A team of Michigan Amateur Radio volunteers supported communication on July 11 for the 39th running of the One Helluva Ride (OHR) bicycle tour. The annual event, sponsored by the Ann Arbor Bicycle Touring Society (AABTS), kicks off from and ends at the Chelsea, Michigan, fairgrounds and offers rides ranging from 15 to 100 miles. The longer routes pass through the town of Hell. This marked the 25th year that members of the Arrow Communication Association (ARROW) provided the communication infrastructure and “SAG” support to riders falling behind or running into trouble.
The ARROW group had support from the Chelsea Amateur Radio Club (CARC) and the Livingston County Amateur Radio Klub (LARK) and made use of the CARC’s 2 meter repeater, which is situated to offer coverage to the entire race route. Many of the participating hams are ARES or RACES.
During the race, the radio amateurs provided SAG vehicles plus personnel to ride along in AABTS vehicles. Services they offer include spare tubes to those suffering flats, foot pumps, food and water for those riders who have run out, and transportation back to the starting point for those experiencing mechanical failure or suffering exhaustion. Hams also are placed at each of the three food stops.
“There are many places on the route where cell phone coverage is marginal, making Amateur Radio an excellent choice,” said George Bykrit, K9TRV. “Small beams are deployed at the food stops to provide more reliable communication with net control than a 5/8-wave whip would provide.”
Bykrit headed up the SAG effort for AABTS for more than 25 years, and he eventually returned to Amateur Radio in 2004, after a nearly 40 year absence. Other AABTS members have gotten licensed due to their association with the hams supporting the ride.
One hundred riders registered for the 15 mile “fun ride” for young children with their parents. Some 1600 riders signed up for one of the longer routes — 39, 64, 75, or 100 miles. Bykrit said there were no serious injuries, although one rider suffered an apparent heart attack on the ride. The individual received CPR from two other riders and was evacuated by ambulance and has since recovered.
Dan Romanchik, KB6NU, handled net control duties for the morning shift, while Steve Andre, WB8WSF, took the afternoon stint, which lasted until the last rider was back to the start. Byrkit provided the net control station gear. Volunteers were organized by Jim Lommel, WD8RWI. Others involved included Bruce Graham, KT8TD; Jeff Zupan, W8SGZ; Lori Zupan, KD8GTW; Dave New, N8SBE; Dinesh Cynam, AB3DC; Joe Glandorf, AC8ES; Bruce Freeburger, KD8MFR; Sam Spiteri, K8NOS; Jim Jagow, KD8TBT; Michelle Roderick, KD8GWX; Harvey Bauss, KD8MUP; Lester Rowe, W8LDS, and John Wilson, K8TTI. — Thanks to George Byrkit, K9TRV