Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Track event will raise funds for injured racer

Posted by on July 1st, 2008 at 1:28 pm

Zak Kovalcik competing on
the day of his crash.
Velodrome in May 2007.
(Photo: Ed Norton)

Friends and supporters of local racer Zak Kovalcik are rallying after a crash last week left him with a broken collarbone. Kovalcik is unable to work while his medical bills (from this and a previous racing injury) pile up.

Kovalcik, a member of Team Beer and one of the top track racers in the area, went down hard at the Alpenrose Six Day event on Wednesday. As a full-time bike messenger, the injury has left him unable to work and the company he works for does not provide health insurance.

To make matters worse, Kovalcik was on a comeback (one of his friends said he “was on record form”) from breaking his collarbone during a race last year. That injury required surgery over the winter which he is still paying off.

To help raise money for his medical expenses, Bike Central (a bike shop that specializes in track racing supplies) is holding a special edition of their weekly Fast Twitch Fridays event.

Bike Central employee Jen Featheringill tells me they’ll donate all proceeds from the event “to help Zak get back on his feet.” She says donations will be accepted and that all race registration fees (from an expanded program of events) will be given to Kovalcik.

    Fast Twitch Fridays: Special Zak Kovalcik Benefit Edition
    July 4th, Racing begins at 2pm
    Alpenrose Velodrome (6149 SW Shattuck Rd.)
    More details here

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you.

  • leonard maltin July 1, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    a set of zipps and a custom frame = cost of 1 year of health insurance.
    the track rents bikes for $5.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • bahueh July 1, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    I know some of these guys and the other guys I race with love the sport..and live for it during the summer…
    but racing without some form of health insurance is a BAD idea…OBRA encourages all participants to have it…a few choose to take that risk, unfortunately.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • wyatt July 1, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    oh friggin lay off the \”shoulda known better\” crap

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Gustavo July 1, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    Hard for me to be sympathetic to someone\’s poor decisions. This was not an accident that randomly happened in the street – this is someone willfully putting themselves into a risky situation (competitive sport) without taking precautions and thinking ahead.

    Oviously Mr. Kovalcik did not learn from his last accident, which he is still paying off.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • tonyt July 1, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    and he\’d still have a $1,000 deductible . . . at least, AND he\’d still miss work.

    All those who did things exactly right when you were younger, please raise your hand.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) July 1, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    Zak is a really great guy who has had some bad luck and needs some help from the community.

    he\’s not asking for this himself, people are rallying around him because they appreciate the great attitude, energy, and personality he brings to the community.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Patrick July 1, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    Exactly why does a bike messenger company NOT provide health insurance? Why aren’t messengers unionized?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • wyatt July 1, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    wow, what a bunch of jerks.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • erin g. July 1, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this information, Jonathan! Zak is one of the kindest, most positive people in Portland, so word of his latest injury makes me sad. The great news is that he will fully recover once again, and his best racing is yet to come (which says a lot, as he was doing great this season).

    In the meantime, we can all take Zak’s positive attitude as an example, and return a bit of that good energy by showing up to support Friday’s benefit race at the track. It is great of his friends to organize the event; thanks, everyone. I can’t think a more perfect way to spend the 4th of July.

    Get well soon, Zak!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Spencer July 1, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    Pat #7,

    Because the cost of it might drive the companies out of business or force the messengers onto foot or into cars so that the insurance companies grant lower premiums.

    Tony T. #5

    When I was younger, I bought a supplementary \”bang your head\” policy that only covered catastrophic injury only. These are surprisingly cheap for the amount of coverage granted.

    Finally, I got into track racing for about 1 month. This was long enough to realize that when I got hurt (not a question of \”if\”) by falling on a concrete track with a group of other riders right on top of me, that there was a good chance for major injury. Although a lot of fun, I decided against the injury I could not afford.

    Youth should not absolve one from responsibility.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • CM July 1, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    When I was a bike messenger, my employer carried accident insurance which covered medical expenses and some lost earnings regardless of whether the injury happened on the job or not. I was out of luck when I got pneumonia, but it saved my butt when I broke my hand.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • toddistic July 1, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    a bunch of you have your priorities out of order if you are gonna be so cold hearted to kick a man when he\’s down.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • chelsea July 1, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    if you cannot afford health insurance, you should probably stay in your house in full body armor at all times. to do anything else would obviously be foolhardy!

    we live in a place where it is very hard to get a job with decent insurance and very easy to work your ass off for nothing. can\’t blame anyone for wanting to have a little fun in life.

    get well quick zak!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • bahueh July 1, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    wyatt…i said nothing about Zac personally. however racing in a pack situation at HIGH speeds without some sort of medical coverage? have you ever hit the ground at more than 30mph? I have. probably 90% of the time it will require some sort of medical attention…which, unfortunatley, isn\’t free.

