Friday Group Ride #146


We spend an awful lot of time talking about the whats and whys of cycling. What are you riding? What would you rather be riding? Why is one thing better than another? Why do you do it the way you do?

But my cycling, almost all of it, has more to do with whos than whats or whys.

There were two incredibly cool older kids, teenagers, in the neighborhood I first rode a bike in, Scott and Jamie. Both of them could ride a wheelie the length of our street. They built a crappy wooden bridge to ford the stream that separated our block from the small patch of woods behind, and the trails they cut in between the pines. They were early heroes. Everything they did, I wanted to do. They made bikes cool.

As an adult, I was shown the ropes of road riding by my friend Nancy, who had nearly supported herself, in the ’80s, by winning all the local crits and surviving on free bikes, ramen and broccoli. She’s the one who taught me to ride in a paceline, how to shift when climbing, how to dress, eat and suffer on a bike.

After years of riding and commuting and really integrating the bike into every aspect of my life, along came Padraig, who not only gave me the opportunity to write about bikes for a much larger audience, but also showed me how deep you can really go with cycling. He helped me jump into the industry. He became a friend and a mentor. And another inspiration.

Just yesterday, my friends Joe and Dan dragged me out for a pre-work ride in the freezing-ass-cold. It was a relatively short one, but still more than I had done for a few weeks, and it lifted my mood in that way that riding a bike with friends does.

These are just a few of my whos, the ones who spring readily to mind. This week’s Group Ride asks who are the characters who brought you into cycling? What did they say/do/show that jumped you into the gang? How did they inspire you?

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24 comments

  1. Peter lin

    I ride mostly due to addiction to riding and less about inspiration. Though there are plenty of inspiring people in Seven Hills Wheelmen that regularly drag me up the hills. Wachusett mountain inspires me to climb it and dares me to improve my best time. On good days, when the road is closed to cars, I go up the down side and try to see if I can cough up a lung. On bad days, I’m glad to reach the top without coughing up a lung. In-between days, I’m happy to be on a bike and spinning up the summit.

  2. Bongo

    The who that got me started cycling is my doctor. He gave me the old “you need to exercise or die” speech. Once I started it was Alvis and Dawn Hill of the Waco Bicycle Club that welcomed me and helped me get over the initial apprehension of group riding. But the person I owe the biggest debt of gratitude to is my cycling mentor, Don Ickles, I love that guy!

  3. Jesus from Cancun

    Mine is not an unusual story. I used to ride my bike to school and Mom took me to watch Breaking Away.

    The movie inspired me to try riding faster and farther, and I joined a couple other kids from my neighborhood to go riding on Sundays.

    During one of these rides we were caught by a group ride, and I sped up to keep up with them. When they increased the pace toward the end of the ride, the group grew smaller and smaller, and there I still was, a 14 year old in running shorts and sneakers, hanging out with the Sunday ride Divas.

    At the end of the ride a slim tanned guy approached me. He was Jose Luis Castañeda, a popular rider in the 70’s who had won the Tour of Baja, National Championships, and many other races. He made a few suggestions about training and equipment, and I started hanging out and going out on rides with him. Then he introduced me to the manager of a junior development team, and it was the start of a new chapter in my life.

    During, and shortly after my racing years, I tried to give the same back. Old Casta passed away a few years ago, but I always thought about him when I met an eager kid who needed some guidance and maybe some used gear. One of “my” kids went on to race Pro for Successful Living, another one became a Pan Am pursuit champion as a junior, another one medaled in the Elite Pan Ams, another one got several medals in the Junior Nats.

    Thank you for all of us, Casta. Part of you lives in each of us.

    1. Padraig

      It’s funny how I take a pleasure in being uncomfortable at being held up as a mentor. I’m happy to squirm, as it were. Even though I spend a lot of time writing about my experiences, I think the crazy way I embrace cycling is just a statistical inevitability. I’m a messenger, not the message.

      That said, well done Robot.

      And cheers to Casta!

  4. Michael Schlitzer

    I can remember beginning racing and training with my local club. I was having trouble figuring out the rhythm of riding in the bunch, so I decided to shadow this guy, Rich Viola, and be his mirror. For an entire spring training season, whatever gear he was in I was in; when he drank, I drank; when he stood up, I stood up; when he shifted, I shifted. And I figured it out. That was almost 20 years ago and I am forever in Rich’s debt.

  5. ZiaBoulder

    Greg Lemond, Davis Phinney, and Andy Hampsten are the who’s who in my biking. I grew up in Boulder and stood in North Boulder Park trying to watch Phinney win another crit. I stood on Pearl St. to see podium presentations, but I never rode/raced anything more than my yellow banana seat Schwinn around the neighborhood/town. Liked the races and the excitement but couldn’t afford or didn’t know where to go to start. Years pass and in college I bite the bullet by a used Specialized Cirrus (two sizes too small) and found a local club (Alpine Velo in Provo, Utah). I rode b/c Steve and Dave Breiter from Idaho were brothers that knew about racing and having fun. It’s been over 20 years since then and I remember many days chasing Steve up American Fork Canyon proud that I could hold his wheel.

