Passionate Pursuits: Drawn to Cycling

The purpose of Excelsior Life’s Passionate Pursuits is to help shine a light on faculty and staff successfully balancing work, home and family – just like our students.

Alan Moorse is a research analyst in the Office of Institutional Effectiveness at Excelsior College. Outside of work, Moorse has a passion for putting wheels in motion and volunteers time with Troy Bike Rescue. He shares his story with Excelsior Life during National Bike Month.

Excelsior Life: Your passion for bikes began at a young age. What fascinates you about riding and working on them?

Alan Moorse TBR

This is the Troy Bike Rescue (TBR) showroom, with some bikes staged for a gift-away in December 2013. TBR and a group from GE Schenectady prepared 80+ bikes in two days.

Moorse: A lot of things draw me into cycling. I love to be outside and moving, whether in the city or out in the country, on foot or on a bike. I also like to wander around, and I like a physical challenge. There are moments aboard a bike that can be exhilarating to a degree I can’t even describe. Then, there are the mechanical aspects. A bike is a system of simple machines – wheels, levers, bearings – but all together, it’s an amazing piece of engineering. Making a decent bike work well is engrossing, very satisfying, and surprisingly easy to do. (Cheaply made bikes rarely work well and frustrate me terribly.)

Excelsior Life: Today do you ride long distances to explore like you did as a kid? Mountain bikes, road bikes, etc?

Moorse: I still like to ramble, but my distances have stayed about the same. A lap around the island where I grew up is about 25 miles, and side-trips might double that. I still prefer rides in that range. As for bikes, let’s just say “yes.” I have a classic road bike and a mountain bike I use for grocery runs, city trips, dirt roads and trails. There’s also a touring tandem in our household.

Excelsior Life: How did you get involved with Troy Bike Rescue (TBR)?

Moorse: The TBR shop was in a storefront in downtown Troy when I worked there. I’d usually walk by at lunchtime, when they were closed, and look at the odd bikes they’d have arranged in the window. One evening I walked by and there were all these people working on bikes. The shop floor was crowded and people and bikes had overflowed onto the sidewalk. I asked one of the volunteers what it was and how to get involved, and a week or so later, there I was!

Excelsior Life: Can you tell us more about the organization?

Moorse: Troy Bike Rescue has a shop called The Wheelhouse, on 6th Avenue in North Troy, NY but TBR itself is not a bike shop. We’re a collective of bike people devoted to building community through bicycles and to promoting about a dozen ideals, most prominently environmentalism, self-reliance, empowerment, and social justice. We help take bikes out of the waste stream and get them back under people, where they can be useful and fun. We help people learn mechanical skills so they can maintain and repair their own bikes or customize them to do exactly what they need. We provide a no-cost or low-cost way for people to own a bike. We fix up hundreds of bikes for kids each year and distribute them in “gift-away” events. And we’re all volunteers, with a shop entirely based on donations.

Excelsior Life: How long have you been volunteering? What do you do as a volunteer?

Moorse: I think I have been a volunteer since the summer of 2010. I usually go to the Wheelhouse on Sunday’s, a day it’s not officially open. A few of us spend the afternoon cleaning and organizing, a job that’s never done! We’re also there in case someone stops by with a bike problem or comes to drop off a donation, and we can work with new volunteers who want to build up their skills. So I sweep up, sort parts, patch tubes and grease bearings, put tools away, and help whoever walks in the door.

Excelsior Life: What motivates you to volunteer?

Moorse: From a selfish point of view, I enjoy working on bikes and hanging out with bike people. More importantly, there are people who want or need bikes and can’t afford them, or who rely on their bikes to get to work and don’t know how to fix them if they break down. I can help with that. I am motivated when someone rides away with more skills, more confidence, and maybe a new bike.

Excelsior Life: Are there upcoming events?

Moorse: We will hold our annual Bike Fest party and fund raiser on Saturday, May 31, at the Sanctuary for Independent Media and on a nearby street. It will include a bike rodeo for kids, a buffet dinner, live music, raffles, a cake auction, and a movie. The rodeo begins at 3 p.m., and doors open at 5.

The next day, some TBR members will be volunteer mechanics for the Saratoga Tour de Cure, a fund raiser for diabetes research.

Excelsior Life: How do others get involved?

Moorse: If someone wants to learn about bikes or do our Learn-and-Earn program to get a bike, or work on a bike they already have, they can go to the shop on a Monday or Wednesday evening, 5-8 p.m. Be prepared for a bit of chaos and for getting dirty. Those who identify as female are welcome at Fem Shop Thursday evenings, as well, also 5-8 p.m. You don’t have to have mechanical skills to volunteer – you can learn as you go, or you can act as greeter, the first smile a new visitor meets in the shop. And those who would like to get involved by donating bikes, tools, supplies, or even money can stop by the shop anytime we’re open or on Sundays, 12-5 p.m. There are donation notes on our website, as well as a wish-list of stuff we always need. For more information, visit http://troybikerescue.org/