Reduction in Ride Refs

I understand that Cascade is planning to reduce the number of ride refs by a third. I think last year there was about 30 or so. This year, I hear they are going to have no more than a dozen. I am curious how Cascade plans to help all those riders who, in previous years, were helped by ride refs? All those riders with accidents, needing medical aid, lost on the road, needing mechanical help, asking general questions - are PAID staff to help those people? Or are those riders to figure it out on their own - patch their own damn tires, apply their own damn bandaids, find their own damn way back on to the course? I remember the community being quite unhappy with Flying Wheels participants last year. With fewer ride refs, doesn't this mean potentially more bad behavior by participants, more complaints from the communities that the ride goes through?

I've never been a ride ref, but I know people who have done this. They tend to be hard-core Cascade or STP supporters, who really love the ride. love helping others, and want to keep the ride safe. While these volunteers do no pay the entrance fee, since they are helping people the whole way, often there is no food left for them at the food stops. The beer garden and shower trucks are usually all closed down by the time they roll into Portland. They pay for their own lodging and transportation. They are not free loaders; they are usually making personal sacrifices to make sure that others have a great time.  

I run a nonprofit organization, and I know how important it is to keep your loyal supporters loyal and happy. I am curious why Cascade is interested in dismissing the ride refs, and their service. What is the benefit that they hope to achieve? I can only list the drawbacks:

  • Turning away people who want to support the organization and its activities
  • Making the ride less safe and enjoyable for all participants
  • Putting a greater burden on other ride supporters, either paid staff or volunteers

Can someone explain this? 

Dear cpetersky,

Thank you for your positive comments about the ride referee program, and your support for it.

I have been volunteering for the Club for many years in different positions, ride referee included. If they think they can support 10,000 people with 10 referees, they are either ignorant or something worse. Even 30 some referees last year weren't enough for the event.

I received an email from Cascade on Tuesday (the 14th) letting me know that my service is no longer needed.

I knew something was happening at the Club, but I thought it was 'just' me.

Yesterday we learned that Ms Diana Larson (Volunteer Coordinator, aka Queen of Volunteer Program) resigned as of last night after many many many years of service including 8 years of volunteering before she joined the club as a staff. A wonderful lady and great asset for the Club and all other programs.

It appears that the Club is overhauling with the new Director in place.

I don't know where the Club is heading to, but without the support from the wonderful volunteers, they can't keep the quality (if it is still there at this point anyway) of their events. After all, this is the volunteer based/lead organization. Speaking of quality, someone on the STP posting mentioned about not having tyvek for this year's event. What a lost! That has been a tradition for forever. Not only for that, the 2nd annual Bike and Brew in May also has a change from a usual nice looking T-shirt to a 'Trucker Hat'!!! Really? Trucker Hat??? LOL.

I am personally sad that my opportunities for volunteering is very limited now, but then again I may not even support the volunteer program if they don't believe in it anyway.

I would like to call all volunteers to wish the best for Ms Diana Larson when you get a chance, and I personally want to thank her for all the work she has done over the past 15/16 years or so for all of us. It has been a pure pleasure for me to get involved with her work.

Myung Hong

Submitted by Jim Werner on

need refs to fix a flat tire!!  oh my!!! maybe this is the wrong ride for you. 

Submitted by Pat Matson on

~~Ride Refs are a great part of a solution that is complicated & messy: STP
The previous posters are volunteers that have spent a lot of time giving to others for what?  Because they care.

JW could you please list all the volunteerism you’ve done with CBC?  Glad you’ve so caring its great to see.

In seriousness, Ride Refs should not only be a priority but be ramped up.  I think it would be more appropriate to hear from all the folks that the Ride Refs have helped out.  I believe that the response would be deafening.

Submitted by Jim Werner on

yes, ride refs are important particularly when you have riders doing stupid things or if emergency help is needed at a particular location. that is what they were for in the beginning when they were referred to as the bozo patrol.  fixing a flat tire should be the responsibility of the rider.  one would think that in training for the ride one would have experienced an occassional flat and learned to fix it.  for major breakdowns there are the gullwings who can ferry parts for repairs.  lastly, people who normally have posted on this site understand this and don't need an explanation of what it means to do a multi day ride.  the less hand holding you expect the more enjoyment you will experience from this ride.  normally most who plan this as their first stp ride will post questions as to what they should do in preparing for the ride; not expecting someone to see to all of their misfortunes along the way.


"Fixing a flat should be the responsibility of the rider"  Jim Werner.

No problem Jim. If you're broke down at 150 miles into the Stp, 97 degrees, outta water, outta patches, your pump is broke, and both tires with tacks in them, I want you to remember this conversation.

That said, flag me down, I'll be wearing the black and white stripes. I'll help you.

