Monthly Archives: August 2013

Dinosaur Days Remembered

In a private Facebook group, a collection of voices from bicycle racing back in the early 70s (called the “Dino” group, as in Dinosaurs), one of the legendary riders from back then spoke of how special things were, how we changed the cycling world, and by inference how much better than today. Below is my response-

I think we do lose something as the sound-byte generation lacks the patience to understand something that has a flow and a history to it. There’s only the here and now, which may help to explain the prevalence of doping.

Me again, second from left, 16 years old in my “bicycling as lifestyle” days. Jenny, second from right, my first long-term girlfriend. Cycling truly was a community, a place to be.

The other thing is that, for us, back in the day, it wasn’t just cycling. It was a lifestyle. It defined us. And I think it’s important to consider it was counter-cultural. Your class-mates didn’t understand you, why you were riding a bicycle everywhere you could, instead of driving. Your teachers put up with you, for reasons unknown, when you’d ride in on a rainy day, smelling like a rat. Your father, who was the sports editor of the newspaper, didn’t quite know what to make of a kid who had the common sense of thinking that running *towards* a high speed projectile (football, baseball, tennis ball) was a bad idea, but had no issues hurtling downhill at high speed in the rain.

That’s why I relate so well to Dave Stoller from the movie Breaking Away. I *was* Dave Stoller. Except that I was so counter-cultural I didn’t shave my legs, because that was expected within the counter-cultural world of cycling.

Me in my “serious” days as a bike racer. Hardly a day goes by I don’t miss racing, and, by extension, the early-70s. Still wondering if I’m a has-been or never-was

I met some of the greatest people through bike racing. People whose skills were generally far beyond mine, like Lindsay Crawford and Bob Tetzlaff. I remember as a junior, soaking in every single word that BT said at a training camp, especially how to throw a punch and not get sanctioned. Yeah, as a junior, you actually have to be told not to be stupid like… who was Emily K’s husband, that started a fist fight at the Redwood City Criterium as they came past the finish line on a lap?

I miss it, so much. I miss traveling to races in a a fellow racer’s beat up Rambler station wagon that had to stop every 20 minute to manually pack more grease into the wheel bearings. I miss discovering what a great guy Tom Ritchey’s dad was when we hitched a ride back from Tahoe because the Rambler wasn’t going to make it. I miss my father, who came to me in a moment that I took for granted at the time, telling me he was sorry that we didn’t have enough money for him to support my racing like the other dads could (I was working 32 hours a week during high school).

For more musings on my past, including some embarrassing stories and examples of my writing in Competitive Cycling, see this older web page.

Maybe if we give the park ranger an alarm clock?

The usually-closed gate at the bottom of Huddart Park in its usual state

The usually-closed gate at the bottom of Huddart Park in its usual state

Every once in a while, the gate at the bottom of Huddart Park is open, allowing us to sail on through without stopping. More often than not it’s closed, requiring us to either slip through it or ride around it cyclo-cross style. We’ll frequently see the ranger heading down, presumably to open the gate, as we’re heading up through the park, and that’s what gave me the idea that maybe we could drop off an alarm clock at the unattended park office up top, with a note thanking him for opening it up (sometimes) but maybe could he wake up just a couple minutes earlier?

Just four of us on the ride this morning; the two Kevins, myself and JR. Thankfully a fairly mellow pace most of the way, although I did try and keep up with Kevin (pilot) for as long as I could, which meant about halfway up Kings. The other Kevin & JR were hanging out behind a bit, maybe trying to give me a false sense that I’m getting a bit faster again.

Faster. Yesterday I did a bit of research, going through older almost-daily diary entries and checking my Kings Mtn times. It’s pretty clear that I peaked in 2006, when I got a pair of 25-something times up the hill. This makes sense; my plan back then was to be faster at 50 (my age in 2006) than I was at 35, and I accomplished that. Past 2006 began a gradual decline in my overall fitness, as I spent more time on longer rides (at pretty slow speeds) with my son, getting him from 5’3 and 230 pounds to his present 5’9 and 175. By 2011 he was clearly faster than me, and in the two years since I’ve begun to gradually get faster, this year improving about 4% over last year and, finally, getting back into 26-something territory on Kings fairly often.

I’m not sure how far I can go; at 57, it’s not realistic to believe I can swim against the tide of getting older for too much longer. But I draw hope from JR who, at 60, is considerably faster than I am today. And Lindsay Crawford, local cycling legend now in his 70s and still putting in long and pretty fast miles. As they say, I’m not dead yet. –Mike–