Alex Buskey: An Inspiration and Leader in the Gravel Community
The Ranger VT is a gravel-enduro ride in Tunbridge, Vermont, that covers more than 5,000+ feet of climbing over the course of 37 breathtakingly beautiful miles. The event also offers an 18-mile fun ride with a mere 2,000+ feet of climbing.
But the Ranger is more than just a ride. It’s the brainchild of Alex Buskey, who was inspired to create it in response to threats of development to the area he had lived in and loved for many years.
Both Barden and Duby were able to ride the Ranger this year, and we had a blast. We asked Alex a few questions about the Ranger, its mission, and the growing participation of women in gravel events.
bikekitz: This is the third year for the Ranger. Looking back, what has been the most unexpected thing about putting together this event?
Alex Buskey: I don't think I've had anything unexpected, but the most valuable takeaway and biggest motivator for me these past three years has been seeing my friends and family believe in me and work so incredibly hard to make this happen. They really understand that this is bigger than any one of us. Seeing this become their vision too makes this journey so worth it for me. They truly are amazing people and I think that's very visible to the participants on the day of the event.
bk: The slogan of The Ranger is “Ride with Purpose.” What does that mean? What is the mission of the event?
AB: This is the mission for the work we will be doing beyond the event locally and throughout the state using what we've learned these last three years. My personal goal for the event specifically is to build a passionate community of people who feel connected to one another and strongly support what we do in the future. I want to see our close group of Rangers step out of the box and lead in ways the cycling community hasn't in the past. Our partners, the beneficiaries of the event, and the communication we use is the result of a laser focus on these goals.
bk: Women’s participation in events like the Ranger is exploding. For example, the first Rasputitsa had 6% women and this year more than 20% of registrants were women. We hear a lot of event directors talking about wanting to break that 20% participation number. What was women’s participation at the Ranger last year and this year?
AB: We owe the event's success in inspiring an increase in women's participation to Kim Coleman. She and I connected prior to last year's event when I was looking to do something to alleviate the intimidation factor that can come with a bike event like this for women entering the sport. Our first year's women's participation was 24%, last year was 25% and this year it jumped to 34% thanks entirely to Kim. This is all due to her leadership and the other wonderful women who help her along the way. Our goal is 50% in 2020.
bk: You grew up in Lebanon, but now you live in Montana. How do you plan an event in Vermont from the other side of the country?
AB: I lived in Vermont for eight years prior to moving to Bozeman last fall. Organizing this year's event would not have been possible without the tremendous support that comes from my close group of friends who live in Vermont, which includes the incredible folks at the Alliance for Vermont Communities, and my family. Having organized the event the two previous years has built a lot of trust within our tight crew of folks who come together to make this possible. We are all deeply committed to the mission and long-term success of this event. I would say that the most important piece to doing this from here in Montana is consistent communication and responsiveness with everyone. I include all of our vendors, volunteers, partners and anyone else remotely involved in one big email thread (about 67 people) and I think that has helped tremendously. Everyone understands what's going on and it saves me a lot of time. It really comes down to the people though. I am lucky to be surrounded by a lot of amazing people. We're all very fortunate!
bk: How long does it take to put together the route the event will follow?
AB: My good friends, Isaac and Mario Sacca, lead our course crew. I've ridden all of these roads over the years, but they've lived here their whole lives and have a deep connection and understanding of the area. We discuss the route a few times over the winter and then preview sections of it in May during our promotional video/photo shoot. Because all three of us know the area and the landowners so well, it takes us about 15 minutes of discussion to decide on the route over a phone call. We are lucky that the most difficult part of the process is deciding on which of the many beautiful roads to use. We heard great feedback from folks on both the 37-mile Gravel-Enduro and the 18-mile Fun Ride loops this year, so I imagine we will stick with something similar for 2020.
bk: Tell us more about your plans for the future.
AB: This is in its infancy, but we have plans to take our partners along with us in creating a platform for gravel cyclists to find the best routes and places to stay and eat throughout Vermont. We want to educate the state on the economic value of gravel cycling (not just mountain biking), and build a larger community of cyclists to inspire communities to create more bike infrastructure.
Look Who Came Out to Celebrate at The Ranger VT
bk: One reason women have been held back from participating in events is the child care issue. Often, Dad goes off to an event, and Mom takes care of the kids. What did you do to promote women having the freedom to join the ride?
AB: Last year we started the Junior Ranger program as a way to promote fun and noncompetitive riding to the younger generations. It’s a free, chaperoned event, run by Jane LeMasurier of Little Bellas and Steve Estabrook of pro MTB team Defiant Racing. It's actually a big contributor to the number of women participating because a lot of couples are able to ride in the event together, rather than Mom sitting out to watch the kids. This along with inspiring kids to see the adventure side of riding a bike are important goals of this segment of the program.
bikekitz friends, have you done the Ranger? What did you think? If you have hesitated to sign up for an event, what has held you back? What can organizers do to make it easier for you to join the fun?