In 2012 Alpine County, California, will host its 32nd Tour of the California Alps Death Ride®. That’s right. Death Ride®. It takes real grit to complete the course, which climbs 15,000 feet over 129 miles and five mountain passes. It’s the biggest fundraiser for the County of Alpine and the myriad nonprofit groups involved, and it all began when one man, Wayne Martin, decided to get his friends together for a bike ride more than three decades ago. That first year just seven completed the ride, for an entry fee of $1.00 each, yet it anchored the event as a go-to annual happening. So much so that registrations have been known to sell out in as little as 90 minutes (or as much as three hours) for the now 3500 riders who take part. Now organized entirely by the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce’s Visitor’s Center – more specifically their Executive Director, Teresa Burkhauser, CMP, and one assistant – it’s probably the only West Coast event for which two highways are closed. We spoke with Teresa recently about the Death Ride® and how ACTIVE helps her keep it alive.
Q&A with Teresa Burkhauser, Executive Director of Death Ride®
With just yourself and one staff member, how do you manage such an event?
We work with many nonprofits with whom we share the proceeds from the event. They provide volunteers to do everything from course set-up to staffing water stations/rest stops to assisting with the post-ride food. We couldn’t do this without everyone who supports us, from Caltrans (California Department of Transportation) to the highway patrol, to search and rescue, to the local business owners. It really brings the community together. And then there’s ACTIVE. We left to go with another organization at one point and then came right back the next year. There’s simply no comparison to the way things work with ACTIVE.
"No comparison to the way things work with ACTIVE."
Tell me a bit more about your relationship with ACTIVE Network.
As I mentioned, we left ACTIVE at one point. When we decided to come back, we sat down together and hashed out what needed to be done. They’ve made good on all their promises. We’ve worked with really good account reps; they take what we need and really run with it and support us. This has made it possible for the Chamber to handle it all.
How does ACTIVE help you get participants?
This event really is a word-of-mouth thing, but with ACTIVE’s online registration and the ongoing ability to fine-tune that, we have a seamless process that allows people to click on the Death Ride® at our site and immediately get to ACTIVE’s registration page. ACTIVE promotes so many events that riders know who they are, so there’s trust. It’s really easy for everyone. In fact, because of ACTIVE, a planned change in our policy will probably go pretty smoothly: Registration opens December 14. We’ve always allowed riders to transfer their registrations to someone else if they couldn’t make it. We’re stopping that as of the 2012 event, though they will be able to cancel until March 13. If there are cancellations, we will re-open registration on March 14 to fill those slots. We also will sell no-show spots the night before—if there are any. No one likes change, and hopefully our riders will understand. But thanks to the record keeping we have through ACTIVE, we will have information on who is participating and it won’t be a problem for us.
Do you use any of the reporting features?
We are able to pull great reports that provide a good baseline in demographics. We can get riders’ stats, see how many rode tandem, how many participated from other countries (we actually get riders from Japan!), the age breakdown of our riders, etc. For riders, the stats are mostly for fun. It’s a bike ride, not a race and most race against themselves based on their previous year’s results.
What has your experience been like with customer support?
This event requires year-round work. As soon as we wrap up one, we start on the following year’s ride. We have a strong relationship with ACTIVE, which is crucial. They remember that I’m the customer. They listen. They also tell me if they think an idea of mine won’t work. They support us from the database, to stats, etc. It’s exactly how it should be.
Are there any additional ACTIVE features that stand out for you?
Riders communicate with one another online. We used to have a message board; now it’s through ACTIVE’s Facebook page. It has become a source for carpooling connections to and from the event. It’s a good tool for riders.
We have tapped our participant number at 3500. The main reason is safety. In fact, safety is our number one concern with every aspect of this event, so we aren’t looking to expand. We are always interested in doing something new and different and each year that is reflected in the overall theme of the décor, the food, our logo and merchandise. We raise about $50,000 to distribute to the nonprofits every year and we’re really proud of this. We just want to see it continue being a fun, safe, community and family event for all.