  6. Souleur

    simple….his name begins with Greg and ends in Lemond

    Watching him finish, an American, in France, young, innovative with a monster engine, and to witness the master collapse at the finish line inspired me to ride forever

  7. Q

    I found my way into the sport mostly on my own, but growing up in Colorado, I was kind of surrounded by it, and found plenty of inspiration from watching strangers out on the roads, and of course local heros like Andy Hampsten. I distinctly remember a drive down Coal Creek Canyon on a weekend in my early teens seeing several riders climbing up the canyon, and thinking that it looked like something I wanted to try. It must have been around the same time that my family happened to be driving down the Mt. Evans road toward Idaho Springs when traffic was temporarily blocked for the filming of “American Flyers”, which was the first time I ever saw all the trappings of a race, with team cars and riders in racing kit. A couple years later, I saved up my hard earned cash and bought my first “real” bike. My cycling eventually got a school classmate, my brother and some of his friends into the sport.

  8. sterlingbbiking

    It was 20 years ago that I showed up to a saturday ride at Champion cycling in Jacksonville Florida. the owner, Stan Sanford and a friend of his Tim Miller kept me in on that ride. Yeah, I’ve slowed down a bit getting older and all, but I look back to that particular day and how it’s changed my life (and my wallet.) I know there has to be a spiritual side to cycling,because I love giving back, even when that newbie shows up on a saturday on a comfort bike and we stay with him or her. give back folks, it’s a rush.

  9. Dave

    Being a fair athlete in high school I went IU and was caught up in the Little 500. Rode there for 2 years and life got in the way with family etc. Back into it 5 years ago and loving it. Thanks Little 500!

  10. PasoWinemaker

    When I was in college (ca 1990,) I had some study buddies who were USCF racers. I’d hang out with them on weekend evenings and BBQ and have a few beers. Although I had no experience or knowledge of cycling, their enthusiasm for the sport was a bit contagious. One evening Chris put in a VHS tape of the 1989 TdF and I sat gape-jawed for the whole event. My curiosity was piqued and I found myself thirsting for all the information I could muster about bikes and cycling/racing.
    I was a lousy athlete and never made better than Cat 4 (mind you – there was no Cat 5 then) but my enthusiasm didn’t wane. Although life got in the way sometimes, I’ve been riding – off and on – for all these years and continue to pick up wonderful new mentors along the way.
    Cheers!

  11. PeterLeach

    Who are the characters that brought me into cycling?

    Like others, I have to say my medical advisors – a surgeon who said I had to regain flexibility and a physiotherapist who said cycling was really my only option.

    But who inspired me to love cycling the way I do – that honour belongs to members of the ACT Vets CC, many of them older than me who showed me just how much fun you can have on a bike.

    So: “Thank you!” to Reinhardt, Al, Rob, James [all three of them], Bill and all the girls.

    “Race forever, Pete.”

    ps. I’m a roleur, I know because I’ve tried to be different :-)

  12. Drago

    My brother. The Red Zinger…Coors Classic. Breaking Away –and some race documentary played before it. Sure wish I could find a copy of that. I’ve always loved the bike: making it shinier, faster, quieter, louder.

  13. Eto

    The original who(s) as a kid were my neighborhood friends and my brother all on our BMX bikes. Later, in my early 20’s and just after having moved to the mid west, I stepped into a local bike shop, The Highwheeler and it all began. That marked the beginning of the rest is my history on a bike.

    Thank you to Mike Clark and all the cool heads that worked there at the time and over the years. They become my new family.

  14. slappy

    My dad for saying that you always felt better after a bike ride. That and the masi he ended up with in some firewood trade that I rode back and forth to milking cows. Then after all those team sports I got caught up with Dave Kellogg and the arc en siel boys in RI and they were inspirational. Now I ride much less road, but there is nothing better than the single track pace line, riding with friends who can all ride mountain bikes at the level where we can cruise and chat while offload. Over the turkey holidays it was demonstrated in AZ, four of us on single speeds, having a grand old time burning thanksgiving dinner off. As long as the people I’m riding with aren’t the type a amateurs who plagued the road racing I was doing, Its all good. Ride fast, don’t be a beeatch

  15. armybikerider

    I remember certain touch stones in the last 30 + years that have led me to this place.
    –an early 80’s issue of Bicycling with Bob Cook on the cover
    –a showing of Hell of the North in San Antonio
    –Jerry Rummel – who regularly kicked my ass off road and is 18 years my senior. He pushed me to try harder in everything I do
    –Ed Stone and his amazing collection of bikes and the fast group rides he led and allowed me to join

  16. Bill Webster

    What a terrific question for a Saturday morning. Like many of us, my passion for cycling took hold following Greg LeMond. Three LeMond bikes later (and only deepened further as he Lance Affair plays out), he’s still my inspiration. Riding up Mt. Lemmon for pie. Holding on, mostly off the back, with the Flying Rhinos – then getting the chance to ride a Masi – my first “real” bike. Watching, amazed, that Grewal held off Bauer for the gold in 1980.