    OBRA asks that everyone have it…not for their own sake, either…for the sake of the rider and their families…

    Zak loves to race…and he\’s good at it and getting better. I\’m not saying people shouldn\’t rally around him to help…not whatsoever. After his immediate needs are met, he should start to consider some sort of catastrophic coverage if he continues to race though..
    and short term disability…its cheaper than his current medical bills.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • k. July 1, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    It doesn\’t have anything to do with being jerks, it is an issue; riding with out coverage that is. That\’s not to say having a fund raiser is not a good idea, I think it\’s a great idea. And I\’m also not going to get into an argument about guaranteed healthcare for everyone, which I think is sorely needed. But…until that happens I think we have at least some responsibility to choose our activities wisely. Bike racing IS a risk sport. Racers flaunt broken collar bones like their going out of style. I know, I\’ve been there. But I also thankfully have good health insurance. If I didn\’t…I wouldn\’t race.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • wyatt July 1, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    the community coming together to help him out sounds like coverage to me.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • T Williams July 1, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    I think these lyrics from the band Pennywise sum it up nicely:

    Ever get the feeling you can\’t go on
    Just remember whose side it is that you\’re on
    You\’ve got friends with you till the end
    If you\’re ever in a tough situation
    We\’ll be there with no hesitation
    Brotherhood\’s our rule we cannot bend

    When you\’re feeling too close to the bottom
    You know who it is you can count on
    Someone will pick you up again
    We can conquer anything together
    All of us are bonded forever
    If I die you die that\’s the way it is\”

    To me, this represents the cycling community. We\’re all in this together, and while some may not care to contribute, understand that some day the call may be put out for you.

    You\’d want your brotherhood to rise up and help you.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Daryl July 1, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    Get well soon Zak. And at the risk of piling on here–I do wish people would not kick a guy when he is down. If you don\’t like his so-called \”decision\” to not have health insurance, then don\’t come to the track friday to support him. Simple as that.

    As for me–I\’ll be at track, wishing I could give more money than I will be able to. Why? In general, because I want to help a person I know; specifically because Zak is one of the most genuinely decent people I know.


    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Rawk Racing July 1, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    use the event to raise awareness for cheaper forms health insurance. Have a computer set up so people can get started on getting a policy. Make a bell lap be for one month of coverage, not a cash prize. Just checked esurance. 1,500 deductable for about $130 a month… not bad. shoot, you can get a big deductable for like $28 bucks.

    lets cut this cat some slack and have the event, but lets not keep having the event over and over…

    Can we get Healthnet up in this? huge cycling company after all…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • toddistic July 1, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    how much does a broken collarbone run anyway?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Patrick July 1, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    Is it common practice for messenger companies not to insure their employees? I am proud that our community has rallied to help Zak but what about all the other messengers at risk? I can’t think of any other worker that works in the road that isn’t covered under health insurance and at least has the option for partially funded disability insurance. It also appears messengers are implicitly encouraged to cut corners, delivering as many packages as possible, putting themselves at higher risk. Assuming that the business is driven by minimizing cost and there are more bikers willing to work than the market can support, this seems like a good issue to organize messingers into a union.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • tonyt July 1, 2008 at 3:41 pm


    \”These are surprisingly cheap for the amount of coverage granted.\”

    Yes, and they usually come with a huge deductible.

    I\’m not suggesting that there isn\’t a time and a place to suggest that Zak, or others get insurance. (I\’d suggest it too) I\’m just a bit disappointed that right out of the bat, bam! it turned into an opportunity to lecture.

    I think that the great crime here is not that Zak rode without insurance, but that we have an economy that is based on excluding a HUGE percentage of our economy from a very fundamental service.

    Whether Zak has nice wheels or not does nothing to change the fact that insurance costs too much for many people, and even those who can afford it still get screwed.

    It makes me sick to live in the \”leading\” industrial country where people have to have fundraisers to pay for health care http://justicefornone.com/article.php/20080209101810347

    And to the smug \”get insurance\” folks, don\’t come to us when your company decides to just change the rules. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/14/us/14drug.html?ref=health

    On second thought, you should come to us. We might just help. We\’re nice that way.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • john July 1, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    Yes Zak is a great guy, i will definitely support. IMO, medical is a mess. Anymore, even the \”inexpensive\” High Deductible plans are quite expensive, and then the deductible is so high, your basically on your own.

    Crashes in bicycle racing do not normally result in broken bones. And if so, usually no surgery. Usually its just road rash.

    Its just money, but we sure are making insurance companies rich. I would rather give cash directly to a doctor to fix me up. aka as free market system.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • SkidMark July 1, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    For those \”he should have health insurance\” comments:

    Maybe a bike messenger should make enough to afford health insurance or maybe the company you work for should have to insure you. Living Wage anyone?

    Maybe the US should be like other first world nations and have socialized medicine. We could take the money we use to fight wars and spend it on our hospitals instead.

    I know when I belonged to the ABA (American Bicycle Association- BMX Racing) part of the cost of membership went to covering injuries incurred on the track. One of the great things about OBRA is how ridiculously affordable it is, and how many different types of racing you can do with one membership, but I would trade that for not having to worry about going into debt over an injury.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Dave July 1, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    \”we sure are making insurance companies rich\”

    Don\’t forget the medical malpractice lawyers.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • SkidMark July 1, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    And to Zak: heal up fast and stop breaking your collarbones!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • doctor on tv July 1, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    China Doll, broken again??? Somebody get that kid a trike…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Curious July 1, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    Is it common practice for messenger companies not to insure their employees?

    Not only that, but I\’m of the understanding they have zero paid time off or much in the way of any \”benefits\” at all. Perhaps someone more knowledgable than I can confirm that.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) July 1, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    truth is that messengers have pretty crappy work conditions.

    stay tuned for a more in-depth story about this issue…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • jorge July 1, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    Zak and the rest of us messengers make chicken feed. We do it because we love bikes and the sport of racing them. Leonard… you seem a little jealous of Zak\’s sweet bike and supportive community of loving friends.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Red Hippie July 1, 2008 at 4:18 pm


    I sorry your disapointed. Besides whether or not people decide to support Zak financially, the important point of the dialogue is as an object lesson and maybe some education.