Submitted by Jim Werner on

no problem leo i come prepared.  i always do the ride on fresh rubber and carry at least two tubes with me. i've never had a flat on the stp.**  as for water i know the perils of not restocking and carry plenty of water.  my second stp i had an issue with food, hypoglycemia, at the 185 mile mark but found some peanut butter at a spot near scappoose and was back on my way.  the issue is not a for or against regarding volunteers in fact it is the volunteers, both from the club and the communities, who make the ride enjoyable.  infact i'm sure that you would agree that it is the volunteers of any organized ride that can make or break the ride.  the point is that if one is planning to do the stp or any multi day ride prepare for it. if i had an accident or suddenly became ill i would want your assistance in a heartbeat but to not plan ahead for the ride and the training it requires is just plain stupid and for that i wouldn't deserve any assistance.*    as for the heat one has experienced on highway 30 i just roll up into a ball and ask for my mommy.  hopefully this year will be like the last few years with the stupendous cool temps.


* i've had a couple issues on rides and fellow riders have stopped to lend assistance as i have also done for others but to show up for a ride and not be able to change a tire is lame.  i've left them a patch kit if they were out or a spare tube.  i think most any reasonable rider has done this as well.  i frequently stop to help riders with flats on the local bike paths as this is where i expect to meet newbees to the rigors of riding but on the stp i expect them to know some of the basics.

**had a blow out at the top of the pullayup hill my second year and the gold wings were there for assistance in bringing back a new tire.  that was something i could not have planned for but did learn from the experience.  new rubber before the ride.

  i wouldn't deserve any assistance...Jim Werner.

We don't ask if you deserve any assistance.

We just ask ,"What do you need?"

Submitted by Jeffrey Job on

While I don't know if the club is cutting volunteers (not sure how you "cut" a volunteer other than not giving them free entry), it does appear from the cheap seats that the Board of Directors and the new Executive Director are doing things to change how things are done.  Staff leaving..  new positions hired..  just several changes that are difficult for some who don't like change to digest.  When the Board of Directors announced Chuck was leaving, I found it noteworthy that in their press release, they stated (paraphrasing) that CA wasn't the guy to take the club to the next level.  That suggests to me there was some stagnation that the Board wanted to break up.

Someone above mentioned they weren't happy the tyvek jackets are discontinued.  I'm not amazed those jackets are being replaced..  I'm amazed it took 25+ years to do it.  The club should have been coming up with something cool/unique each and ever year to add some "zest" into the event.  There's a difference between a tradition and stagnation.  

Perhaps this is a decision (cutting volunteers) that will appear to be worth reconsidering, or end up not being a big deal.  Jim's point is spot on..   if you are going to do a 205 mile endurance ride, your bike should be working properly and you should be able to do basic maintenance like changing flats and having enough patches in case you have more than one or two flats along the way.

Submitted by Jim Werner on

thanks jc.  finally someone figured it out.  i thought that leo would have beaten you to the mark as he is usually quite  perceptive and been one of my favorite posters in the past.  i guess he is beginning to ride too close to the fog line.

July was my first-ever STP and I came in somewhat undertrained, as well-prepared (equipment-wise) as I could figure out, and determined to finish come hell or high water.  Given my lack of experience with longer rides, it was hard to know exactly what issues would crop up *for me* during the ride .  I suspect there will always be a good number of first-timers in a similar boat.

I had a flat 5 miles from the start (Murphy at work) and while I could have changed it myself, a local Seattle rider Samaritan who had a better pump kindly stopped and helped me and it got done a lot faster, and I really appreciated the help.  At 70 miles in, I was having massive, painful seat equipment problems, and switched to my "Plan B" bike with a more upright position and more ergonomic seat.  (My girlfriend lives along the route and brought it to me)  On the second day, at about 180 miles in, I'd forgotten to wear my padded gloves, and my hands were in pain from supporting my body weight for hours. I found a foam take-out box by the roadside and the fantastic helpful staff of a roadside aid vehicle helped me turn that box and some electrical tape into an ugly-but awesome handlebar padding that made the rest of the ride a breeze for my aching hands. While I handled it without external help, I also experienced gastric distress that second day, just on the Oregon side, from drinking too much undiluted electrolyte drink. I backtracked a couple miles to find facilities and managed to cope, but certainly learned a lesson for next time.   I also got help in Centralia with a gear and brake adjustment on my "Plan B" bike from the mechanics there. 

This year, I'll be much more prepared, expecially in areas where I "learned from experience".  There will be other newbies and "stuff is gonna happen" and there will always be those who need help.  If each ride referee provided roadside help for 4 riders each hour, and was out on the course for 12 hours each day, that's about 100 total roadside incidents supported by each referee.  If the number of referees is reduced by about 20, from 30-ish to 10-ish, that means  2,000 fewer roadside support incidents.   Overall not counting food stops, I used roadside help three times. If 3 were considered high (but perhaps typical for a newbie) and 1 consired average, that would still be 10,000 roadside help incidents along the route. So, using my SWAG numbers, about a 20% drop in roadside assistance support capacity.

