Wind forces Beer Run
Rice students spent last Saturday's Beer Bike 2011 participating in early morning celebrations, a campus-wide water balloon fight and bike races as Willy Week came to an end. Will Rice College won both the Alumni and Women's races while Jones College won the Men's race.
This year, Beer Bike faced some logistical difficulties as well as problems with vendors and a high number of collisions during the races.
Director of Student Center and Campus-wide Programs Boyd Beckwith estimated there were 11 people involved in collisions this Beer Bike, a number which Campus-wide Coordinator Matt Sawyer said was significantly higher than anything he had ever seen.
"We're going to have to look at the quality of riders they put on the track," Sid Richardson College senior Sawyer said. "If you've never been on a bike before you have no business being on the track with people who are going significantly faster than you."
Sawyer said that many of the riders were not comfortable with the pack-type riding that occurs during Beer Bike nor the high speeds many bikers reach.
"The kinds of crashes we were most concerned with were pack crashes," Sawyer said. "Only one occurred in a pack and was a crash of two cyclists."
Wiess College Beer Bike Coordinator and women's biker Ruthie Halberstadt agreed that the quality of bikers was an issue.
"I think it was a problem of inexperience," Halberstadt, a sophomore, said. "People didn't know how to handle the wind on the corners."
According to Sawyer, there was a clinic on biking safety. However many bikers still do not get much experience prior to the actual races. Sawyer said that at colleges like Will Rice, bike practice starts as early as O-Week. While this helps with biker safety, Sawyer said that they could not require this of all colleges.
Director of Student Health Services Mark Jenkins, an avid cyclist according to Sawyer, consulted with Sawyer during the races and said the cause of most crashes was a single rider losing control of the bicycle, sometimes because of windy conditions on the first turn.
"More training experience in these types of conditions can be helpful but even professional riders crash," Jenkins said. "I have seen windier races on that track with fewer crashes but sometimes luck is against you in a bike race."
To prevent further injuries on the track, Sawyer decided to switch to a Beer Run to finish the men's race.
"I heard rumors that the decision to stop the races came from somewhere other than myself," Sawyer said. "The decision to stop the races was mine and mine alone, though it was made in consultation with Chief Taylor, Boyd and the college coordinators."
The Beer Run staggered colleges and the GSA at various locations around the track based on their approximate standing in the Men's race before it was stopped. Each college chose five men to run the rest of the race, completing one lap each.
Will Rice Bike Team Co-Captain Peter Hokanson said he was satisfied with the Beer Run decision.
"I think it was a good call," Hokanson said. "It was far more crashes than I've seen since I've been biking as an undergrad."
Jones men's biker Luis Fernandez said he was disappointed but felt that it was the right decision.
"I was pretty upset that I didn't get to ride because I'd been training for a long time but I understood the decision to switch to a Beer Run," Fernandez, a freshman, said. "In hindsight, it was a good thing that we got to do a Beer Run because everybody would have been pissed off if they had just cancelled it."
Beckwith said that the wind was an issue, especially coming around the second turn. He also said that there are problems with the track itself. According to Beckwith, it is not wide enough to incorporate all 11 colleges and the GSA at once. Rice Program Council has already spent money to widen the first and last turns. However, Beckwith said that RPC is going to have some significant challenges coming up with its priorities for next year such as where money could be saved in order to spend more on increasing safety.
Another difficulty Sawyer and college coordinators dealt with was reformatting the water balloon fight after the majority of trucks to be used in the parade cancelled. The traditional parade format changed to a stationary fight in Founder's Court.
"There was no way to anticipate 11 trucks cancelling," Sawyer said. "There are a number of issues that led to the cancellation of the trucks - you can't pin the cancellations on any one thing."
Sawyer said he had heard that some students found the stationary fight more enjoyable because it became more war-like.
"You got to participate with more than just the colleges founded near yours," Sawyer said. "It was close enough you could fight with everyone."
However, Duncan College freshman Jeremy Scher thought the stationary fight did not live up to his expectations for the traditional parade format.
"I think I would have liked the [parade] more. I think it would have been more exciting if people were moving and not all crowded into one space," Scher said.
Wiess College Coordinator Breanna Chachere said that the water balloon fight at Founder's Court was generally well received by Wiessmen.
"The biggest problem [with the stationary fight] was having to move all the water balloons at 11 p.m. the night before Beer Bike," Wiess College Coordinator Yahaira Verdejo said.
Other issues involved losing 1,500 portions of food because Tasty Fro-Yo double-booked and was not able to come. Also, the Papa John's truck broke down, stopping pizza service for a time, but Sawyer said Prince's stepped up and helped make up for food during that time.
"Prince's did an absolutely outstanding job," Sawyer said. "The only problem was they were cooking burgers faster than people could put condiments on them."
Another problem came with the amount of seating available. Beckwith said that they had just as much seating as last year, but bad weather had prevented students from coming out, skewing perception of how much seating would be needed. This year was the first well-attended Beer Bike with the two new colleges, Duncan and McMurtry. Beckwith said that with the current budget though they are going to have to think hard about ways to increase seating without sacrificing something else.
Wiess College Coordinator Jen Shafer said that the way her college pulled together through the difficulties of Beer Bike proved the value of this long-standing Rice tradition.
"This experience solidified the fact that Beer Bike is so important to Rice's culture and students, seeing how much people appreciate it and are willing to help out," Shafer, a sophomore, said. "It really underscored the fact that this needs to continue."
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