    Maybe if people read this thread and go \”holy crap, my choices my get me hurt and thousands of dollars in debt, they might think about the alternatives\”. Maybe they find out about catostrophic insurance policies. Sure the deductible is high, but two or three grand in debt is much better than tens of thousands in debt.

    If they can\’t afford the $50 a month, then maybe they should not be engaged in a discretionary and risky activity.

    The people I feel really sorry for are the folks who get tagged on the way to work riding a Huffy. In most cases, their biking to work is not discretionary and the reason they are on a bike is because they can\’t afford an extra $50/month. We hear about them all the time, but I don\’t see this level of care or concern from the \”community\”.

    How about we sponser a lap for them?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Kristin July 1, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    Remember that the percent of uninsured Americans is at an outstanding rate of 47%. That\’s nearly HALF. This statistic does not differentiate among socioeconomic status, race, gender, education, political stance, or chosen lifestyle. So, why don\’t we lay off our friend Zak and the messenger community as a whole and try to focus on the positive: a community rallying together to help a fellow citizen.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Tom July 1, 2008 at 4:33 pm

    With a \”supportive community\” like this maybe Zak oughta get some enemies!

    This is gross.

    Get well Zak.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • M8Adam July 1, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    I wanted to respond to all the queries regarding messengers and benefits. Having worked as a messenger for only 2 years I\’m far from the most qualified person to address this issue, but I think I can do a good enough job.

    In my experience with the company I\’ve worked for and hearing from fellow messengers, we\’re *almost* universally denied healthcare (unless we pay for it), as well as workers comp or disability, and get very few other benefits. Some companies offer vacation, and paid holidays, but that\’s about the extent of it.

    There are some companies that are worker owned or were started by former messengers, and these seem to do a decent job taking care of their employees. A lot of companies were not started by former messengers however and are pretty exploitative. I knew one company that fired all their messengers because their new insurance co. wouldn\’t cover people on bikes.

    And the reason that messengers aren\’t unionized (at least in PDX) is because the industry just isn\’t big enough here, and there\’s a thousand fixie-riding high school kids waiting in the wings to act as scabs in the event of any sort of strike or slowdown.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Dookie Chain July 1, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    just shows that there is no overall portland bicycle community. this seems like it\’s an issue for the racing community and maybe the messenger community for them to work out themselves. they\’re looking out for their own, but some peeps at bikeportland may not see a track racer as part of their \”own\” so they say, hey, wtf doesn\’t this kid have insurance, especially after being hurt for what looks like three consecutive years. I\’m all for a community to support their own, but son\’t expect a lot of non-racers to care too much.

    as an aside, how many members of Team Beer are insured? Gentle Lovers? Team Vanilla/Stumptown? is this a big problem?

    also, as an aside, is this a worthwile place to donate for fallen messengers in leu of the track event? i noticed that Zak has used them in the past?:

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • bahueh July 1, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    Tom…please stop feigning righteous indignation. This is the health care system we live in sadly…it\’s a fact.

    Wishing Zak all the best does nothing to change that…nor does it alleviate the inherent risk of traveling around a cement velodrome at 30+mph at 43 degrees…

    Maybe what you don\’t realize is that Zak is not the only rider/racer out there without insurance so this will hardly be the last fundraising activity you will see. We all wish him well and a speedy recovery. Some hospitals have reimbursement grants for unexpected trauma or injury (resembling \”victims funds\’)…although he may not qualify under the circumstances..its worth looking into.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • elena July 1, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    Shortly after Zak broke his collarbone on the track last summer, I broke mine on the track as well.

    At the time, I was working full-time as a bike messenger (without the option of paying for health insurance), and part-time elsewhere, paying $200 for the coverage they offered me.

    Even WITH health insurance, I am still $9,000 in debt from medical bills. And try paying off that kind of sum when you are physically unable to work and don\’t get sick pay.

    I ride bikes because it is what I love to do. And honestly, I would rather break my collarbone again than sit in cubicle for eight hours a day like I did when I couldn\’t ride my bike.

    Why are you so eager to criticize someone who needs help? This is sick. Come out, have fun, race, and support an awesome dude with an amazing streak of bad luck. Or don\’t. But this dialogue is disgusting.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • bahueh July 1, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    john..I disagree, racing crashes OFTEN result in broken bones. I saw a woman crack her hip two weeks ago in a crit, watched Zak fall last week, saw an acquaintance break his wrist at a crit three or four weeks ago…all in the month of June…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Jason S. July 1, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    The following posters are certified jerk-offs:

    Bahueh, Leonard Maltin and Gustavo.

    Good luck zak.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Dan July 1, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    Bike Central rawks; love the mechanic there. That is all.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Hazel July 1, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    As a messenger in Portland for 10 years I can give you call the history I know of these things.
    First, Portland messengers have tried to unionize twice. The first time resulted in a court decision that cars drivers would have to be included in the union vote. When we tried to organize a second time, it bacame apparent that we wouldn\’t be able to convince enough car drivers to sign on to have the 51% yes vote. Everyone can thank Transerv for getting the initial court ruling.
    Secondly, one company still offers health insurance with a bi-monthly payment made by the messenger. Pronto had health insurance once upon a time when everyone was hired through a temp agency.
    It also used to be true that everyone was hired on as an employee which at least got you workman\’s comp. Now, almost everyone is an \”independant contractor\” meaning there\’s no chance of comp let alone health insurance.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • bearhat July 1, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    Zak is a great person and amazing racer. i wish him well in his recovery.

    as for the smug comments, life isn\’t insured. everything you do can be seen as a risk including driving your car every dfay or walking down the street.

    live your life as you wish and get over yourself.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • This blog is unbalanced July 1, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    It always seems to be the \”Portland All-Star Messenger Squad\” cyclists/messengers in this town who get all the love, recognition and sympathy, and all the \’no-name\’ cyclists are asked to have big hearts, to sympathize, to contribute, to be a \’community\’. Where was the community when I went through a windshield, bounced off the dash, popped up over the top of the car, down the back windshield and onto the street? Where were my donations? Where was my love? Where was my support? Nowhere, because I\’m not hip, apparently.