    The pure love of riding.

  17. Brian P

    Growing up my father was never really part of my life,,but I come from a large family so I had plenty of uncles and my grandfather to teach me about life. Starting when I was around 10 years old I used to ride my uncles trek 500 next to him while he trained for marathons. These were my first times riding a real bike for long distances. Seeing him at the end of a marathon exhausted, in pain, but with a huge grin on his face is something I’ll never forget. These days when I race or go out for a long day I always think back to those memories from the 70’s and they help me push though to the end.

    Like most teens I moved away from bikes whenI got a car,but found them again in my twentys with mountain bikes. I started working in shops and now in my forties I’m a part owner of a chain of shops.

    I have to say now he is even more of an inspiration to me. Nearing his seventies he still commutes year round in DC about 40 miles a day.

    Thanks Walt for showing me how great bikes can be.

  18. chiwode

    Mark talked me into doing Mount Washington with him. I’d never entered a race. But as soon as I got there and saw all those lean riders, exotic frames, and the love of cycling, for the first time in my life I just stopped and thought…”I belong here. These are my people. I’m home.”

  19. brucew

    I’ve never been one for heroes. My inspirations have all been ordinary folks, anonymous riders I’ve seen here and there.

    One that sticks out is a retired guy I shared a table with at a crowded café. He was one of those tanned, in-shape guys many of us in early middle-age think it’s impossible to become. He had a bike with him, a really beat up X-Mart MTB. He’d fashioned some carriers to the front and back, and had an enormous backpack with him.

    I asked about the bike, and he told me he was leaving for Florida in the morning. “You take your bike with you?” I asked. “No, I ride it there,” he replied.

    I’d lived through the 70s bike boom, never really getting past the torn pant legs in the chainrings stage, but somehow, 30 years later the thought of traveling by bike sounded appealing. We talked the afternoon away.

    A couple of years later, tired of the hassles of mid-city car ownership, and working only a couple of miles from home, I bought a bike. Shortly after, I upgraded to roadies, and expanded beyond basic transportation.

    While I haven’t gotten around to touring–not nearly enough vacation time–now I’m the guy who says, “No, I rode my bike here.”

  20. Jeff T

    I was running x-country and track in college and got hurt a couple of times. Couldn’t run because of the pounding but wanted to keep my aerobic fitness and another guy on the track team said “Why don’t you come out with me and a couple of guys I know on a bike — I can loan you one”. Joined them and puked during the ride every day for weeks. Found out later that those “couple of guys” qualified for the Olympic trials in cycling. Quite an introduction, but I’ve been riding ever since (39 years). Still have that original bike, too (Italvega).

  21. 1speed

    My first experience with cycling as an adult wasn’t a happy one. After riding some BMX as a kid, like so many others I put the bike away once I had a driver’s license. I only came back to it when I was looking for a cardio workout to go with my weightlifting (I had started bodybuilding in college and was serious about that for a good long time.) The bike I bought was a $300 rigid Mongoose mountainbike, and a friend of a friend agreed to show me the local trails. He did, but he didn’t pay any attention to the fact that I was a beginner. Trying to keep up with him left me sick and puking and after two or three rides like this, I quit out of frustration. Fast forward a few years. After finsihing grad school, I moved to a new area for a job with nothing — no furniture, no appliances, just a big empty apartment. But I felt I’d left some unresolved issues with riding because I hated the fact that I’d given up, so my first purchase wasn’t a couch or a tv or any of that — it was a new mountainbike. And, since I had no other distractions beyond work, I started riding a lot. And while out on the trail one day, I saw a guy I recognized from my gym, and eventually started riding with him on some of his training rides. At first, it was the same kind of thing — I’d struggle to keep up, but perhaps it wasn’t quite as tough or maybe I was just more determined. But my new riding buddy was really cool and encouraging and would wait for me at the top of hills. He gave me a lot of really good advice early on that helped me get a little better each time. Eventually, he stopped riding himself when his fledgling business demanded too much time for solid training. He’s more of a runner these days — competes in 50Ks and ultra-marathons — but every now and then I coax him out to the trail. And on the few occasions when we ride together now, it’s usually me who has to wait up. Because the ride is always a little better when my good friend is there!

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