Meet the Team
As you’re getting ready for your 500+ mile trek across New York State, so is our Empire State Ride operations team.
Every facet of Empire State Ride is mapped out months in advance, though ever-changing details require operations to pivot as the journey demands. The team thinks of all the elements, big and small, so that when you’re on the road, you can focus on the ride rather than the logistics.
Meet Megan, Ashley, Katie and Tom — the operations crew that works year-round to make this adventure possible.
“It’s like a big puzzle, like math. You’ve got to go in and figure out solutions to the problems,” said Senior Special Events Operations Coordinator Megan Maslach.
And to make sure the puzzle that is ESR is put together by July, it takes planning — a lot of planning.
“It’s a yearlong process. Even as
we’re at a camp, I’m already talking to the venue about
Once the team returns home to Buffalo, weekly meetings pick back up in full force to prepare for the upcoming ride. Still, when the weeklong event actually arrives, flexibility is key.
“Our team is really good at working on the fly and troubleshooting. We do an incredible amount of planning, but so many things happen when we’re out there, and our team is just so good at improvising,” said Katie.
Operations Manager Tom Johnston says the biggest obstacle is keeping an eye on all the moving parts.
He added, “Every site is different, and every site has its own flavor and challenges.”
In addition to the route itself, camp life is a key part of the ESR experience. Each camp has a rider reception and services hub, tenting area, dining and program tent.
Among her various duties, Katie handles campsite logistics. This includes “everything that goes into rolling into an empty field and building a small village for us for that day,” Katie said. She emphasized that it’s a team effort, with collaboration from members of the ops team, vendors, caterers and more.
While the existing infrastructure varies from one site to the next, riders will always have access to portable restrooms and a traveling shower truck. Booking those amenities is one of Megan’s many tasks.
“I enjoy figuring out what we need to make a space habitable for 350 people,” said Megan. “My favorite part is creating a one-day home for people at each spot.”
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the camp life at ESR is that each site is set up and taken down daily as the group rides across the state.
“After the riders leave at around 7:00 a.m., we pack up everything. The tent company packs up 300 tents individually. They roll them up, put them in their trailers, drive an hour to the next place and unload them all,” said Katie. “They even use a leaf blower to dry them out. They inflate air mattresses, they put a camping chair next to each tent and, somehow, they’re ready to go by 2 p.m. or so when the riders arrive after a day on the road.”
Adjusting to Scale
The first ESR took place back in 2014 when founder Terry Bourgeois rode solo from New York City to Niagara Falls on a pursuit to raise critical funds for cancer research at Roswell Park. Over the last nine years, his passion project has inspired hundreds of people to get involved.
Today, there are more than 200 people who join ESR on the road each year — and counting!
“As the event has grown, we’re always thinking about adjusting to scale so that we don’t lose that family-feel, but we also are able to deal with the larger numbers and be more efficient,” Tom explained.
Despite the size of ESR, riders, staff and volunteers alike often use the word “family” to describe the experience. Maintaining the special sense of community that is unique to this ride is essential. “It’s a big production, so much planning goes into it. There are lots of nuts and bolts and moving parts, but somewhere in there is that personal connection,” said Tom.
In recent years, the team has managed all operations in house for ESR. While there’s always room for growth, they say the process has been incredibly fulfilling and successful — creating a kind of synergy with everyone involved.
“I think what’s unique to our event is that it’s not just a bike tour. It’s very much about the cause and about fundraising and about everybody’s stories,” Katie added, “And our team is able to bring those concepts together for our week-long ride.”
Join the ESR Community
Of course, everyone plays an important role in Empire State Ride, including you!
Whether you want to get involved on the frontlines of the adventure as a rider or behind the scenes as a volunteer, members of the ops team say it’s a journey you truly have to experience to understand.
“It doesn’t take seven days to cross New York State. It takes seven hours, but you stretch it out and you see things. You see small towns. You see families who come out to help us. You connect with the community,” said Tom.
And after a year of planning, pivoting and preparing for this one-week-event, the result is an unforgettable journey, with memories to last a lifetime.