    I\’m sure Zak is a great guy, as are most people injured and/or killed every day, but there is no excuse for this behavior. He chose to put himself at risk by track racing without insurance. The craziest part is Zak was already recovering from another injury which he still hasn\’t paid off. I mean, seriously? Nice guy or not, that\’s pretty damn foolish. If I had to open my wallet and heart to every fool on the planet, well… If Zak didn\’t learn his lesson the first time, why should I think he\’ll learn it now? Am I going to be asked to go to sympathy rides every time this happens? I\’ve a pretty full schedule on my plate as it is.

    I\’m sorry if this post comes off as negative, but I\’m getting tired of bikeportland.org insinuating the only Portland cyclists worth writing about are the lycra-clad Lance wannabe\’s or the ones who hang out in coffee shops, have the \”hip\” bikes, the messenger bags, spoke cards, the tattoos, and play into every cliche messenger stereotype, or the ones who die (Tracey). If you want to lure more people into cycling then focus on the every day joe. Enough coverage of the same old crowd.

    When is the last time you covered a minority who cycles to work? I see lots of Asians, Mexicans and black people on bikes daily but I\’ve never heard any of their stories on here. Maybe one or two are buried back in the archives, but for the most part, every story is accompanied by a picture of cyclists who all look identical to me. Or how about covering someone who rides a 40 dollar Huffy to school? Are they not as crucial to Portland as the hot shots? Poppycock. It\’s like you\’re trying to sculpt the image of cycling in Portland to your own vision rather than just naturally covering the whole thing. This isn\’t an Apple or Ikea commercial.

    As for me, I\’m too strapped for cash to donate it to someone who clearly doesn\’t want to learn the lessons from their mistakes. Sorry.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • wyatt July 1, 2008 at 7:01 pm


    I agree completely. You guys are being complete d*cks.

    People come to the aid of someone and you lambast the person and the people who would come to their aid?

    What the hell is wrong with you????

    I\’ll be there this Friday to show my support and donate what I can.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • joel July 1, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    this whole \”zak was foolish to race again after having already broken his collarbone once\” bs is pissing me off.

    zak was \”recovering\” – that includes the full range of recovery, from healing the bone and the initial injury, all the way to getting yourself back into the level of conditioning you were prior to the accident. were not talking \”recovering\” as in \”his collarbone was still healing\” here – he was cleared to ride, and race, by his doc.

    are you people advocating that you should give up something you love simply because you were injured once doing it? damn, id hate to have you as parents. that would SUCK. \”GIVE UP\” seems to be the best advice youve got.

    and it sure is easy to proclaim that not having insurance is stupid, when youre sitting preaching from the privileged position of having said health insurance. ive worked as a messenger for 14 years, here in portland, and in san francisco, and ive had health insurance for 7 of those years – 2 of which it was half paid by my company, which was a crazy exception to the rule. the other 5 years, ive paid out of my own pocket, from $80-150 a month for bare-bones insurance. im LUCKY that i can afford this.

    nevermind that you all are only seemingly concerned that he has insurance while racing – while it seems to be perfectly ok that he has no insurance while working, in traffic, all day, every day. think about that next time you pay $5 to send a package across town. think about an industry that historically has one of the highest workers comp insurance rates in the country (easily averaging around 20% of payroll) – IF the company youre working for doesnt deceptively declare you to be an independent contractor so they dont have to pay up. cliche messenger stereotypes. sheesh. theres a bunch of stereotypes out there, and then theres about 45 working portland messengers. i bet most of you couldnt pick the real ones.

    and \”this blog is unbalanced\” – while you raise some valid points about parts of the cycling community being conspicuously absent in coverage, the community as a whole cant be blamed because your friends didnt throw you a benefit, or because word never reached us about your wreck. messengers and racers are tight-knit subsets of the general biking community, who band together and do something when one of their own is down – because (at least in the case of messengers) weve discovered, over the years, that no one gives a rats ass otherwise. squeaky wheel gets the grease. its not about bikeportland only publicizing benefits for us, its about us being the only ones who throw benefits for bikeportland to publicize. so dont go off on me – go off on your own friends, who didnt pony up and organize a benefit. bitter much?

    thanks, everyone, for reminding me, once again, why blog comments sections almost never fail to piss me off. real easy to be jackasses behind a nickname and a bunch of text on a screen.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • nerf July 1, 2008 at 7:48 pm

    amen joel, amen

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • joel July 1, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    oh, and dookie chain – YES – the bmef, as you linked it, is a great place to donate to aid injured messengers. i will note, however, (cause im sure itll come up) that the fund is specifically for messengers injured AT WORK, and has never paid out for zak or anyone else who was injured off the clock – and as it is, its only ever a $300 one-time payment.

    oh and zaks custom bike and flash parts? ever heard of sponsorship? it may not be a full ride, but still… as for seriously competing at the top level on a rental track bike – does the phrase \”bringing a knife to a gun fight\” mean anything to you? or is everyone taking a certain book title too seriously?

    gah. must. stop. reading. comments!

    as for me, im too strapped for cash to donate, but im going to anyways. guess i dont learn from my mistakes.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • erin g. July 1, 2008 at 11:33 pm

    To all who care about Zak as a friend or fellow cyclist and understand his situation: the negative commentators on here are not worth our time. Let’s take each minute remaining between now and Friday to get every possible friend, bike-friendly business leader, and community supporter there to make the benefit for our deserving friend a big success.