Does someone in the club decision-making process have data-based estimates (i.e., based on more than my SWAG above) for the number of roadside assistance "incidents" and data about the number and type of roadside support services typically required and provided during the ride?  Is there data about how many of those support incidents involved help provided by ride referees?  Does the plan to provide an adequate degree of roadside support for the ride this year account for the reduced number of ride referees?

JDaniels...   The rationale is hard to fully determine without the club leadership actually saying what their motivation is.  It could be a myriad of things.  It's probable that this is the first step towards replacing many of the volunteers with new batch of volunteers.  Sometimes, you just need to mix things up.  Maybe they want volunteers who are not riding the event, but actually focusing 100% on support?  It's possible, and in this case, likely, that you have 30 really good people volunteering AND have a CBC leadership that wants to mix up some of the ways things have been done in the past.

Having said that, the lessons you learned on your ride would have been learned whether there was a volunteer there or not.  I don't think each rider is calling upon volunteers 1-3 times during the event.  Most riders have spent enough time in the saddle prior to that weekend that the first 70 miles doesn't give them so much pain that they need to completely abandon their bike for better fitting bike.  You would have learned that you can't guzzle huge amounts of gatoraide (sugar) or be smart enough to bring some imodium to fix your stomach problems so you could keep riding.  (I've learned that lesson... and I bet just about everyone here has as well)

The more time you spend in the saddle, the smarter you are on your bike.




I had to log back in to express my 'awe'...

Has anyone seen Tour de France?

Did it ever come to your mind, if they were prepared or not for their epic ride?

Do you not think they are not smarter than most of us?

No matter how much 'experience' you have, no matter how confident you are, no matter how many times you have ridden, or how smart you are, things do happen.

Do you ever carry 5 tubes, 2 tires, and a backup pump with you? NO

Do you ever think you need all that 5 tubes, 2 tires, and a backup pump for a ride? NO

I really hope some of you will have luck for many years to come, because my last flat was 3 years ago (during the 30th RSVP), and I have ridden more than 7 century rides 'without' a flat after that.

Does this mean I am experienced? OF COURSE NOT!

It just a random thing and you never know when you need that 6th tube to get going.

Yes, it is real that someone had 5 flats during a course of an event...

It is hard to accept that some people think it is all about preparedness and experience.

You never know what is waiting for you around the corner. It could be a thumbtack or two...

I am not trying to offend anyone. What I am saying is that our own confidence, experience, or intellectual level has nothing to do with the needs of volunteers. We just want to be helpful to anyone who needs it...


Submitted by Jeffrey Job on

Again, I don't know why (or even if) the club is cutting volunteers, but the liklihood of someone getting 5 flats and their pump breaking is very low.  And with support stops every 10 to 15 miles, the opportunity to get a replacement back up tube presents itself quite often.  Myung, even you admit you haven't had a flat tire in 3 years of heavy riding.

That said, I would argue that your own experience DOES make it less likely you would need help along the route.  If you got a flat tire and used your one replacement, your experience will tell you that at the next stop, make sure you buy a replacement tube (or 2) so you are good to go.  If you notice your bottom bracket seems loose or wheel isn't perfectly true, you will be smart enough to hit the next stop and have the mechanic do the fix.  Just about anyone can stagger through the Chilly Hilly with a bike that isn't working properly, no previous training, or little or no basic mechanical skills as it's only 33 miles.  But if you are hiking Mt. Rainier, you had better be prepared for what could happen in that extreme experience.

I don't think the posts here are about the quality of the help that may be rendered by a volunteer.  What is true is either the club doesn't see the need for 30 volunteers, the club wants to replace roughly 20 with new volunteers, or the club sees some degree of value in volunteers but doesn't want to subsidize their event entry fees.

Or maybe it's an incorrect rumor that the number of volunteers are being cut??

I wonder if the club is just counting on the general helpfulness of ride leaders who are riding the STP. The goal was to certify 300+ ride leaders, many of whom will be participating in the event, with or without the Ride Ref designation. I can't think of a time when I didn't ask a cyclist on the side of the road if they were OK and needed help. Give up my only spare tube? Sure. Help change a flat or pump a tire? No problem. Offer up a Clif Bar? Naturally. Many of those with mechanicals or other problems have friends helping them, or a good natured soul stops for 10 minutes. Are the Ride Refs really a necessity, or can the official support vehicles carry the load (with periodic help from samaritan cyclists)?

