Volunteering to Encourage New Runners and Riders

June 24th, 2014 by Team OAM NOW / Athletic Mentors

On May 22, Greater Kalamazoo Girls on the Run, hosted nearly 3,500 people to run its annual 5K event.  1,800 of those participants were 3rd-5th grade girls who participated in the Girls on the Run program which is designed to teach positive lifestyle lessons, and self-esteem, to girls through running and other activities. The rest of the runners are community and family members looking to support the girls on what is, for many, their first 5K. The annual 5K is a huge community event with a spectator lined course and the support of many local businesses and organizations as well as kick-off and finish line celebrations. This year, the race lead off featured our very own GOTR LeadoutRobyn Kaiser and Jeff Mira who not only started the race, but also helped enable the race’s first ever hand-cyclist to participate.  Certainly this is a milestone for the organization, and hopefully the first of many 5K races to come for all participants.


Similarly, Kalamazoo’s Bike Week enabled Team OAM NOW members to encourage and teach new riders, both young and old. The first event was Kalamazoo Bike Club’s Bike Camp. The club and the camp (which both boast members and  volunteers from Team OAM NOW), was recently honored by the League of Michigan Bicyclists with the Encouragement Award for the work and effort of Bike Camp which introduces new cyclists to the sport of road biking. The camp, held annually since 2005, takes new riders through the entire experience from gear and fitting to basic bike repairs and getting out on the road to ride safely. One of the first activities is fitting the “campers” to their bicycles, which often involves some on-the-spot repairs and adjustments as well. Team OAM member and mechanic (and KBC vice-president) Doug Kirk has fitted dozens of riders of all shapes, ages and sizes. “For new riders, or folks who haven’t ridden for a long time, photofitting involves more than what might be right for racing or serious riding,” he says, “You have to learn a little bit about each camper and what kind of riding they want to do, then size each individual up. You can’t fit a 50 year old like a 30 year old runner who wants to do a triathlon. Many people simply need time in the saddle for their bodies to adjust and get used to riding their bikes again. Patience and communication are most important.” In addition to Doug’s assistance in fitting, on 5/31 Cheryl Sherwood spoke to the camp about nutrition and fueling.  Then, several Team OAM NOW riders (Cricket Howard, Erin Lumbard, Laura Melendez, Mike Jones, and Chris Gottwald) accompanied the new riders on their ride; for many it is their first ride of 10-15 miles. It’s a great way for the team to increase the visibility of cyclists in the community and help riders new to the sport. Not only are they able to provide their expertise and answer questions, but the encouragement is invaluable to riders returning to the road. Finally, riders both new and old need to know some of the basics to get out and ride safely. One of the first things ever rider should learn is how to properly maintain the bike’s tires.photo(1) Doug Kirk took that lesson to KBC member Kathy Kroll’s class of 9-year olds in Mattawan to teach them all about air pressure and how to properly pump up a bike tire.

“By the end, they understood that once the tube is inside the tire and can’t expand, the pressure goes up when they use the pump and the  pump gauge shows them how much air is inside,” said Doug. “But,” he adds “you don’t want a 9 year old pumping up your tires!  Kids that size can’t push more than about 25 or 30 pounds of pressure from a floor pump and usually end up giggling a lot as they try.”From Girls on the Run, to Bike Camp, to elementary students, Team OAM NOW members are sharing both knowledge and experience ensuring that we’re creating future runners and cyclists!


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