    I know how frustrating it is to read some of these comments. There is a small handful of people who enjoy inciting conflict on here, no matter what the topic might be. However, the good people stepping forward to support Zak are the majority. Let’s move forward with our goal of supporting him, which was the point of Jonathan’s positive story to begin with. Some of you have posted some great thoughts and proactive ideas; very nice! I know I’d appreciate help from my friends if I were in such a situation. Perhaps people who have negative things to say about this great effort/race idea would not (or perhaps they have never been in such a situation, and simply don’t understand).

    I have never been a messenger, but I made my living as a waitress years ago. I got injured in a bike collision that left me unable to walk or work for days, breaking something in my back. I had no insurance. I know how it feels to have an ambulance arrive, and to lay in the street in the rain, unable to stand, signing a form indicating that I refused ambulance and ER service (I knew that I could not afford the debt, despite how much I needed the care). Hundreds of thousands of people in Oregon alone need health insurance. It is naive to assume that it is within reach and easily accessible for all. It has become a precious commodity that far too few in the U.S. can afford (per the above NY Times link…right on).

    Our health system is vastly flawed, so during times like this, the power of good karma and community must get our good friends through tough times. It is the old way of doing things that too often seems forgotten. I’m glad to see it happening here. Great to job to all who stepped forward, shared insights, and voiced support for Zak.

    Get ready for some fun on the Fourth of July!!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Grimm July 2, 2008 at 8:15 am

    I was planning on coming out to FTF anyways. Makes it even better it is benefiting Zak.

    Its great the community recognizes the need for help and is willing to take the initiative to help an individual. Its too bad some people hold a every-for-themselves and just want to play the blame game.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Boo Boo July 2, 2008 at 8:31 am

    Okay, I don\’t know Zak, but I\’m appalled by the ignorance of some of the previous posts. Sorry to burst your bubble, but the U.S. for-profit health care system is broken. The U.S. spends more of it\’s GNP (more that 2x in some cases) on health care than most other industrialized nations, like Canada, Switzerland, Taiwan, Japan and England. So we spend so much more on health care that doesn\’t even provide basic care to all Americans. Now that\’s f*&ked up!

    Don\’t blame Zak. He is, unfortunately, in a situation like MILLIONS of other Americans who work but still cannot afford health insurance.

    I don\’t think I can make to the track, but if there is a formal support fund set up at a local bank or credit union, I\’ll send him some money.

    I hope the rest of you ignoramuses read up on health care.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Robin July 2, 2008 at 9:34 am

    As a full-time student who\’s also working I can\’t afford insurance but and required to have to by my school. Fortunately, they let me include it in my ever mounting loans. And when I\’m done with school I\’ll be so broke trying to pay off my loans that I wont be able to get insurance.

    I hope you heal up good Zak!

    I\’m not a messenger, I don\’t race, I\’m just a girl on a bike getting things done. And as long as I have money to pay my rent and put food in my mouth I\’ll pitch in for any one of you! No matter how you got hurt.

    I love benefits because I get to have fun and help someone but I can\’t make it. Is there some other way to help Zak out?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Joe July 2, 2008 at 10:11 am

    wow hope he gets well soon, Take it from me also, use to race alot!! Things happen and health coverage as we all know is a weird deal these days. I was in a huge training race crash night before starting a new job.
    * lucky i made it out since i did the first
    face hit ever * we need to come together
    for this!

    I don\’t have alot of money but can i donate 20 dollars to a paypal account?


    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • White folks July 2, 2008 at 10:30 am

    wow, i knew there was some animosity coming my from the grey haired comfort bike crowd but to kick a guy like Zak when he\’s down? damn. he is still a bicyclist folks. And an all around nice person. Messengers make a pittance compared to all you white collar corporate types (whose companies rely on Zak\’s timely deliveries many times a day) So implying that he \”shoulda had insurance\” and \”shoulda known better\” is just showcasing your ignorance of the growing income gap between you and us \”working poor\” . Some of the crap written above makes me ashamed that most non-cyclists lump me in with you. Leonard Maltin i\’m looking at you, your name is stuck in my head as well as many other bike riders and friends of Zak. If your name shows up anywhere, on a credit card tab at a restaurant or bar, on a food delivery order, on any messenger delivery, or a repair ticket at a bike shop. We are the guys who fix your bike, make your food and drinks, deliver your oh-so-urgent court documents , and a million other things. Your health and safety requires us the be oblivious to your low opinion of us. A wise man would make an apology or eat in/drink in/fix your own everything for a good long while.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • krystenr July 2, 2008 at 10:35 am

    I\’ll be there racing, supporting Zak. He\’s a good guy.

    It happens. People don\’t have insurance. The negative comments on here are pissing me (and a lot of others) off.

    If you\’ve never known what it feels like to work really hard and still not know if you\’re going to have enough money to cover your rent or groceries, then I don\’t want to hear from you. Housing and food are budgeted before healthcare fees in my book.