Submitted by Jim Werner on

those on the tdf are prepared for the conditions they meet.  the team crews are part of the race.  just as caddies are part of the pga tournaments.  if the tdf was mano mano and not a team racing event there would not be such assistance as there is available.*  in years past the ride guide for the stp spelled out what one should be prepared for and also listed a suggested training regime.  for those who are witnessing this thread and maybe new to the stp ride may i suggest this in your training for the ride.  get in as many 50-70 mile rides as you can in your training and do as many hills as you can.  there are not that many hills on the course but the more hills you do the stronger you will be and this will definitely add to your comfort on the ride.  they used to also suggest that you get in as much early in the morning rideing so that your body and mind will not be shocked by the early start you will get on the stp.  i might add something else and that is to do as much riding in the heat as you can to aclimate yourself to the potential heat on hwy 30 on the oregon end of things.  the last few years have been very comfortable but there have been times in the past when as leo said it can get a tad warm.  lastely try to get in a couple of 100 mile rides for as you know you will be doing two of them on the stp.  in past years the folks from the south had a distinct advantage over us pacific northwesterners coming down hwy 30.  two weeks before the ride go over every working part  of your bikes.  if there are any wear marks take care of it then not a week after the stp.  new rubber = fewer flats.

*if we can relax for a moment, imagine what it would be like if it was mano mano on the tdf. .... i can see the hospital wards filling as we speak.  i figure if i had the tack and broken glass concession i could retire in a couple of years.

 Jeff, great minds think sorta alike here...

Ride Ref's do quite a bit more than provide some mechanical support. That's our 'when we have time to be nice' job.
Our primary job is to watch people for problems, watch for problem areas, remind people for their responsibilities under state law, and for following Cascade ride policies.
Like if we ask someone to please remove their earbuds, or to pull off the road if they are stopped, or to regard the signal light.

I say think alike, because a good number of the Ref's are Ride Leaders. We also have quite a few League Cycling Instructors.
We provide Cascade with feedback about the ride, what went wrong, what went right, what we need to work on or change.

One of the reasons we have people in the Ref jersey is identification, we want people to know that we are Cascade. We want them to see us stopping at the light, signalling, all that stuff. We want to be the role models.  We want people to understand who just asked them to put their helmet on, or to say 'On Yer Left'.
That jersey lets the Goldwing Motorcycle people and the support car drivers know who we are. I've sent Goldwingers after people driving personal support vehicles on the course to let them know that is not Cascade policy.

But no, we are not cops, we don't enforce the law. We ask people. However, if we've asked and you won't, we will take down your bib number and that might be the last Cascade ride you'll do, or we can ask you to leave the ride. That registration you sign for the ride is a contract. You've agreed to abide by Cascade's rules.

We are also the Answer People. We get questions from how far is the next food stop to some of the history of our rides. You need to be personable, and know a bit about the club.

It's a lot of fun to Ref, but at the same time, as Claire wrote, you're working the ride as you ride. A couple times it's taken me over 12 hours to do one hundred miles on the Stp because I've stopped for so many people.

Gears to you....leo

Submitted by Jim Werner on

now that's the leo i've grown to enjoy.  for those who don't know leo has been doing this for as long as dirt has settled on windshields and bicycle wheels have turned.  he was there when it was called the bozo patrol and i'm sure john weller could editorialize on that.  most everyone could learn something from leo as to how to have a safe and happy ride.  and when leo and his fellow ride refs say ride to the right of the fog line and obey traffic signs and lights they mean just that.

I'm starting to wonder if the STP is heading into a much different direction then we would like. Reducing the numbers of those that volunteer their time to help out fellow cyclist is hardly the way to improve the event. We would hope that riders could repair a flat, read a map or keep the flesh off of the asphalt. But thats not always the case. I suspect a rather large number are very new to the sport. Begining handling skills, lack of knowledge to make simple repairs. If I were a newbe standed in the middle of SW Washington I would soon get pissed off for lack of support if no one in an official position ever came by because of the reduced volunteers. 

The past couple years i've been riding as a medical volunteer. Last year, just before the Spanaway stop, I and and another medic (S2 I think) came upon a female that had just crashed. She was in serious condition. We did a trauma exam and held c-spine and prepaired for the ALS ambulance that arrived shortly after. How could that have played out if we were not there. I've always been amazed how people will pass on by someone that is lying on the ground.

As a side note, does anyone know who is incharge of the medical riders? I've heard nothing so far. I heard someone else is heading it up this year.

Good on you Mason5er- doing the Medical Rider is not an easy job at all. I did Medical Rider twice, and don't care to do it again.
Medical Riders have my utmost respect.
You might want to call the club via phone and ask who is the Med Rider co-ordinator- so many things are changing and I sure don't want to see good people walk away because of adminstration issues. We really need the good people.

Here's the Official Cascade blurb about Ride Refs.

gears to you....leo