Richard Fries Presented with a Custom Firefly Road Bike by Industry Peers
BOSTON, MA., February 23, 2013 – Saturday evening more than 70 bicycle industry professionals, advocates, and friends of well-known area bike race announcer Richard Fries came together to show their appreciation for his dedication, passion and advocacy for riding and racing bicycles.
Fries, a self-proclaimed cycling evangelist and a development advisor at Bikes Belong, was presented with a brand new custom-built Firefly road bike at the Harpoon Brewery Tasting Room, under the guise of a fundraiser for People for Bikes.
The evolution of this feel-good story is indicative of the kind of effect Richard Fries has on people in the cycling community. Four months ago, Gary Thornton of Electra Bicycles and Jed Kornbluh of Sommerville Sports were chatting and it came up in conversation that Fries seems to spend all of his time helping others and rarely gets the recognition that he deserves.
Thornton and Kornbluh decided to reach out to their peers in the cycling industry, suggesting they raise money to present Fries with a new bicycle as a thank you for his continued support of all things cycling.
Phone calls were made, people were contacted, and the response was overwhelming. In less than five hours, the duo had enough in donations to build Fries a custom bike, complete with couplers on the frame to enable the bike to be broken down into pieces for travel.
Massachusetts-based pro-cyclist Tim Johnson, who is a long-time friend of Fries, was also instrumental with donations, particularly from SRAM and Zipp for key bike components, as well as in acquiring specifications for the bike with the help of Fries’ wife, Deb, and his daughter, Emma.
Emma used the ploy of a school assignment in her geometry class to fool Richard into thinking he was supplying crucial bike and body-geometry measurements to help her with her math project. Those specs were supplied to Boston-based Firefly Bicycles, which then built the custom titanium road bike. Additional funds from friends who’d accompanied Richard on last year’s Ride on Washington helped to complete the build.
Then it was just a matter of creating a ruse event to gather everyone together to present the bike to Richard. Jed and Gary hit upon the idea of a fundraiser in Boston to bring supporters together to “celebrate the end of cyclocross season, the imminent return of spring, and the love of the bicycle.”
They enlisted Fries to emcee the event, telling him it was also going to be the public announcement of the dates for the 2013 Tim Johnson Ride on Washington. Attendees would be able to check out the new Harpoon Brewery Tasting Room and get to sample some of the fine Harpoon beers and mingle with fellow cyclists for a $5 cover at the door.
As friends and supporters in the packed room mingled and chatted, Richard addressed the crowd and began discussing the upcoming Ride on Washington, the importance of advocacy, and the mission of People for Bikes and Bikes Belong. He then turned the mike over to Tim Johnson, who launched into an impassioned narrative of the vital role that Richard Fries has played in the cycling community over the years. This set the stage for the reveal of the actual purpose for the gathering.
Johnson continued his description of the impact that Fries had on him as a young bike racer. Tim hadn’t quite grasped the concept that he himself was in a position to use his fame and talent on the bike for something other than just winning races. “I was a kid on a bike who raced. I was a racer, that was it. Richard has been the guy who’s been saying what it means to be a rider, to be someone out on the road, what it means to have concern for someone that you don’t know, someone who’s been in an accident.”
Fries had impressed upon the young bike racer the power that Johnson’s voice could lend to a cause, and what it means to be someone to speak for others. “What Richard has been able to do is to see this idea of bike racing and advocacy together, and he’s watched it grow up to where it is now and to what it could be later on,” Johnson noted.
He then turned the mike over to Gary Thornton, who also spoke movingly about the role Richard has played in the New England cycling community as both a race announcer and as an impassioned advocate for regular people who ride their bicycles for fun, exercise, and transportation. Gary then asked everyone’s forgiveness as he explained the real reason we all had been brought together, and told of the plan to give Richard this very special thank you gift.
As the bike was being wheeled out from a back room by Kevin Wolfson of Firefly, a stunned and emotional Fries was rendered speechless, something longtime friends say has never happened before. As Richard accepted the bicycle, he noted with delight that it had been built so that it could be broken in two for travel, something he said that he loved the most about it, “So that I can travel with it, and I can show off to people all over the world a Boston bike, and show where the best bikes in the world are made.”
As Gary told the gathered crowd Saturday night, during last year’s Ride on Washington, “The reason we chose Firefly was because of Richard’s absolute love of the Boston scene. This idea came to me when Richard’s good friend, Chris Zigmont, had said something a while ago like, ‘Why does nobody give Richard a bike?’ I thought to myself, anybody could give Richard a bike, but he’d probably just turn around and give it to some junior, because that’s the kind of guy he is. And then on Tim Johnson’s Ride on Washington, Richard stopped and pulled a pocket knife out of his pocket to fix his Merlin, and I’m thinking he’s riding with guys on $6 to $10,000 bicycles, and he’s fixing his 13-year old bike with a pocket knife!”
To ensure that Richard wouldn’t for a moment think that he could give the bike to someone else and revert back to his vintage Merlin, Firefly gave the bike a unique personalization. This most fitting finishing touch was described to the crowd by Tim Johnson,
“There’s one thing unique to this bike that makes it Richard’s. Richard exists in two worlds, or as he puts it, Richard is a man in two canoes. He has one foot in each – racing and advocacy – and he’s constantly trying to move somewhere, and it’s really hard.” The personal inscription painted on the chainstay reads, One man, two canoes.”
Jackie Douglas, the Executive Director of Livable Streets, was on hand to help join in the celebration. She has worked closely with Richard over the years to help develop relationships between the various cycling organizations in the Boston community. “Events like these are great to bring people from all different backgrounds and sectors together under one vision. That’s when we see positive change happen. The work by Richard and many in the room to bridge the gap is critical and energizing for groups like LivableStreets, who are working day and night to make the Boston region better for biking, walking, and public transit.”
Additional money collected in excess of the bike cost will be donated to People for Bikes. “It’s what Richard would want,” said Thornton, “I’ve known Richard for many years and he’s always giving his time and energy to help others, whether you’re a pro, enthusiast or Best Buddies participant.”
The event also officially kicked off the 3rd Annual Tim Johnson’s Ride on Washington, a 5-day over 500 mile bicycle ride. The ride will depart Boston, MA on April 24th and arrive in Washington, DC on April 28th, 2013. For more information on this event, visit www.rideonwashington.org.