Volunteer Weekend: Harbor to the Bay and Hub on Wheels

On September 14th and 15th, the team volunteered at two different events to support our local cycling community and help raise money for two great causes. These rides have become an annual fall tradition for us and we’re honored that we continue to be invited back. Harbor to the Bay (H2B)  is a 125 mile ride from Boston to Provincetown to raise money for HIV/AIDS clinical research and care organizations. The event just completed its 17th year and has raised $6 million over that time! We left at pre-dawn hours to marshal at different points along the route; providing safety, guidance, and support for the riders as they complete their journey. Hub on Wheels is an event promoted by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and EF Education First to increase cycling participation in the city and raise money for Boston Children’s Hospital and pediatric cancer research. Our volunteers helped riders fix flats and other mechanicals and shepherd them through dangerous intersections. Now in its 15th year, approximately 5,000 cyclists participate! These events also offer new riders to the team a great way to get involved and make new friends!

Harbor to the Bay riders receive their briefing before departing Sagamore to ride up Cape Cod all the way to Provincetown

George recaps his long day in the saddle:

If you asked me to wake up at 4:00am on any other Saturday morning than the one for Harbor to the Bay, I would have given you an unenthused response. This Saturday morning was different, though. I hopped out of bed with a pep in my step and I was ready for the day. I had some coffee, breakfast, and then headed out the door. 4:22am. I was excited. Excited not only to complete my longest ride to date, but also excited to meet new people while supporting a cause greater than any single rider. Ever since arriving in Cambridge in early June, I have either been on the saddle by myself or with another Navy buddy completing some of the rides posted on the cycling team’s website. Besides one of the casual Wednesday morning RSC coffee rides, I had never really ridden with the cycling team, or any cycling team for that matter. I did not know what to expect.

After biking the three and a half minutes from my apartment to the meeting spot outside of the student center, all I could see were a few flashing bike lights and the silhouettes of other riders waiting in a circle for everyone to arrive. Once all 15 of us arrived, we started introducing ourselves *in the dark* by name and department we are associated with; immediately, I was at a loss. Luckily, everyone on the cycling team was so friendly and inclusive that once the sun crept above the horizon, I was able to place names to faces.

MIT kit is well represented at our lunch stop in Sagamore before splitting up into pairs for our marshaling stations on the Cape

Halfway through the ride from Boston, we stopped for lunch near the Sagamore Bridge. At this point in the day, more volunteers were out setting up the pit stops and more riders were out prepping to start their trek to Provincetown. I was able to converse with some of the volunteers and riders and during these conversations, I felt what this ride meant to these individuals; yet another admirable aspect of the Harbor to the Bay event.

After our stomachs were refueled and our bottles refilled, we resumed our journey up the Cape,  pairs of people gradually peeling off at our marshaling positions. Around mile 82.5, Sarah, the women’s road captain, and I pulled off the course, changed into our neon yellow mesh marshaling getup, and started directing and cheering on all the riders for the next few hours. Once the final H2B rider passed, we changed back into our cycling kits and waited for the rest of the team to ride through the course to pick us up. After a few hours without moving much, it was quite difficult to get the legs warmed back up to ride the last, grueling 40-some-odd miles left to P-town.

It takes more than a couple group mechanicals to get Dylan down!

After arriving in Provincetown at the end of the ride, everyone was cheering each other on and all of the volunteers were thanking us for our support of the event. Little did they know that without them, we would not have been able to complete the ride. In my honest opinion, after seeing the reaction on everyone’s faces after each of us devoured one (or four in my case) of the homemade chocolate chip brownies at one of the final pit stops is what carried us through to the end. Thank you again to all the other volunteers and SAG wagon drivers that supported H2B.

Finally, after arriving in Provincetown, we all gathered around a few picnic tables on a wooden balcony overlooking the beach at sunset. We all celebrated by either buying a local beer from one of the nearby outdoor bars or indulging in some freshly caught seafood from a local joint right on the pier. This was a perfect ending to one of my most memorable, valuable days yet. Around 7:20pm, we all made our way to the 7:30pm Bay State Cruise fast ferry to Boston. We each filed into the ferry after racking our bikes on the back deck and gathered around tables and other guests. While some were able to hold conversations for the hour and a half back to Boston, some (*cough* me *cough*) almost hit REM sleep. Wow, what a day. I cannot thank MIT Cycling enough for the opportunity and friendship they provided!

The whole crew celebrates at the end of the day in Provincetown

Shreyas describes his experience marshaling at Hub on Wheels:

When I heard that there was an opportunity to ride with thousands of other cyclists, I couldn’t wait to get involved! Having started biking only this summer, I wasn’t quick enough to join the Harbor to the Bay ride out to Cape Cod just yet, but the prospect of major streets in Boston being closed off to motor vehicles to make way for cyclists as part of the ~50mi Hub on Wheels ride was still very exciting. Having set off at 6:30 AM for the ride, I really appreciated the breakfast burrito we were given at registration to help us fuel a bit.

Thousands of Hub on Wheels riders line up at the start at City Hall Plaza in downtown Boston

Although it felt strange to be a “marshal” on the course while being a rider with so little experience myself, riding with the club for a few months gave me a bit of confidence, enough to be able to help other riders with basic mechanical issues. I stopped along with a couple of other cyclists riding with the club, to help direct cyclists at a couple of intersections on the route, but overall, marshaling turned out to be pretty chill. The whole event was extremely well-organized, and we got to eat and refuel at multiple stops along the route. We even got to meet a pro cyclist (Tom Scully) who rode at the Tour de France for Education First this year! My favorite part of the ride, however, was the paceline that we got going immediately after our long stops to fulfill our marshaling duties – thanks to the long pulls by some of the faster riders, I think it’s safe to say I won’t be going any faster on any of those roads in Boston, until next year.

A once a year opportunity: pedaling along Storrow Drive under the Mass Ave Bridge!