot is special to me because it was Jay Graves’s station and I want to continue the magic he created.”
Speaking of lunch, you have a specific Cycle Oregon Classic tradition when it comes to food. Tell us about that. – “The food is good at the event but one of my little secrets is trying to find enough time between stops to eat biscuits and gravy in every little town I go through. Oregon serves some really good biscuits and gravy! That usually fuels me through the lunch stop repairs.”
See you next year? – “Oh, yeah, really missing it right now.”
Many thanks to every event mechanic who has ever worked roadside magic or conjured up the impossible to find part and gotten someone back on their bike. We appreciate you.