This year’s BRAKING THE CYCLE™ bike ride from Boston to New York is right around the corner. The September 28th—30th epic ride, also known as the “Civil Rights march on two wheels” will mark the 10th year that cyclists will embark on this challenging ride in the name of loved ones living with HIV/AIDS, as well as those who have passed on. The donations from the ride will support Housing Works’ lifesaving services, providing healthcare, housing, job training, amongst other crucial programs for New Yorkers in need.
We spoke to the amazing Andy Dick, a long time “crew member” of Braking the Cycle—who has supported cyclists by facilitating both their medical and mechanical needs throughout the ride—ever since the annual ride’s inception. Andy talks about how HIV/AIDS hits close to home, and how volunteering allows him to give back to the community.
How long have you been involved with BRAKING THE CYCLE™?
This will be my tenth year.
How did you get involved?
I had done the last couple of northeast AIDS rides as crew, so when that went away, and Eric [Epstein] started BRAKING THE CYCLE™, I got contacted and signed up to crew. I have been around ever since.
Were you initially drawn to the cycling aspect or the cause aspect of BRAKING THE CYCLE™?
The cause. I don’t cycle. I’ve always crewed. I have lost friends to HIV and AIDS. One of my best friends is living with HIV, so it’s something that’s never very far from my mind.
What does being part of crew actually entail?
During the event, my role is as the leader of the sweep team. The sweep team is comprised of a number of vehicles that do two things: The smaller vehicle (usually SUVs) patrol the open sections of the route looking for riders who are having some kind of difficulty, whether it’s a mechanical problem, a medical problem. Usually the riders are hot and tired, or they are done. Whatever the case may be, we will stop and pick them up, then move their bike and bring them forward to the next oasis [refueling station] where they can get whatever services they need.
At the oasis there is a second part of our team, which are a combination of passenger vans and cargo vans that will take people that want to move up the route. The vans will bring folks further down the route, so they can either get back on the road or decide they’re done for the day, and the vans will take them back to the hotel.
How would you describe the type of support that you give the riders, is it physical or emotional?
It’s a combination of both. A lot of times, it kind of depends why they are with us. If they are with us because their bike broke down, they may be annoyed. We might just get them to relax and remind them of why they’re there. If they are having a medical issue, or a very emotional reaction to the event, we’ll just talk with them. Particularly in the afternoon, we’ll get people who are in the truck because their body is just done. A lot of people get really upset about that, like “I promised myself or I promised my friends, who pushed me to ride every mile, and now I’m sitting in this truck.” The thing that I say to them is, “That’s not what it’s about. Whether you rode it on the bike or if you’re here with us, you are riding every mile. None of the people who pledged you money, or particularly the people that you are riding in memory of—the friends and family members who you’ve lost to AIDS—none of those people want you to come here and ride until you hurt yourself.” We tell them to relax in the air conditioning so they can ride later or the next day without injuring themselves.
What’s the most inspirational moment with a cyclist that you can recall over the years?
I remember a rider—someone who has ridden several times, and who has also crewed—that I picked up about 3 years ago. He had ridden halfway to the next oasis and was on the side of the road really not feeling well, and not looking well. He was being kind of stubborn not wanting to get in the truck. I finally convinced him to ride with us and have medical check him out at the next oasis. When we got to talking, I found out that he was a long-term survivor, diagnosed fairly early in the crisis. The thing that he said that has always stuck with me was that when he was first diagnosed, he helped start a vocal support group for PWAs [people with AIDS], and for the dozen or so folks who were in that group to begin with, he’s the only one who is still alive.
How does the continuation of BRAKING THE CYCLE™ help people living with HIV/AIDS?
With Housing Works, the funding goes to support so many different things, and support people living with HIV/AIDS on so many levels. It helps them to not be homeless, and begin to get treatment. Then there is other stuff that you guys do like the job training and the advocacy. It kind of covers the whole gamut. There’s both the direct support to your immediate clients, and impacts the broader community through the advocacy work that you do. It’s like what we say a lot of the time to potential donors, that “you’re money is going to go help a whole bunch of people who you may never meet, and who will never know who you are, but your money is still making a difference.”
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