We’re proud of our guys in the brewhouse. With this year’s City to Shore ride, they’re really taking our Core Value of Be a Good Neighbor to heart. Nearly the entire production team is stepping up to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis research, and they need all the help they can get.
This week, we’re checking in with the guys doing the 80-mile ride, Head Brewer Brian Hink and Brewer Mark Graves. Neither of them are strangers to biking.
“I grew up in Ocean City,” Brian explains. “You didn’t get a ride anywhere; you got on your bike and pedaled your butt there.”
His first job was in 4th grade, selling newspapers on the Ocean City Boardwalk, getting on his bike to ride up to the Boardwalk to be a modern-day Newsie. Now, living out in Mays Landing, he finds quite a few places to take a ride his Fuji road bike and going on longer rides with his brother, Andrew.
“The City to Shore route used to go right in front of my parents’ house,” he tells us. “I grew up every September seeing 8,000 bike riders going past. Even as a kid, I knew it was something I wanted to do.”
“I’d gotten out of biking for awhile,” he says, “but when I got back in, Andrew and I wanted to do it. That summer, I biked a shitton. Every day off, I’d go for a ride. If I’d get off work early, I’d go for a ride. I really trained hard that summer and put some miles on my bike.
“This year? Not so much,” he laughs.
“Once everyone else started signing up,” he says, “I knew I’d kick myself if I didn’t do it. Especially with the entire team doing it. Since I signed up, I’ve ridden more in the past two weeks than I have in the past two years combined.”
Mark’s first job was repair and sales in a bike shop — but he hasn’t really ridden in years. Luckily, the skills he learned there will likely come in handy as he bikes 80 miles.
“I used to ride my bike everywhere as a kid,” he tells us. “I loved it. City to Shore is kind of an excuse to get back into it, because I really like it.”
Now that he’s training, he’s riding a few times a week.
“Mark, what are you doing to prepare for the ride?” we ask.
“Riding my bike,” he answers, laughing.
Probably a good place to start, man.
“I think it was an easy bleed-over, because in February I told myself that I really wanted to get back into shape.”
Mark’s been killing it on his weight-loss journey. His transformation is remarkable — we’d looked at some of his pictures from when he started at CMBC a year ago, and looking at him now, he’s a much smaller guy.
He’s done a few 5Ks — including the St. Jude Rock ‘N’ Roll 5K in Nashville — and he really got hooked on running.
“It really helped a lot of things, besides weight,” he says. “It helped with frame-of-mind, and it was fun.”
“When City to Shore came up,” he says, “I started training on the bike. I bought a bike and have just been going at it ever since.”
He’s been riding all over the place since he got back in the saddle — er, seat.
“There’s a lot of places where I live in Medford Lakes where I can do hills — and they are nasty hills — to straightaways to really pretty back roads to long and flat long distance rides.”
Brian, our veteran, says that’s going to help him on the ride.
“It’s a pretty diverse landscape,” he says. “People think South Jersey is all flat — and for most of the ride, the elevation is going downhill — but you have a fair number of uphill climbs, too.”
Brian’s been training before work, doing a 10-15 mile loop around Cape May. Luckily, we have showers at work.
“It’s great because it really wakes you up,” he says. “it really gets you in the right frame-of-mind.”
He’s modified his hybrid bike to be stationary, and on the days that he doesn’t ride to work, he gets up on it and rides a bit.
Mark thinks the training goes by faster than running.
“You get done and whether you have something that speaks to you or not, you’re like, ‘Holy shit, I just did 30 miles!’ It just seems to coast,” he laughs, proud of his pun.
The guys at the brewery don’t really train together too often, but Brian went out with Andrew and Eddie a few times. However, coordinating schedules has been difficult over the past few weeks, with production working extraordinarily long hours to keep up with summer demand.
Hopefully, now that Labor Day has rolled around, they’ll be able to find more time to train together.
Andrew tried to get all of the guys together to do a ride from the brewery to the ferry, then over to Dogfish Head and back. A 30-mile loop with stops for beer: sounds right up their alley, but it rained that day.
“I’m trying to get over the weather,” Mark says, “because I see people out there in the rain who still ride.”
Brian likens biking in the rain to life in the brewhouse. Our Core Value of Work Safe, Work Smart can just as easily be applied to biking: Bike Safe, Bike Smart.