    Try this – you make $900 a month. Make a budget with your current rent, utilities, cell phone bill, groceries, etc. Don\’t even include debt or childcare or school tuition. How are you living? Got anything to put in savings?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Amy July 2, 2008 at 10:41 am

    Since when was having health insurance a choice? I grew up without insurance. Every broken bone I got resulted in a screaming match between my parents because they couldn\’t pay for it.

    I feel LUCKY to have broken my collarbone in a car accident and not on the track or in a race, because drivers are legally required to pay for car insurance (unlike employers). ANd car insurance is a hell of a lot cheaper than medical insurance per month. But one small break for me was a $1200 2-mile ambulance trip, an $1800 ER bill, $200-400 in medications, 1 week check up, 6 week check up, and 3 month check up with x-rays at every visit (don\’t know how much each of those cost), and the measly $750 in property (bike & helmet) damages… as well as $3000 in lost income. SOME DAY I might get some of that back ; until then I\’m lucky just to not be in debt A second break takes a lot longer to heal.. and loses even more money.

    Collarbone breaks are VERY common in cycling. And they are very hard to avoid. Those who like to talk a lot of garbage. Stay off your bike and in your safe little car with your safe insurance and your safe life, we will take some risks for you.

    So.. get well, Zak. I\’m still broke.. so I won\’t really have much to give; but stay positive and you\’ll make it through..

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Mark C July 2, 2008 at 10:56 am

    If, in our larger community (this country), we really took care of each other (eg, comprehensive health care like they have in civilized countries that doesn\’t leave millions out in the cold), Zak and others like him wouldn\’t have to choose between doing something they love and financial ruin. I\’m self-employed and make quite a bit, and it\’s still a struggle to pay for a high-deductible policy for my family.

    Honestly, the health care system is completely broken and needs to be blown up and started fresh. Employer based health coverage is a relic from just after World War II, for crying out loud.

    Oh and also, are all of those ripping on Zak also going to drop the hammer on those without insurance who smoke, or don\’t exercise or eat as healthy as they should?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • jeremy July 2, 2008 at 11:02 am

    All I have to say is that Zak is a good guy who doesn\’t talk bad about anyone. When you pass judgement on strangers you don\’t know and try to criticize their siuations without even knowing the context or full circumstances, you just show everyone else how cold and ignorant you are.

    Oh yeah, #43. Come over to Eugene, OR and ride around in the vicinity of campus a little. You can have fun all day riding with kids on $40 Huffy\’s who neither care about cycling nor general traffic laws, because they have the most unpredictable behavior that I\’ve ever seen on a bike. You can chat it up all day with them about bike community, and then watch them go home and immediately jump into the car because mom and dad only pay the gas when they\’re home for the summer, or because they got a DUI and are temporarily suspended from driving. Have fun.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • bahueh July 2, 2008 at 11:48 am

    Its quite entertaining to watch a lot of folks on this forum continue to rant and blend mutually exclusive opinions of health insurance, amateur bike racing, and one\’s choice of employment…

    I stated nothing but FACTS above…sorry if the facts are pissing people off. I said nothing negative about Zak or his desire to do something he loves.

    But please, go speak to 20 experienced road racers and ask their personal opinions on health insurance…the majority of them will tell you what I have mentioned above. Riding in a peloton without it is a bad idea…

    This is not a have vs. have-not discussion that so many here would like to instantly turn it into…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • a.O July 2, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    I broke my collarbone and it effing sucked!! Definitely in the top 3 worst injuries I\’ve ever had, right up there with punctured lung and fractured skull.

    I also know what it\’s like to worry about riding my bike while I don\’t have health insurance, even though I am now one of those people who asks you to \”deliver [my] oh-so-urgent court documents.\”

    These class differences aren\’t so stark as some would like to believe. A few missing paychecks and I\’m right back on that side, where my political views and activism has remained.

    Get well soon, Zak!

    Maybe some of the contributions should go toward paying a health insurance premium so Zak can avoid this situation next season?

    Maybe the OBRA or whatever the racing member association is should try to negotiate a group rate for racers?

    I understand that fellow attorneys Rick Bernardi and Bob Mionske are working on health insurance specifically for cyclists who don\’t have any through an employer or through their motor vehicle policy. Maybe we can have a constructive discussion on how to help out with that?

    Maybe you people should vote for Obama so we can fix this health insurance mess and join the rest of the civilized world. This last one isn\’t a question!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • bahueh July 2, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    a.o….wow…finally someone with some perspective…

    amy and joel, i\’m not the cause of your problems, so try to contain your frustration and anger and use it a bit more constructively..if you don\’t agree with the current system, do something to change it.
    until then, do what you can to play with the confines of the current system…

    people don\’t engage in things they love all the time because they don\’t have the right accessories…health insurance in bike racing is one of those accessories.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • burning shame July 2, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    Count me in on blowing up the current health care system in this country!

    If Zak was a racer in Canada, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Estonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal,[4] Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom (and the list goes on) we wouldn\’t be having this discussion.

    It\’s a crime that America is so far behind the rest of the world in this!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • a.O July 2, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    \”Canada, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Estonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal,[4] Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom (and the list goes on)…\”

    I like it. Let\’s add up the number of countries where, if Zak were racing, this conversation would not be occurring. I bet it\’s a pretty big number.

    And it\’s not exactly even the ones full of wealthy people. For chrissakes, GEORGIA, people. Yes, that\’s actually a country and no, Ted Turner did not secede. Bulgaria?! What a POS! [kidding]. Even tiny MALTA!!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • krystenr July 2, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    bahueh, are you saying that Zak shouldn\’t be riding at all because he can\’t afford health insurance?

