Fletcher Flyer – The First Year

In anticipation of the second decade of offering the Fletcher Flyer, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at our past. I hope you enjoy learning about the Flyer and are ready to make history on our 11th annual ride. — Ben Elderd

The First Year

by Charlie Clogston

The concept of a relatively flat riding event came from the mind of our webmaster Greg Wilcox. He observed that all of the cycling century events in WNC were climbing rides and they touted the number of feet of climb they contained. His concept of a relatively flat ride would give the less accomplished rider a chance to ride a century in WNC. At that time the BRBC’s only bike event was the successful Hilly Hellacious, a difficult climbing ride run by Michele Trantham.

In the summer of 2003, Greg approached Claudia Nix and recommended the BRBC have a flat ride event, and Claudia responded that he needed to plan the route, organize a team, and ride the route once before the event.

Greg and Ralph Draves worked together to find the flattest route in the Asheville area. They came up with a route starting at Fletcher Park, which has been the start/finish to this day. The initial ride had three U-turns and two 10% climbs (on Glenn Bridge, and Fanning Bridge) just before the end. But the century had only 4,400 feet of climb.

The next requirement was to ride the route, which was done by Greg, Suzy Zarabi, and Charlie Clogston in October. We started at 7 AM from Fletcher Park and it was so cold that we rode the first part of the ride with our hands inside our jerseys. By the middle of the ride we had shed our leg and arm warmers, but had put them back on by the time we finished. However, we had ridden a route that was a lot of fun and a completely different experience than a climbing century or even a very flat century.

Next we formed a team, adding Sylvia Edgar and Charlie Clogston to the team of Ralph and Greg. The first task was to find an event name. The first suggestion was Silly Salacious (a play on the name of our other event, Hilly Hellacious). The name Fletcher Flyer won hands down.

Then we had to choose a premium. We were agreed that T-shirts were too expensive and we wanted something different. We decided on caps because they were manufactured in Marion, so we could get our hands around the neck of the supplier, if there were problems. The caps were a big hit and are collector items today.

Another constraint was that we did not want to cannibalize the Hilly sponsors or volunteers. The rest stops were the most labor intensive task. We needed an organization to staff the rest stops. Julie White mentioned that the WNC Alliance might be interested and we approached them. They agreed to do the rest stops and serve the after ride meal, if they could have the profits. We developed the by-line of “Ride for Clean Air”, which represents the efforts of WNCA to reduce the emissions of the TVA in Tennessee.

Ralph Draves contacted businesses or land owners to place our rest stops. Two of the rest stops were used more than once by riders, but that made it difficult for rest stop personnel to tell the rider which way to exit. One of the rest stops was later named the Bermuda Triangle, since riders got lost frequently.

We charged $20 for advance registration and $25 for Sunday registration. The standard meal was either a hot dog or a vegetarian “Not Dog”. We did offer a premium meal of a Blue Sky Wrap for $5 more. Total cost of the hot dogs were $145, a bit less than our catering cost today.

Aug Blog ImageFletcher Parks and Recreation was very enthusiastic about a bike event and was totally supportive. The new Chief of the Fletcher Police Department drove us around the parts of the route where traffic control was needed. I told him that it was the first time I had ridden in the front seat of a police car.

Pat Clogston agreed to help out on Saturday and Sunday registration. I wanted to do the first inperson registration on Saturday and I did very well, but was so excited I forgot to collect the money. Fortunately, the rider asked if he could pay. Pat discovered the organization of the packets was not going to work efficiently and took all of them home Saturday night to reorganize them.

Bruce Rogers agreed to lead the SAG efforts and Nelda Williams ran the local amateur radio club. There was some question about whether Bruce or Nelda was in charge of SAGS and, at times, it seemed that even the ride director reported to Nelda. But she had more experience in bike events than any of us by decades.

Overall, the ride went smoothly. We did have a crash at the famous bridge on Lindsey Loop due to gravel. They brought back a rider who wanted to continue the ride, but needed band aids. We had none, but Fletcher Park did. Bruce decided then we needed to have SAG boxes with first aid supplies. We had one rider, Lesli Meadows, who did 120 miles, having missed a turn.

We did not have a clue of how many riders to expect, but the quality reputation of the BRBC’s bike events really helped us attract riders. The nature of the flat ride attracted experienced riders, because they could ride 100 miles at a very fast pace and be home for the afternoon. Less experienced riders were able to do their first century without massive climbing. We had 216 registered riders that first year, which was above expectations. Our net profit was just under $1,200.

The initial success of the Fletcher Flyer is primarily due to Greg’s unique concept, Ralph’s super route development capabilities, Claudia’s rest stop expertise, Michele’s processes and disciplines from the Hilly, and the hard work of the volunteers, some of whom agreed to work both the Flyer and Hilly. Each succeeding ride director brought the Flyer to a new level with fresh thinking and a focus on rider satisfaction.