Researcher Turns Roadie for AIDS/LifeCycle

For 51 weeks a year, Nancy Hessol, UCSF associate adjunct professor of medicine, does HIV and AIDS research. But one week a year, she becomes what many aspire to, but few have the strength and fortitude to achieve: Hessol and her husband, George Traugh, travel with AIDS/LifeCycle as "roadies." The nearly 500 hardy souls who comprise the crew of roadies are the grease that keeps AIDS/LifeCycle on the road, both literally and figuratively, and Hessol is an integral part of that effort. As a bike mechanic, she is awake early to get to her assigned rest stop and is up at night well past the riders, working until every bicycle is ready for the next day's ride. Hessol is also known for her expert skills as a bike fitter. So, on day one, the lines at her station are long as she makes fine-tuned adjustments to seat posts and handlebars. An avid cyclist herself, Hessol had ridden in fundraising rides for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. But in 2001, when the first AIDS/LifeCycle was in the planning stages, she met a woman whose father had died from complications of AIDS. The woman's boyfriend was a bike mechanic, and the woman encouraged Hessol and Traugh to join the crew. With the exception of 2005, Hessol and Traugh have worked as bike mechanics on every AIDS/LifeCycle ride, and Traugh even roadied on two rides in one year - one on an East Coast HIV/AIDS fundraising ride.
Nancy Hessoland George Traugh

Nancy Hessol rides with her husband George Traugh on one of their tandems.

While not having formal training as a mechanic, Hessol has learned a great deal from her husband, and she reads up between rides. After six years, though, "so much of it is second nature," she said. Except, of course, there are those exceptions, such as a British bicycle she worked on last year. "The bicycle controls were flipped around: The brake levers and the gear shifters that you expect on the right side of the bike were on the left and vice versa," she said. "That's what makes it interesting."
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Hessol's involvement stems not just from her love of cycling. "I have a strong commitment for doing my part for the HIV/AIDS epidemic," she said. Hessol adds that it is also great for her and her husband to step out of their everyday roles and spend a week together. "We've also met a lot of great people," she added. "It's nice to participate year after year. You see a lot of the same faces," Hessol said. "It's like getting together with old friends for a weeklong reunion." Hessol gets ready for the ride by training with her husband. "George does a remedial course with me," she said. Along with the volunteer mechanics, there will be a team from Cannondale Bicycle, one of the sponsors, who will work alongside the roadies. And no matter what the rider said needed fixing, the bikes get checked from top to bottom, which leads to very long hours for this crew. And so, while the work is rewarding, it is exhausting as well. "When I come back, the first thing I want to do is ride a bike and sleep in a bed - not necessarily in that order," Hessol said. Nancy Hessol rides with her husband George Traugh on one of their tandems. Related Links: AIDS/LifeCycle AIDS/LifeCycle Training Shows Technician He Can Do Anything
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