Friday Group Ride #92

Since Steve Jobs’ recent death I’ve learned more about the iconic leader of Apple Computer than I ever wanted to know. I admit I was curious about him. Based on my read, he and I shared some basic traits: creative, big-picture thinkers on the intense side. So that made him interesting to me and even, on occasion, a north star to stay true to my personal views and beliefs.

His taste was impeccable, even if he did tend to dress day-in-and-out in the same wardrobe. I wish I had his taste. But as I’ve read more, I’ve learned other, less attractive features about the man. He could be tone-deaf to others’ feelings; I’ve suffered that at times. He could be both cruel and petulant. He could be a bully. I’m relieved those aren’t mine.

Malcolm Gladwell has called him the ultimate tweaker. It doesn’t seem to be a job title many of us would want, but Jobs turned it into something memorable. He seems to have been a man of extremes. His complicated nature make me more curious about him, even if I wouldn’t want to share more in common with him. I may have to read Walter Isaacson’s book.

The bike industry is full of complicated figures, too. Mike Sinyard of Specialized burns with a holy light for cycling. He rides more miles each year than plenty of guys I know half his age. He can be generous and warm. I’ve also heard that he can direct his wrath at employees who don’t measure up.

Friends in the industry who have worked with the Bikes Belong Coalition have told me that the great unsung hero of bicycle advocacy is Trek’s John Burke. People say that Bikes Belong wouldn’t be as well funded or as effective without his involvement. Yet from the sources I have, Burke never rides and he is known for being callous. One former employee told me that the wife of a staffer made a wistful comment about how she wished she saw more of her husband, to which Burke replied, “Get a dog.”

Cycling just lost one of the most interesting guys in the sport: Bob Stapleton. By all accounts he had vision, was both organized and disciplined and even ethical. The sport’s loss.

Then there are guys like Rob Vandermark of Seven Cycles, a guy whose business acumen seems as natural as Michael Jordan’s basketball talent, but whose personal life couldn’t be more shielded from public view. No one seems to know if he rides or not, if he does anything other than work. As a public figure, he’s unfortunately two-dimensional. On the other hand, we have Richard Sachs, a frame builder who has had more words devoted to his work than all other frame builders combined. Hmm.

The question today is: Who interests you, and why? Do you like the principled monastics like Sachs or do you find the complicated figures like Burke interesting? Or both?

Naturally, this leads to yet another question: Are there figures we ought to turn the spotlight on here at RKP?

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  1. Simon

    One thing about Jobs that doesn’t get mentioned too much in the recent wailing and gnashing of teeth is that he’s the man who on his return to Apple closed down every single one of their significant charitable operations. How he managed to do that and maintain Microsoft’s image as the evil empire at the very time when the Bill & Mel foundation was kicking off is truly extraordinary. Off-topic though…

    People I find interesting are those like Gary Fisher or Mike Burrows, guys who really have thought outside the box engineering solutions to cycling’s questions and who’ve left real legacies as a result.

  2. randomactsofcycling

    Christian Prudhomme seems to be a man with a vision for Professional Cycling’s future.
    Shayne Bannan might bring a new approach to running a Pro Cycling Team.
    I’d also be interested to know where Fausto Pinarello’s next tangent is going to take bike design.
    There’s a bit of travel in there for you Padraig!

  3. sophrosune

    I am interested in Bob Parlee because he is a bike builder who has brought back the tradition of putting your name behind your product. I am a little weary of the Cervelos, Specializeds and Treks of the world. Give me a man and his name and I become interested. Sure, Richard Sachs puts his name behind his product but he’s done it by fetishizing a lost art rather than pushing the limits of current technology. That interests me.

  4. Souleur

    who interests me and why? It seems we are kinda focused on builders, and that is fine, how about Dario Pegoretti, for many obvious reasons. But frame builders are just one aspect of what/who/why interests me in our passion. How about the young and up-n-comers like Hoogerland, how he was not accidentally so tough, learning more about his spirit and riding. Or like the likes of Dave Zabriskie, who is always so interesting. Or the likes of our riders who have ‘come and gone’, like Joe Parkin, the guy is legend.

