2012. Tim Johnson & Bikes Belong Ride on Washington #TJROW

It is amazing to think a year had passed since a small group of seven riders took the plunge in the inaugural #ROW or Ride on Washington with Tim Johnson.  Last year the send off from Boston was in proportion to the size of riders, the support along the route was grass roots, some phone calls called in from Richard Fries, and one SRAM car support from (all of our) father Butch. Last year was cold, wet, and long days in the saddle with a few missed turns here & there, but the spirits of the seven riders were strong. The will for the ride to grow into 2012 was vibrant. The yield was strong, 2012 was an exponential explosion over 2011.Why Ride on Washington with Tim Johnson & Bikes Belong? I have four daughters under 10. All have grown up around athletics, all prefer turning the pedals of their street bikes then sitting in front of a mindless television. All prefer to race around our street cul-de-sacs, all prefer to lay out cones on Saturday mornings to create a childhood epic cross course.

Didn’t we all grow up on bikes? “Be home by dusk!” Riding blocs in Canada along treetop to Timmy W’s house? Riding along Lakeshore Drive in Toronto nothing but my trans-am t, pinned jeans, vans, and my street buddies. Be home before dark, in time for dinner. We explored, we had adventures, we found our way without that nifty GPS thing, and we stopped at any playground that looked dangerous.

Don’t our kids all ride bikes like we used to? Bikes Belong has a mission to get more people on bikes more often. Bikes Belong puts emphasis on making change happen nationally, locally & on my street. The focus on promoting the bicycle, federal policy & funding developments, providing & driving national bicycle leadership, and they write grant funds to drive infrastructure change.

Tim Johnson is our US National six-time National Champion. He grew up as a junior riding the very streets he is now advocating for. Not just his training roads in Topsfield or Beverly, Ma but for the roads in Virginia, or the farmlands of Pennsylvania. His mission is bigger than racing. Last year he & his good friend Richard Fries made the decision to “ride” to the National Bike Summit. Along with themselves, they found an additional five riders. I was one of the lucky ones.

The transformation of their vision to twenty-twelve #TJROW was humbling to observe. This year the operational logistics were taken over by Bikes Belong – Kate Powlison.  Twenty twelve would have a title sponsor, SRAM, additional sponsorship from VW, and a host of other local or advocacy focused brands (our own Mad Alchemy Pete & Jan Smith made a signature embrocation “Hell of the East” blend with 40% going directly to Bikes Belong).

The ride for twenty twelve #TJROW was five days. Covering 500+ miles of roads between Boston & Washington, DC. The purpose was to end up at the National Bike Summit and share the message of why this ride deserves attention.  This year there were twenty + core (all five days) riders. Tim Johnson & Richard Fries led a cast of other pro cyclists (Rebecca Rusch, Kristen Peterson), Executives (CEO of John Hancock – Keith Hartstein), industry writers (& great guy) Nick Legan, and a host of great people all making an impact within their respective riding communities (Pete Beers (DC-Commuter Supreme), Jed Kornbluh (CX School – Philly) , Molly Hurford (soon to be published author), Chandler Delinks (Blogger), David Chiu (New England CX staple),  Greg Martin (accomplished world champion: MTB single speed 24hr), (Boston commuter extreme) Steve Segenchuck, (Trek store owner, Cat 1 MTB racer) Matt Snow, (Firefly Designer), Kevin Wolfson (our navigator), Peter Webber (World CX Champion 40-44), Dave Wilcox (Bikes not Bomb board & owner Broadway Bicycle School), Tom Vanderbilt (Writer), (Advocate) Ian Dewar, and our support staff from Bikes Belong, SRAM and Dr.Allen Lim & Chef Biju managing our nutrition along the ride.

If the ride’s success was measured by laughter, camaraderie, focus, discipline, “compassion” (coined by Velo News Nick Legan), and an exponential growth in support & funding then the ride was by all measures and all accounts a huge success.  Days later e-mails are still flying around within the group e-mail recounting the moments had along the ride, the evening events at local bike shops, the late night or early morning talks on why we were riding.

In stead of quoting famous Peter Webber (he was our ride chief -supervisor), or the stories from our navigators cock pit (#TWSS), or the endless Chandler time, I leave you with the thought…….when was the last time you stood up grabbed something you are passionate about to make a difference, a real measurable difference?

My girls are growing older every day; they deserve to ride like we did. They deserve to feel safe. My next door neighbor, willing to make a difference in their health, deserves a safe place to ride.  The hard working family that is feeling their wallets with the rising gas prices deserves to have an alternative & viable form of transportation.  We all deserve to breath “cleaner” air, and we all could use one less car on the road.  So be it for health, fitness, family time, obesity awareness, congestion mitigation, cleaner-er air, or because we love to ride or race, this ride, the #TJROW – Tim Johnson & Bikes Belong Ride on Washington is not going away. It is making real things happen. People in Washington and managing federal policy have taken notice. Don’t believe me? Just wait, the twenty thirteen ride planning has already begun.

A huge thank you to Tim Johnson, Richard Fries & Bikes Belong for having me be part of the first two years, and from the Mad Alchemy Verge Rider Cooperative, thank you for working on behalf of us to give us safer streets & options of our own choice.