Thoughts On Pay Rides

My buddy Miles who is an uber cycler rode a century at the Tour of Hope, or Tour de Hope, this weekend which is in the nearby town of Marion.  He’s wrote an entertaining report on his blog which I recomend reading.  I had planned on doing this ride all year, but as the time approached I knew I wasn’t going to.  I can’t say I’m not in shape, I’m in the best shape of my life, I’m faster and fitter on the bike then I have ever been.  So what’s the deal?

It could be laziness, to do this ride I’d have to get up early and haul my bikes over to Marion, but I’ve been getting up almost every saturday and riding all year.  My friend Terry likes to leave at 5 AM, and we drive all over the place and ride pretty tough rides.

It could be an anti-social attitude, but that’s not it either, I’ve went out of my way to try and recruit riders, invite people to rides,  I do a week long social ride, I’ve spent a bunch of time messing with a bike club, I’m a pretty socialable guy I think.

That leaves with the honest to god truth, I’m cheap.  I didn’t want to pay the 35 dollars for the ride.  When I pay for something I want to get my money’s worth.  Sometimes I want to get my money’s worth when I haven’t even paid a dime.  Ayn Rand would call me a Mooch, but who cares what she says.  Pay rides are never a good deal, the only time you get your money’s worth is if you don’t pay, which I have done on a few occasions.  Yes most of them are for charity, but I’m not that charitable of a person. 

Why are they not a good deal, first off they are providing you with access to roads you allready have free access to.  Secondly, many offer a bare minimum in the form of food and shwag, a few cookies, some fly covered bananas, gatorade if you’re lucky, and a crappy hand drawn route map that has been photocopied so many times that it can’t be read.  That leads us to the route, usually at some point in the past some body scouted out a nice route for the pay ride, from that point onward the route will never change, why would I want to pay year after year to ride the exact same route, sure it saves the organizers a lot of work but what are we paying for. 

Next on my list is the T-shirt, I have a drawer full of ride T-shirts, but back in the day it seemed like rides were much more reasonably priced, like for 25 dollars you could register at the ride, get a T-shirt and enjoy much better Sag stops, may just be me though?  Finally when you finish the ride you arrive at a deserted parking lot without a soul around other then a few folks loading up their bikes to go home, for what most rides charge these days you should at least get a little meal, maybe a snack and a soda, at the very least you should get a congratulations and thanks for doing our ride. 

Now I didn’t do the Tour de Hope, and I’m not accusing it of being a ripoff, maybe it did everything perfect and I would have loved it.  There is one ride that I’ve done which does everything I’ve talked about, there’s no wonder why it has grown so much in such a short time, while most rides get smaller every year.  The Tour de Corn in East Praire Missouri was the best value I’ve ever got on a ride.  The ride cost 20-25 dollars, T-shirts were optional and were like 17, but they were beautifully designed each year by a local artist and worth every penny.  I got a great bag of freebies, stickers, product samples.  They have a Friday night party for riders who arrive early, they have a mass start with the National Anthem, they have a ride marshal.  Excellent rest stops, with lots of food and fresh corn on the cob.  There is a full day and night  of events planned the day of the ride.  East Praire really rolls out the red carpet. 

The Tour de Corn is a special event and all the planning requires the whole community to get involved.  Even if a ride doesn’t have all that support there is a few things they could do that would draw me in.  One, offer “bareback” shirtless options for a cheaper ride.  I don’t need anymore ride shirts.  Offer family and group plans so I get a discount for bringing more people.  Bring the price down more in line with the service they are offering, 20-25 dollars is plenty.  Offer a semi-competetive timed ride option, all that it would require is for a couple of people with clip boards to stand around at the end and check people off, that would give me a reason to want to ride the same ride year after year.  Throw in something cooky, like the weirdest bike there gets an award, strangest dressed rider.  In short make it funner and more worth my time and money.

Thank you and good night.

About Matt Gholson

Cycling, school teaching, husband.
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3 Responses to Thoughts On Pay Rides

  1. I’m with you. I only rode to get a good test on my new bike. I had only ridden it for 45-50 miles at a time, and I wanted to test the bike fit for a 100 mile ride. The $35 nearly choked me, but I told myself it was for a good cause. I, too, hated riding the very same roads I ALWAYS ride. It was boring. And the tables SUCKED! Oh well. I wanted to give the bike a test, and it was everything I thought it would be, and it fit fine. Yeah.

  2. martinsj2 says:

    Wow, as I get ready to do my first-ever organized ride you’re definitely bumming me out!!! 🙂 If they are as you describe I believe I too will lose my interest. After all, I’ve done 1,400 miles this year entirely by myself so I believe I can do just fine as a soloist.

    You raise some good points and there is a lot to be said for the flexibility and convenience of organizing your own ride. I can think of a couple reasons to give those up for an organized activity. One reason is to participate in something big. I remember running the Marine Corps Marathon in 1993. I could easily have trotted 26.3 miles around my house, but to join 15,000 other runners in the nation’s capital was a buzz that I couldn’t replicate on my own. Another reason would be the SAG support, however minimal, would still be better than nothing at all. This would be especially important on roads I am not familiar with. I am therefore willing to travel a bit and see different parts of the country, knowing a supported ride will bail me out in extremus circumstances.

    I like your ideaof timed rides. In England, these are known as sportifs and they are quite popular. Your time can earn various medals based on your age/gender. It gives a rider something to shoot for. I’m kind of surprised these aren’t common in the States. I guess the touring aspects of cycling are dominate here as opposed to the racing side of things.

  3. Matt Gholson says:

    Yeah, thousands of riders flock to RAGBRAI each year so they can participate in something they can write home about, and I do GOBA each year so I can experience a bike ride with 2500 people.

    I completely forgot to mention SAG support, there is a value to that, I know Miles will never need it, he carries a spare everything, but I have to admit riding a SAG truck back to the car once years ago.

    I hope your ride goes good, and they aren’t as bad as I make them out, my biggest gripe is the price keeps going up even though they offer less.

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