It’s the sound of a spoke breaking on a bike wheel. Such noises are often followed by a choice curse word, because the cyclist usually can’t continue to ride and needs to head to a bike shop for a repair.
But when a cyclist experiences a mechanical problem on the Anchor House Ride for Runaways like a broken derailleur, a snapped chain, or a blown out tire, help isn’t far away. It means it’s time to find ride mechanic Pete Garnich.
Garnich, the owner of Knapp’s Cyclery in Lawrence, has served as the mechanic on the Ride for Runaways for six years. Helping troubleshoot bike problems for the 183 cyclists on the ride sometimes means skipping meals and working from early morning to early evening, but Garnich is glad to help out.
“It’s a lot of fun and I look forward to the ride each year,” he said. “It’s nice to be a part of something that makes a difference, and I love the people.”
The Ewing native discovered his passion for bicycles at an early age, and started working at Knapp’s Cyclery in 1976 when he was just 13. Store owner Dick Knapp decided to retire in 1989, and Garnich bought the store even though he was only 27 and was enrolled in college at the time.
Knapp’s was originally located on Olden Avenue in Ewing, but the property flooded every few years. Garnich moved his shop to its current location on Princeton Avenue in southern Lawrence 1999, and three years ago he opened a second store in Cranbury.
Garnich was no stranger to the Anchor House ride when he became the mechanic though. He completed the ride as a cyclist back in 1999 with his brother, his fiancé, and some of her family members just two months before the couple’s wedding.
He also has another Anchor House connection. Garnich and his wife, Stephanie, were introduced to each other by Anchor House veteran Bambe Cross, who was an advocate for troubled youth. Cross was supposed to be the maid of honor at Pete and Stephanie’s wedding, but was killed by a drunk driver in Hopewell in the spring of 1999 while training for the Anchor House ride.
Garnich and his wife now live in Hopewell and have two children, Grace, 12, and Henry, 9. Henry likes to help his dad with tasks for the ride like loading the bikes, and is already looking forward to the time when he can tag along in the ride.
Garnich’s brother, Greg Garnich, the owner of Gregs Landscaping in Pennington, returned to the ride this year as a cyclist after a 15-year break to accompany his brother.
Kathy Drulis, the director of operations for Anchor House, said the Garnich family has helped the charity is many ways, including offering freebies and discounts to Anchor House riders and helping with bike safety courses.
“Pete is always looking for ways to promote the ride,” Drulis said. “Stephanie designed our ride jerseys this year, and Greg donated space for us to store all of our ride equipment.”
Garnich said the ride only has one downside for him.
“It means being away from my wife and kids,” he said. “That’s the only hard part.”
The cyclists pedaled 66.2 miles Thursday from Westminster, Md. to Lancaster, Pa., climbing 3,892 feet. Friday they will bike 69.8 miles from Lancaster, Pa. to Lansdale, Pa, climbing 3,572 feet.
Friday night the cyclists will celebrate their accomplishments and honor some of their fellow cyclists at the annual ride banquet, where they will find out how much money they have raised so far for the Trenton-based shelter for abused and runaway children and teens. The cyclists will complete the ride on Saturday, arriving at the center court of the Quaker Bridge Mall in Lawrence at 3 p.m.
Reporter Krystal Knapp is a cyclist in the 36th annual Anchor House Ride for Runaways. For more information about Anchor House or to make a donation, visit www.anchorhouseride.org, where you can also make online donations in a cyclist’s name. Donations can also be sent to the Anchor House Foundation, P.O. Box 2357, Trenton, NJ 08607-2357.