“If it’s pouring,” he says, “you’d be an idiot to be out there riding. If it comes on suddenly, that’s one thing, but if you’re like, ‘It’s raining. I think I’m gonna go for a bike ride,’ personally I think that’s kinda stupid.”
Injuries are a main concern for both of them. Brian could still do most of his job if he had an injury, but Mark would be in some serious trouble if he had a bad injury.
“That’s why I want to be safe and smart on the road,” Brian says. “Don’t cut cars off, don’t be distracted, don’t listen to headphones. I hate it when I look over and see someone riding with headphones. You’ve got to be able to hear what’s going on around you.”
Mark’s concerns have changed over the years. When he was younger, he used to love climbing hills and flying down them, but that’s a thing of the past.
“There’s a big one by me,” he says. “It’s even bigger than anything in my old town. When I’m flying down it, I’m waaaaay more cautious. I’m thinking more, ‘If I get hurt, that’s my job.’
“I definitely give it a little more pause, but I still love flying down the hills,” Mark admits.
“You’re gonna love the bridges,” Brian says. “The bridges are fun on the backend. They suck on the frontend.”
Mark once tried to drag race a truck.
“Why would you drag race a truck?” we ask, incredulously.
“Because he was going slow, and I was on a bike,” he laughs.
“…how’d you do?” we follow-up, knowingly.
“I at least beat him in first and second gear. In third, I didn’t have a chance.”
The guys had some relatively practical reasons for choosing the 80-mile distance.
“A hundred seemed like a lot,” Mark says, laughing. “Eighty seemed a lot more manageable.”
Brian, on the other hand, knew that if he’d done less than eighty miles that he wouldn’t have done any training at all.
“When I did it in 2014, I was away for a week, and took the redeye back from San Francisco,” he says. “I hadn’t ridden for two months before that, and the next morning I did the hundred-mile route without any trouble at all.
“It was just like riding a bike.”
(We’re just going to have to get used to getting that joke in these blogs.)
They break their training down into 15-20-mile rides a few times a week, but there’s really nothing anyone can do to prepare for riding 80 miles.
In the brewhouse, they have jobs that are both physically and mentally demanding. It’s easier for them to get shorter, more frequent stretches in and have a rest day in between.
“I don’t want to get up on a Saturday and spend six hours on a bike,” Brian admits, “so fifteen-, twenty-mile rides is a good amount.
“But you cannot be ready for an 80- or hundred-mile bike ride, unless you’ve done them before. So, reps are the best idea. You’ve got to build up saddle time.”
All of the riders we’ve spoken to seem to agree that the mental aspect of the ride is more difficult than the physical part.
“It’s a bike,” Brian says, simply. “You’re not gonna fall off the bike. Sometimes you’re bored out of your mind. Sometimes you end up channeling Dory from Finding Nemo: ‘Just keep pedaling. Just keep pedaling.’ And sometimes you end up laughing your ass off. There’s such a range of emotions with it, and you can’t really prepare for that.
“It’s a mental game. You go in knowing that you’re gonna spend eight hours of a Saturday on a bike seat, that you had to pay to do, and then you had to raise $300 to do it.”
The guys are finding the fundraising aspect of the ride to be more difficult than the ride itself.
“It’s hard,” Brian admits. “It’s the most awkward thing in the world to ask people for money.”
Little known fact: if you don’t hit your fundraising goal, you don’t ride.
“There’ve been some years where I’ve had to pay $200 out of my own pocket,” he says, “because people always say they’re going to chip in, but don’t come through. The day of the ride, I’ll login and put it on my credit card, because I really wanted to do the ride.”
Mark looked rather dejected as we discussed fundraising, but Brian had some very sage advice.
“If someone says they’re going to donate, push them right then to do it,” he says. “Whip out your app and get them to do it. And it’s such a weird thing — if you’ve got nothing, people aren’t going to help you. They’ll think you’re a lost cause. But the more you’ve raised, the more likely people are to help.”
Fundamentally, they’re committed to doing this. They want to raise as much as they can for Multiple Sclerosis research, but there’s also a very personal aspect to the ride.
“There’s no greater feeling than when you cross the finish line,” Brian says. “There are people lining the road, and they’re all cheering you on. You get goosebumps. There’s not a lot of people who ride 80 or a hundred miles, and there’s a lot of pomp and circumstance at the end.
“You just feel amazing.”