Dear fellow Amateur Radio Operators,
I am part of a major event that will involve hundreds of bicycles traveling diagonally across New York State in August of 2003. This event is a non-profit fundraiser where 100% of the money raised will be going to the beneficiaries. The organizers will have a real communications challenge. One of them asked me if there was any way that Ham radio could help them communicate. I believe that not only can we help them, but that this event could be a major publicity and recruiting opportunity for Amateur Radio in New York!
The event (The Empire State AIDS Ride) has already done a lot of ground work to ensure that there will be strong television and newspaper coverage for the 5-day duration. If local amateur radio clubs along the route are visible and active in supporting the event, then I’m sure our role will be discussed in the articles (or TV). Plus I would very much like to have a feature article about this effort in QST Magazine. Participating could be a huge publicity boost for your club. This is also a perfect drill for your ARES/RACES/OEM organization. Many of the needs of the event are typical for those needed for a disaster. Plus, the whole thing is fun and a great way to help out a really good cause.
My concept is that for each day of this five-day, 500-mile trip from Niagara Falls to New York City, at least one amateur radio club will cover the area near starting city of the event, and at least one other will support the end-point vicinity. The hundred miles in-between could be covered by one or more other clubs, depending on their ability to supply operators. What this would mean to your club would be a two day commitment—provide communications support the day that the event rolls into the campsite near your town, and then again the next day that it departs. The first day most of the activity would be in the afternoon. The second day most of the activity would be in the morning.
What kind of support will be required? This can be discussed. I know that some clubs are used to providing communications (and other support) for bicycle fundraisers for local charities. If you have done those before, then the needs of this event will be mostly familiar. But since this is a 5-day event, there are some things that may be unfamiliar. The support for the campsites and pit-stops will be more familiar to those who are active in disaster preparedness. In that way there may be two separate groups that would enjoy participating in this event.
For evening and overnight communications within the campsite I’m thinking FRS and cellphones may be sufficient. But in the daytime, once this event is on the move, they’ll need our help to have good enough coverage keep things safe and moving smoothly. Some of the communications needs I envision are:
· Repeaters. Plain and simple we need to ask for the use of local repeaters. I’ve looked at a map and plugged the route into the Travel Plus for Repeaters software, but there’s no substitute for real-world information. What repeaters would best cover the topography along the route? You tell me. Can we get permission from the owner/trustee to use their repeater for one or two days? I need your help in asking for their help. I’m from the swamplands of New Jersey. We don’t have mountains. Tell me if we can have one repeater for a particular day, or whether we’ll need to coordinate three, and where to anticipate dead zones. I also would like to start getting advance word out to repeater users that might not be active in clubs. I think they might really enjoy using their favorite repeater in a completely different way for a day or two. Tell me about any portable repeater possibilities too.
· Communications for the sweep vehicles. Typically there are “sweep vans” patrolling the route to pick up riders (and their bicycles) who are injured or unable to continue. Ideally those vans have a bike rack on the back or the roof so that many riders can be fit inside. Remember each day’s route can be 100 miles or more! The vans may also be able to help with water or power-bars for riders that need it. Some clubs provide a ham radio operator with a radio and magmount antenna to provide communications for these vans to tell them where to go to find stranded riders. Other clubs may be able to provide a vehicle itself. If you do have a vehicle to volunteer, please let me know in advance so we can arrange insurance. People who are “regulars” on your local repeater may enjoy this opportunity to do something different with it. Even if they haven’t been active in club events before, they may find riding around in the passenger seat of a van and keeping it in contact with the rest of the event a lot of fun. (APRS would be incredibly userful here!)
· Communications for the pit stops. Most of the days on the route have three pit stops arraigned between the campsites. Think of them as an oasis for the bicyclists. There are food, drink, medical and toilet facilities at these pits. They often need to call for more water, more cups, more orange slices, medical personnel, bike repair technicians, etc, as well as to give regular reports of how many people are there. Their needs are remarkably similar to those of a shelter in a disaster. This is excellent practice for ARES/RACES/OEM communication teams. If you have a drive-on antenna tower and/or a portable repeater this would be a great opportunity to put it to good use. If you have people that enjoy message-handling, then they may want to set up a table at a pit-stop to introduce the general public to what
· Communications for the event “captains”. This means shadowing the people who are organizing the event. If the person in charge of the medical team needs to talk to the “Road Captain”, then we could make that possible. Soon I will have a better handle on how many captains we’re talking about.
· I’m a big techie, and I welcome the use of APRS, ATV (both of these would be GREAT at all of the pitstops), packet, HF, you name it. Of course the main mission is to support a safe event. So I don’t want any of these things to happen at the expense of that. The first job is our calm, confident, undistracted voices on a repeater supporting the event. That alone will prove the value of Amateur Radio. Everything after that just makes us look better.
Here’s a recap of the event. Hundreds of bicyclists will be pedaling from Niagara Falls to New York City for charity from August 18-23, 2003. It’s called the Empire State AIDS Ride. It’s a 500-mile trek. Some days they will be riding over 100 miles. Each bicycle rider is required to raise a minimum of $3200 to participate, plus a $300 registration fee (that’s a huge total) and 100% of it will go to the charities! There are four beneficiaries: Doctors Without Borders, Health GAP, AIDS Rochester, and African Services Committee. We will be travelling in the vicinity of Niagara Falls, Lockport, Rochester, Victor, Clifton Springs, Geneva, Canoga, Ithaca, Whitney Point, Greene, Bainbridge, Walton, Downsville, Hankins, Barryville, Port Jervis, Goshen, Monroe, Garrison, Peekskill, Yonkers, Bronx, Manhattan. These noble bicyclists, who have raised this incredible amount of money, are doing a very hard and selfless thing to help others. They deserve our help and support for a day or two as they ride through our communities.
You can read more about the ride and the beneficiaries (as well as donate, volunteer, ride or get your friends to donate/volunteer/ride) at:
If you would like to join the discussion group specifically for Amateur Radio operators that will be helping out then send an email to:
I’m really excited about this event. It’s going to raise a huge amount of money for good causes, and it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m particularly excited at the opportunity to show so many people what amazing capabilities Amateur Radio has, and how eager to help Ham Radio people are. Please contact me with any questions or to sign up to offer help. If there’s interest I may try to plan a trip to speak at a few club meetings about the event. Please forward this email, or the link to the ham site:
Feel free to put this link on your club web site too!
These people need our help to be safe. Let’s deliver and really impress them with what Amateur Radio can do!
Mark Wintle, W1NTL
PS—About me: I am part of a group of motorcycle hams that provides safety escort for a multi-day bicycle-based fundraising events. Primarily we have escorted the NorthEast AIDS Ride (3 or 4 days, Boston to NYC some years, NYC to Boston other years), although previously some of use did escort for the Great Mass Getaway (2-day for Multiple Sclerosis), which we will be doing again this year, and other events. At least three of us will be using APRS to broadcast our locations as we move. If you’re motorcycle (or bicycle) mobile and can take a week off, then we need you too!