    So should he then not walk down the street either? Pretty good chance he\’ll get hit my a car or a bus just walking out his door. Maybe he shouldn\’t ever use a knife while cooking either, he could cut himself. God, he really just shouldn\’t even wear shoes with laces, they could come untied and he could trip and hit his head!

    You\’re so right.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • krystenr July 2, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    Fact is, health insurance is not an accessory for a sport, it\’s an accessory for life. Too bad an insane amount of Americans are living without it.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • bahueh July 2, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    krystenr….over-react much?

    Zak can \”ride\” all he wants..and should. whether he should be \”racing\” is a different story as it entails a MUCH higher degree of risk…

    if you ever choose to do so, you will quickly understand what I\’m talking about.. until then, you have little knowledge of the subject.

    you can walk down a street…or you can walk down a street crossing multiple lanes in the opposite direction of traffic during rush hour….they two things entail vastly different degrees of risk…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • jenn July 2, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    you know, what about all the car/bike related accidents that happen everyday. what\’s so different about that say the driver took off and you\’re left there to pay for everything and don\’t have insurance . you\’re stating the same thing as stating he\’s at a higher risk racing.

    at some point anything can happen where you\’re going to need to go to the hospital and if not you\’re part of the .0001% of the lucky ones. I\’m a sous chef and I don\’t get insurance sucks, if I hurt myself in the kitchen at most i get workmans comp. but still you can just as easily step outside not see something trip fall break your wrist, twist your ankle freak accidents and still be screwed.
    if zak is happy doing what he\’s doing that\’s his thing and as for amature racer i think not. also we should be thankful that we have a community like this that backs people they know in time of need. I know bike central helped me out when I got hit and they barely knew me at the time. stop being so bitter everyone.

    also me and a few friends are going to come up with shirts and spoke cards to help raise money for him. so watch out for those.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Mark C July 2, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    Obviously, you\’re going to incur some risk just going through day-to-day activities. The only way to avoid it is to stay in bed and hope you don\’t have a heart attack while you\’re lying there. In defense of bahueh, however, I have to agree that bike racing is particularly risky. I won\’t participate for just that reason. For me, the risk is too great. Hopefully, someday we will have a health care system where we all truly spread the risk. Until then, anybody contemplating bike racing without health insurance and/or disability needs to consider the risk. I\’ve known more than one person who wouldn\’t race during periods when they were without health insurance.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • joel July 2, 2008 at 6:09 pm


    ok, i see your point. people who dont have health insurance shouldnt race. zak doesnt have health insurance. therefore, zak shouldnt race.

    point taken.

    trouble is, your point isnt FACT, its your OPINION. and i dont agree with it.

    the inherent risk to zak at work on the streets of portland is MUCH greater than the risk to him on the track – and you dont appear to give a rats ass about that, or the fact that his employer does nothing for him as far as health insurance is concerned (and, in fact, if he works where i think he does, dodges the burden of workers comp, social security, and medicare by declaring him an independent contractor).

    bottom line? zaks hurt, and hes going to take a big financial hit from this. his friends are pulling together to help him out, despite the fact many of us are just as broke as he is – and theres a bunch of wanks talking smack here about how its his own fault and other such crap. is it any wonder im a bit pissed and you and the rest? dont condescend to tell me not to get angry, and make assumptions about how i should be working to change the system.

    people who dont engage in things they love, and have a talent for, simply because they dont have the right \”accessories\” risk having utterly boring lives filled with regret – and thats a risk i am unwilling to take (and i daresay zak, and many of the other people here, feel the same)

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Beefa July 2, 2008 at 7:32 pm

    The company Zak works for is a international conglomerate. Indeed, a company that could and should provide some sort of coverage. Yet even they will op for a legally questionable employment status, rather than upset their bottom line, as infinitesimal an impact a few couriers in little ol PDX would be on such a company.

    Good god I\’m doing two things I would never have wanted to do today: Defend China Doll AND post on bike Portland. Ugh.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Magnum July 2, 2008 at 7:55 pm

    I think an important point has been missed–Zak looks really good in his skinsuit in the photo at the top of this article (nice photo Ed.) Why would anyone want to keep someone who looks so good as a spandor out of his spandex? That\’s just crazy! Some people are good at paying for insurance and some people are good at looking good. We can\’t all be good at everything.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • mark July 2, 2008 at 11:34 pm

    once again, probably the biggest issue Americans face is the prospect of no insurance. People in all types of jobs aren\’t provided with insurance. So what do you expect us to do? hide inside hoping we won\’t get hurt? no, we live our life how we want, and yes we take chances, but that\’s life. People shouldn\’t criticize the person for not having insurance and racing, but our government for not providing the people with basic health insurance. If I had a wreck, I\’d still be screwed and I have insurance. With monthly premiums and all that insurance won\’t cover, then you have to pay a deductible on top of it all, it\’s a complete racket, the insurance industry.

    best of luck, and I hope he gets everything he needs.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • White folks July 3, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    yo, #43 or TBIU, you wonder where this \”bike community\” was when you got hurt. This imaginary \”cool guy messenger bike club\” BS aside, I ask what have you done for your community lately? You get what you give and I haven\’t seen you manning checkpoints at any alleycats, or volunteering at CCC.
    People are down to help Zak because he helped them, or was thier friend, customer or respectful competitor, not because he was part of your misguided fantasy bike gang.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • leonard maltin July 3, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    White folks – i think you are making TBIU\’s point for him/her again.