    I agree w/sophrosune, the corporate giants out there, & the many products tend to make me a little gunshy about just ‘drinking the koolaid’ of acceptance, but those whose interests and motives are sparkling clean as the wind driven snow, now they interest me.

  5. todd k

    I’d be interested in interviews with folks that are a bit off the beaten path. Folks that have perhaps been around for eons but are maybe lesser known than some of their more publicized brethren. An example that comes to mind is Andy Newlands of Strawberry. I’m guessing you probably have a list of folks you have come across over the years that you may wish were more widely known. I’d defer to your judgement, but I am always a sucker for interviews with folks that have a long history in the industry, but are a bit off the beaten path.

  6. mark

    I simultaneously admire and mock Competitive Cyclist’s Brendan Quirk. The guy is clearly talented but seems to know it a bit too well. His product descriptions are beautiful, but his statements about other topics in the “What’s New” blog have made me wonder about the fact-checking. He seems to have transcended the Internet retailer bike shop, in that he offers a customer experience beyond that of most brick and mortar shops and in doing so has been able to avoid the need to compete on price alone.

    Another one that fascinates me is Stu Thorne. Seems very different than Quirk, yet their business models have more in common than not. I know almost nothing about the guy personally even though we stood next to each other in the pits at elite Nationals last year (no socializing, as each was focused on the task at hand).

  7. Fred

    As someone who has worked for Mike Sinyard, I can state that sure he rides and his business has the fastest guys in the world (well at least they think so) riding their lunch ride but they have the highest turnover of employees compared to any other company I’ve ever worked for. Not turnover as in, succeed, promote, succeed, promote. Rather, accomplish unrealistic goal on unrealistic timeline with unrealistic support, prepare next model year proposal and get fired before you can ever make your proposal type of turnover. The true hard workers at the company get laid off while the old guard of slackers that have been around since the beginning sit back and wait for the lunch ride. Hypocrisy abounding. Hell, ask about the former head of HR if you want stories. Let it be known that there are some GREAT people at Mike’s company. Really quality people. But Mike would never know it.

    Recently, at this past year’s Interbike convention, I noticed that many of the good guys that used to be at Specialized have seemingly moved on. Good for them. The consensus was that Mike was overwhelming, under-appreciative and “out-of-control”. His ego is larger than his bank account. Which is huge. He should let it get out of his way before Full Force 2.0 happens again.

  8. slappy

    Jeff Jones is rad, building incredibly progressive ti dirt bikes while raising a family on a bike centric diet with minimal car usage. Many frame builders seem to figure out how to make an aesthetic curve once in a while but his entire product is the most sensual and effective swoop. Not afraid to expand beyond the fetish as well with vicious creating double diamond jones geometry frames and titec making h bars. Less complication, more beautiful function.

    The Big Red S is a fine example of how pathological our corporate comrades can and have become in this bleeding edge nation. Specialized gets a nice award in telluride for opening a concept shop with a long time bike retailer who had lost his prior business, that had been bought when he ran out of money, and under new local ownership was continuing to carry specialized.. they didn’t care, hoping that the addition of a red s concept shop in a town of 1500 would do something good. Ego that big doesn’t care apparently

  9. Dan O

    Interesting question – who to turn the spotlight on. A few come to mind….

    Chris Chance. Where is he? What is doing? From I’ve read, he’s working as a massage therapist – something along those lines. An interview with him, years after the Fat City heyday would be an interesting read.

    Matt Fritzinger – Executive Director for NICA, the folks heading up high school mountain bike racing. Fantastic program that deserves much more print. Include some of the regional folks launching the program in many states, including Lisa Miller in my home state of Washington. Dedicated, great folks. High school mountain bike teams. How cool is that?

    Regional race promoters. Start with Zac Dab and crew who run the successful MFG ‘cross series here in the Seattle area. How it started, their view on running races and what makes it successful.

    Nothing wrong reading about frame builders – that always works – but there’s a ton of other cycling related folks out there with interesting stories…

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