While researching the term “caboose” I just accidentally clicked on the word “Buttocks” on wikipedia. Oi.
Last Sunday I volunteered as a ride marshal for the LA River Ride in Los Angeles. Over 3,000 riders showed up at Griffith Park at an event organized by the Los Angeles County Bike Coalition (LACBC).
When I showed up, they needed cabooses. What is a caboose, you might ask? It’s the people that follow the very last cyclist to denote the end of that ride.
I got assigned to be a caboose for the 36 mile ride.
Now, let me clarify for those that don’t do a lot of organized event rides.
Organized event rides tend to have several lengths – IE, century (100 miles), metric century (62 miles), half century (50 miles) and then something under 50 miles (generally 36 miles or 25).
People that ride 50 miles or more on a ride tend to know what they are doing (or they die trying, I suppose). They generally are on faster bikes (aside from the insane single speed people and the recumbents) and are well prepared.
But people doing a 36 mile come in all shapes, sizes and flavors.
Here is a sample of the population I had to trail behind doing 11 MPH and assist:
- Mom on a beach cruiser
- Dad hauling a child under 6 on a two seater bike
- Guy on a very poorly maintained single speed that we had to escort to the next pit stop
- Girl that took a break every four miles, feeling that she needed a ton of breaks to finish a 36 mile ride
- People slothing around at the pit stops – as caboose, we have wait around for ALL 36 mile riders to leave the pit stop before we can continue
The other person who got stuck on caboose is a 50 year old amateur racer from the valley. Guy was on a sleek bike and in a super sexy LA Bike kit. After staring at his outfit for six hours, all I could think about was how I want the kit! Another young man also joined our caboose team with the sole intent of trying to get my phone number. *sigh*
Here is what we encountered while trailing the ever so slow 36 mile riders. I swear, it felt like we were the only ride marshals around.
- Kid who didn’t bring a wrench and couldn’t remove his blown out tire from his Eddy Merckx bike (that had no quick release)
- Kid’s tube was already THRICE patched!! When I not so gently inquired about how his tube got to that state, he said he was trying to save money. IT IS THREE DOLLARS TO GET A NEW TUBE! In fact, us volunteers carried several FREE tubes with us. Here. Have one. Have three. YOU COST yourself money by just not getting a new tube! *sigh*
- Snapped chain, and the guy didn’t know how to use his chain tool. Not like I did. But fortunately, the rad caboose guy I was with showed us how. I was just like ‘this is why we have SAG support’ but we got his chain back in action enough to get him to the next pit stop. The guy was 10 miles away from completing a century. Sooo close!
- A completely shredded tire. God knows what happened to it, his tires were pretty bald to begin with.
So SIX HOURS LATER from departing for a 36 MILE RIDE, I finally am about to loop back to the finish point.
But oddly enough, there are cars dead stopped everywhere, cops all over the place.
A cyclist got taken out by a car, their bike completely flattened and crushed under the car.
Twas a sickening site, and a sad end to an already cranky and sunburnt day.
I think next year I’ll work a booth.