    i\’m sure a lot of people here have learned the lesson that it is poor judgment to ride on a human-sized roulette wheel with nothing to cover your bet. i have nothing against zak, he just made a mistake and is an unfortunate example of our sorry health care system and short-sighted risk taking coming together with very expensive results. good thing he has friends or else he would be bankrupt.

    you however are another subject…it\’s really funny how my back of the envelope math got you all heated up. i\’d hate to see what a calculus problem would do to your temper.

    so as i sit here in my air-conditioned pearl office and read over your posts i came up with something to brighten your mood:
    what\’s the difference between White folks and a coiled brown snake? White folks is sitting on the sidewalk because s/he is manning an alley cat checkpoint.
    bonus one-liner: what\’s bigger, your messenger bag or the chip on your shoulder?

    i would have sent that by messenger but posting it is cheaper.

    have a good 4th, i\’ll be in hawaii!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Beefa July 3, 2008 at 10:43 pm

    I will brazenly speak for the whole messenger community: You are a jerk Leonard. You could not hold our wheel.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Real Talk July 3, 2008 at 11:09 pm

    Lots of people are involved in cycling accidents and most of them don\’t get fundraisers. Portland has thousands and thousands of people who ride bikes.. but riding a bike does not make you a part of a community. And for the cycling community, many divisions exist.. but each has it\’s own group rides, races, amateur events, competitions, and smaller events.. BBQs, workshops, etc. So if Zak is a part of the \”messenger scene\” who go to fixed rides, compete in alleycats, and ride at the track.. and such.. then what\’s so wrong with those very people rallying to support him when he\’s down? I don\’t see him moping around.. just saw the dude up at Tabor last night watching the fixed race. So seriously.. stop giving him shit. HIs friends are the one who started this. And they have every right to like the guy. If you friends wouldn\’t do the same for you, then maybe you need new friends.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Lapis July 3, 2008 at 11:13 pm

    Heal well, Zak. Wondered why I haven\’t seen you on the streets this week.

    I don\’t know if there\’s a single messenger in town (bike, car or foot and yes there\’s foot too) with health insurance via their company. You can\’t expect aid when you get a ticket, and there\’s the independent contractor issue as well (and THEN you have to rent your radio and uniforms if you have any).

    All I know is the owner of my company (which has a small team of walkers instead of a fleet of bikers) bought a ranch and I\’m stuck applying for foodstamps.

    OHP is overstretched, but there is a program to get assistance with your health insurance via the state of Oregon. They\’ll cover 50-95% of your premiums, you\’ll have to make up the rest. The waiting list is over six months long, but it\’s worth a shot.

    We can spout out all these shoulda coulda wouldas, but the underlying issue is still at hand: universal health insurance isn\’t available in the United States. If we were all covered, it might even bring premiums down: those who are insured don\’t do quite so much running from debt, and generally go to the doctor rather than the emergency room for problems (prevention!).

    I\’m blathering and it\’s late. The state of how messenger companies compensate their employees is horrendous as is the amount of people who lack access to affordable, consistent health care.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Beer Friend to Leonard July 4, 2008 at 12:43 am

    Leonard Maltin – ah, nice name to hide behind – a famous movie critic – clever –

    Now, all I gotta say is that I would hate to spend a day in your skin – what a terrible life you must lead – bitter, self-righteous, egomaniac, obnoxious. I wonder what it feels like to be that way? Ya know, even if you really were in Hawaii, you still have to wear that same shi**y skin everywhere you go – you will never escape it – just how does it feel?

    And, yeah, Zac rips in that skinsuit- have you seen those sweet things?

    Finally, I know its a shock, but some members of Team Beer do have insurance and we\’ll be getting his back \’cause he sure as hell would get ours – and, believe it or not, some team members don\’t even, gasp, drink beer. Stereotyped anybody lately?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • wyatt July 4, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    this thread is still going?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Jennifer July 4, 2008 at 8:17 pm

    Thank you BikePortland comment section for never ceasing to amaze me at the great lengths that people will go to waste their time.

    PS. What does Vance think about all this?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • erin g. July 4, 2008 at 10:31 pm

    I am so proud of everyone who organized, donated raffle items, and came out to support a fabulous, deserving friend today at Alpenrose. The athletes and spectators all had a great day at the track; the spirit of the sport and community was strong and positive, bringing it all back home to the original point of Jonathan\’s story.

    Zak, we all love you and look forward to seeing you kickin\’ it faster than ever in your stellar Team Beer skin suit next season.

    Everyone had a blast today…

    **Go Team Beer!**

    Btw, 77 is right on: Team Beer is not all about beer/drinking. It\’s about people who have fun and support each other. Some have beer after a race. Others have vegan food. Some rank well races. Others come in last. **All** have fun and enjoy life. Now, who could say anything negative about that? Thought so….

    Happy 4th of July, all! What a great day it was.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Matt Case July 5, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    Good times and good folk out at the track yesterday. Team Beer was super great, racers and cheerleaders alike. Per from Team Bike Central came to talk to me about improving my technique for a faster 200m time without solicitation. Everyone out there was great and supported each other while having come to support Zak. Haters on this thread should have come out and seen what \’cycling community\’ looks like. It looks good and it feels good too.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • nerfy-poo July 6, 2008 at 1:36 am

    ah man the hate is dying down???

    heres some ammo for you predictable commuter/lurker types.

    when zak works he rides a brakeless track bike and wears no helmet…


    discuss 🙂

    Recommended Thumb up 0