Cycling for a cause
"It's like riding a bicycle. You never forget how." Those are the words often used to acknowledge that a person hasn't forgotten how to do something. Chris Crandell has never forgotten the bike riding he did as a boy growing up in Troy. In fact, he still rides regularly.
"I ride constantly. Every week â¦ locally, either a mountain bike or road bike â¦ sometimes after work; sometimes weekends; whenever I can fit it in," said Crandell. "I ride often with my friend Joe (Mignano) along Route 14 between Troy and Elmira."
While he was in the air force stationed in New Mexico during the 1980's, Crandell did some bike riding. When he returned to Troy, he continued his riding. He got together with a couple of his good friends and they rode regularly. At first they rode off road on Armenia Mountain or around Mt. Pisgah, using mountain bikes. Then they progressed to road bikes which have thinner tires meant strictly for riding on pavement.
Riding for pleasure and exercise wasn't enough for Crandell. About nine years ago, he became interested in the "Tour de Shunk," a 100 mile bike ride which starts and ends at Rocky's Bike Shop in Monroeton. The route took him to Shunk, below World's End, over to Ralston and back to Rocky's. There were about 300 bikers or more who gathered for that ride. Not everyone did the full 100 miles. The full course went over two mountains, along curvy, hilly roads. The roads weren't blocked off for the event; however people followed in vehicles in case of any emergency or any other needs. The "Tour de Shunk" takes place each year in September, but last year it was delayed due to the flooding. The entry fee goes toward the Lance Armstrong Cancer Foundation. Crandell has ridden the full 100 miles every year, with this September being his ninth year. His good friend Joe Mignano has ridden the "Tour de Shunk" with him, along with some of his other bike buddies.
Last year, Crandell entered the "Tour de Cure", which took place in August in Watkins Glen, New York to raise money and awareness for diabetes. Crandell was part of a team who raised over $3,000 in sponsor donations. Crandell alone raised $500 toward his team's efforts.
"That was more personal because my dad had issues with diabetes," said Crandell, who rode with his team the whole 100 mile route around Seneca Lake.
Both the "Tour de Shunk" and the "Tour de Cure" were not races, but rides to raise money and awareness.
All of the bicycle tours that he did locally led Crandell to enter the five borough bike ride in New York City last May to raise awareness for bicycling. In the early days of the youth hostels, the American Youth Hostels encouraged cycling. Young people were expected to cycle or hike from hostel to hostel. Thus, the New York City Board of Education commissioned Eric Prager to create a bicycle safety program. Prager got together with one of his co-workers, Sal Cirami, and the two of them came up with a plan for a bicycle safety program that became the "Five Boro Challenge." Crandell found their website and on line entered his name for a lottery drawing. There are so many who enter that just entering doesn't get a biker into the ride. Names are randomly drawn and those bikers are notified about a month in advance to prepare. Crandell's name was drawn!
The route is 40 miles through the five boroughs of New York City - Manhattan, Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island - starting and ending at Battery Park. As the website informed him, "40 miles of bikes & only bikes!"
During his ride, Crandell crossed at least three or four bridges between boroughs. There were over 30,000 bike riders from almost every state as well as riders from other countries.
"It was spectacular!" said Crandell. "Amazing!"
It took about five hours to ride through the five boroughs. Streets were blocked off, sections at a time.
"They blocked off red lights and streets," said Crandell. "You could look for blocks and just see bike riders. Nothing like I've ever seen!"
Sometimes the bikers had to stop to allow vehicle traffic through.
"You can't block New York City off entirely," explained Crandell. "So many bikers had to stop and go to allow the flow."
There was a lot of spectator support on the sides of the road. People were waving and cheering the riders on. Along with the designated water stops, some spectators set up their own refreshment stops for the riders to help out.
"It was neat!" said Crandell. "People accepted what we were doing and were very supportive."
Crandell found that New York City is one of the more bike friendly cities. There are designated bike lanes and streets set up for bike riders.
"I thought it was pretty safe to ride a bike in New York City," said Crandell. "I wish there was more awareness in this (Troy) area for bike riding and safety."
Crandell has taken a pastime he remembers doing as a child to regular events that raise money and awareness for good causes.
"As kids we rode bikes," remembers Crandell. "In Troy that's how we got around."
Today, Chris Crandell rides not to get around, but to get awareness around for a good cause.