Swap hopping

Some things can't help but get bigger every year, and the 19th annual Ashland Community Bike Swap at The Grove was no exception. Although the time listed on the city banner was wrong, the event had hundreds of bicycles for sale and as many bicyclists eager to purchase them.

"This is my sixth year at the event," said Event Coordinator Tracy Harding, "and, yeah, I think it does get bigger every year."

According to Harding, there were approximately 200 people in line waiting for the gate to open. Many got a little feisty as the noon kickoff time approached. "They're always anxious," Harding said.

The reason for the crowd's anticipation was the selection, diversity and prices of the bikes offered. An event volunteer called the selection "eclectic," and the prices ranged from the single digits to $1,150, which bought a "low-rider" tandem built for racing. There were classics, customs, plenty of off-road and mountain bikes for both children and adults. Of note was a pair of green 1968 Schwinn StingRay Run-Abouts, one of them complete with "ape-hanger" handlebars. The StingRay line was modeled after the muscle cars of the era, complete with a springer front suspension, speedometer and a three-speed stick-shifter.

The bike swap supports the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, a non-profit educational organization based in Portland. Locally, the alliance teaches bicycle safety at Ashland elementary and middle schools as well as Talent Middle School. Further funding would allow the group to educate in Medford and beyond. Fifteen percent of all bike sales went to support the alliance.

"BTA has a 10-hour curriculum with four hours in the classroom and six on the bike," said Rogue Valley Transportation District employee and former BTA instructor Kat Smith. "They learn everything from hand signals, right of way, proper helmet and bicycle fit to group riding skills. The intention of the class is to teach them to be safe, predictable bicycle drivers."

Smith was also the event announcer and RVTD representative. As a sponsor of the event, RVTD's aim is "To reduce single occupancy vehicles by encouraging bus riding, carpooling, biking and walking," according to Smith.

More than 75 volunteers helped run the event, performing every task, including help with pricing and finding the right bicycle for swap-goers. Volunteers got to have a "first look" at the bikes for the donation of two to four hours of time.

"This has been so much fun, I've never volunteered before," said Ashland resident and volunteer Lea Light. "It's been so worth it, I even got my teenage sons to volunteer also."

Bike buyers were more than happy with their purchases and some found the bike of their dreams.

"Yes, I found it," said Ashland resident and SOU student, Kate Sackett. "I was looking to spend $100 dollars and I ended up spending $125, so it was within my budget."

Fellow Ashlander and SOU student, Mallory Preston was also happy with her find.

"I had no expectations," Preston said, "but everybody told me I did a wonderful job."

Ashland Community Service Officer and four-year swap veteran, Kip Keeton, manned the bike-licensing booth. The license is a service of the Ashland Police Department that registers bicycles for a two dollar fee, with the motto: "Don't let your stolen bike end up at next year's bike swap." Approximately 30 bikes at the swap were unclaimed bikes from the police department.

"It's a great deal," Keeton said, "and for a couple of dollars, it's a good insurance gig,"

Keeton also believes the event is getting bigger every year, puts more bikes on the road, and is one of those "Ashland events."

"Ashland and biking are synonymous," Keeton said. "The event also raises a lot of money for a good program."

Getting a bike licensed was Ashland resident Susan Bacon, who purchased an "Electra Gigi Retro-Rider," for her daughter Olivia, an Ashland High School student who was celebrating her sixteenth birthday. The Bicycle was a "compromise" for the Mini-Cooper Olivia originally wanted on her birthday.

Presenting the bike to Keeton, Bacon said, "We'd like to register it because we think it's so jazzy, someone might like to take it."

"This is the bike of the show," Keeton said. "This is what I call styling."

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