08 July 2010

Rest for the Cycle Weary

MS-150 Aid Station
O Paradise! O Paradise! Who doth not crave for rest? - Frederick William Faber

During organized rides I have participated in during the last two months, I've seen a healthy number of independent rest stops. I applaud these entrepreneurs, most of whom were very young, for their "lemonade stand" ingenuity.

Some of the indie rest stops I've seen didn't do as well as they could have. So I thought I might share some tips. I'd like to see this kind of industry thrive.

1. First and most important, set your stand up on the same side of the road as the cyclists. I tried to suggest this to one of the family stand I passed this summer, and the parents argued with me. "This is where we live, and that's why we set up here."

Okay, fine. That's convenient for you. But you're trying to make money providing a service to others. Is where you are located convenient to the people you are trying to serve? If you don't want to cross "that busy highway," why are you expecting cyclists to cross it twice, and for a price?

In organized rides, most intersections and highway crossings are marshaled by volunteers and law enforcement officials who have extensive training and are putting their lives in the hands of motorists who can be unpredictable. Ma, pa, bro and sis stands have less experience with traffic management and should not put themselves or others in harm's way just to make a quarter. Or a dollar. Period.

MS-150 lunch stop2. Second and just as important as #1, make sure there is enough room for 15 to 20 cyclists to safely lay down or lean their bikes. This benefits you as the "shop owner" because you have room for lots of customers, and where two or three cyclists stop, others behind are likely to follow, just because that's what they do. Make sure you have enough room for your customers.

3. Never expect cyclists to stop in the middle of a downhill. You might get one or two, like me, who need to give their hands a rest from squeezing the brakes. The majority of cyclists, however, are going to be in an aerodynamic tuck and trying to see how high they can get that speedometer.

4. If you're going to set up shop on an uphill, which likely will be the most appreciated stop, except for anything in a long, brutal headwind, don't set up in the middle of the steepest section. Do it at the top or the bottom. I'm just a cyclist wannabe, but I can assure you that ALL cyclists, even the superheroes, dread having to start the bike on a steep hill.

5. Nature Valley granola bars are cheap, and you can buy them in bulk, and some people even like them. But they are not the best carb option for a cyclist who just pedaled 65 miles. There's a reason Clif Bars and Larabars are expensive. They have what we need. Almond butter squeeze packets and tuna in foil packets work magic on a tired athlete. Almonds, M&Ms, raisins and pretzels are winners, too. But many cyclists are not apt to purchase something that has been handled by someone inexperienced in food handling. Think about what you expect from food handlers when you go to a restaurant or carnival. In most cases, you want something sealed that hasn't been touched by ungloved hands.

Another thing to consider is that most cyclists have everything they need. What can you provide that will make getting of the bike worth it? Here again, we get into food handling issues, but some of the best unofficial aid stations I've been to had homemade food. YUM! Brownies. Chocolate chip cookies. Hotcakes. Meatless scrambled egg burritos. And wear gloves. Show that you care about the food and the cyclist's health.

MS-150 Rest Stop6. Most cyclists have trained for months to do what they are doing, and most have learned (some the hard way) what their body needs and when it needs it. Most are prepared for the road that lies ahead. Some are going to stop at your stand just to take a break from the saddle. Some are going to stop because you are kind enough to be there. Some are going to keep going because they already have everything they need, and they don't want to carry more weight. And some just don't like stopping. Don't take it personally. Think Tour de France, when cyclists don't stop to relieve themselves. Some cyclists just don't like stopping.

7. Never try to set up a stand on a race course without coordinating with race authorities. Racers are a whole different breed than training and touring cyclists. Once again, think Tour de France. Racers are accustomed to traveling light and snatching the specially packaged food while still moving, and packaging is designed for food to be eaten while the rider pedals. Fast. Speed is job one, and distractions present hazards to everyone involved. Race rest stops are best left to professionals.

8. Never lie to cyclists about how much further it is to the top or the end. If you are guessing or you are trying to make it sound easier than it really is, you unintentionally demoralize the cyclist by being dishonest. You also teach the cyclist not to trust indie rest stops. A cyclist who expects the end in three miles and has to pedal nine more is less likely to stop at the next indie rest stop.

There's a world of opportunity out there for people who need to supplement their income in this unstable economy. Hopefully the tips I've presented can help you capitalize while also serving the needs of another.

Legal requirements and regulations likely are associated with all financial ventures. I am not a lawyer and do not pretend to know the laws of every state or organized ride. Nothing I've written may be used as a legal basis for establishing a business. (Don't you just love legal mumbo jumbo?!?)

1 comment :

  1. I read this like I planned on putting up a stand, lol. I've never cycled for miles and miles but your tips sound very sound to me!


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