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More of Your Best Bike Stories of 2011

We published Part One of this series just after the new year turned over, suspecting neither the huge response we’d get to the stories that people shared, nor the inspiring, hilarious and heartwarming tales that continued to turn up in our email in box for days afterward. No one’s ever accused us of letting great words go to waste, so we’re thrilled to share this second installment that’s every bit the equal of its older sibling. Enjoy. – CKY

Billy Sinkford | @souphorse
I spend a lot of time in the saddle. It is part of my job as I am sometimes employed in the cycling industry. Most of the time I am just employed by myself. Looking back on the year it is hard to single out one ride that eclipsed them all. I travel the nation and get a chance to ride tons of roads and also share said roads with a lot of interesting people. Not a discredit to anyone I have turned the pedals with, but most of my favorite rides are by myself.

I am not fast. At all. I ride because I love being on the bike. I do not ride to train, or lose weight. Fitness is not a problem and I have stopped racing because I always lose.

Time spent on the bike centers me and helps put life in focus. My job title requires a state of constantly being plugged in to the interwebs, constantly hitting refresh for the latest and greatest in the world of bike. Riding is my time to unplug and enjoy being me. This time I spend on a near daily basis on the roads and trails near my humble abode keeps me calm and on top of my game.

I am fortunate that I can plan my day around a ride and sometimes even call it work. One ride tends to bleed both literally and figuratively into the next, so I generally answer this question by saying they all have something special to offer. This year I can say that one actually does stand out. The SSCXWC in San Francisco would be the day but the race itself is not the ride I favor most.

I came to the “race” under the thin guise of work. I had no intention of actually racing hard. I demonstrated this fact by not even showing up for the race on time. After missing the start and losing the race I ran over to spend time with my son. Over the next hour he and I cruised around the course, he on his Strider and me on my single speed. We stayed off the course and went cruising through some unexplored parts of Golden Gate Park.

Normally I would not want to explore anything in Golden Gate Park that was uncharted for fear of what I might find, but with my boy leading the way and laughing I forgot all about that. He said we were “racing” and I told him he won. In reality he is one of the few people I am faster than, and one of the only who always brings a smile to my face. That was hands down the best hour I had on the bike in 2011, and possibly the best hour period. Now it’s a family affair.


Matthew Lolli | @ghostshipmatt
I had a lot of great moments on my bike: Winning/podium-ing a bunch of cross races (my best season yet), lots of awesome rides with great friends, sunsets, tough climbs, pretty similar to some other folks I bet. However, my most touching story is an off-the-bike-moment. I manage a bicycle shop here in Vernon, CT called Pedal Power. I’m the certified bicycle fitter for our shop and it’s one of my favorite/most fulfilling things to do at work. Hearing that I’ve helped make athletes faster, achieve new PR’s, ride without pain or discomfort is great! The thing I love most about it is that everyone I’ve done a fitting for tells me how much more they want to ride afterwards. Definitely a great feeling.

Back in March, I had a client who came to me with some pain/discomfort issues for a road bicycle fitting. I came to discover that she was in the process of battling with breast cancer. We did the fitting, and afterwards, she gave me, hands-down, the best compliment I’ve ever received being a fitter. She explained that she was still getting used to her new body-image as she had recently undergone mastectomy surgery Especially to having her ‘new’ body measured and ‘inspected’ by a strange man. She said that I had helped put her at ease and she had completely forgotten about her worries during the fitting process. Needless to say, I was pretty blown away. I find out that she’s been vlogging her experiences, thoughts and feelings during her recovery period, and she actually documented some of that day while we were fitting. She granted me permission to share her video with others (we’d never compromise our fit-client’s personal info) and I’d like to share it with you and the ARTCRANK audience.


 

Bridget Record
My boyfriend, Bob. is a bicycle messenger in San Francisco. Last May he came home and announced that he had been hit by a car and that it was the driver’s fault. My first thought and question was, of course “Are you ok.?” He was. Knowing from experience the sometimes aggressive nature of the job and Bob’s “live” personality, My second question was “Is the driver ok?”

The driver, James was on his way to a Giants game. He had turned right without signaling, (For sure, this is SF) He felt horrible and because Bob’s bike was not ok, he drove him with the bike to a bike shop. Bob made it clear to him that if the frame was bent, this could cost him a lot of money. The guy cancelled on his friend at the Giants game, drove Bob to another bike shop, and said the money didn’t matter, the most important thing was that Bob was ok. Bob said “He just could not be a nicer guy.”

The bike shop determined the frame had been bent. James agreed to meet him the next day at the bike shop to see what the warranty would cover and settle up on the rest of the damage. I was leery when Bob said he didn’t get James’ last name or license number. “I’m not worried” Bob said, he is a good guy”. During their rides around town Bob had found out what James did for a living, that he lived four blocks away from us, and that he was from Pittsburgh.

As Bob predicted, James met him the next evening at the bike shop, where employees informed Bob that his frame wasn’t bent after all. The brunt of the crash was absorbed by the front wheel, which James promptly replaced. This is good news for James, but turns out the bike is still not safe to ride. The back rack had been attached by metal brackets (at the same bikes shop) with no rubber inserts and 7 years of riding with metal on metal, the brackets had ruined the frame. If James hadn’t hit Bob with his car, the hazard may not have been discovered until it was too late. James saved Bob’s life by hitting him with his car!!!

While that irony is a great way to end the story, the final twist reminds me why I am so fond of Bob, and the sweet side of his “live” nature. He had always felt bad about James missing the Giants game, because he was such a good guy, and because Bob himself is such a sports freak. Bob purchased four tickets to see the SF Giants play the Pittsburgh Pirates: One for each of us, and the other two for James and his wife. We met them at the game, and watched Pittsburgh win. James seemed as nice as Bob had said. Even though he was very grateful for the tickets, I could tell from the laughing glances between him and his wife, that they were, like myself, in a bit of disbelief of how a bad driving decision had brought us all together.

 



Randy Bond
| @RandysRecycles
Randy’s Recycled Cycles opened for business on December 16th, 2010 and the year that followed was (in the understatement of the year) an amazing ride.

It all started when I lost my job and was looking for a way to generate some income. I’ve always been mechanically inclined and interested in bikes, so I bought a number of bikes from Craigslist, restored them, and sold them on my front lawn. They were gone in no time at all. I bought some more, and the same thing happened. Rinse and repeat. Buy. Restore. Sell. Hey, this was working out pretty well!

Eventually city inspectors pointed out that my yard wasn’t zoned for this kind of activity, so the hunt for a storefront began. I acquired a couple of partners and we found 4130 Manchester (where we live today) in The Grove, a vibrant part of St. Louis that’s going through a revitalization. The neighborhood is rich with unique businesses, restaurants and bars including Handlebar, a bike-themed bar directly across the street. The RRC team couldn’t ask for a more perfect environment.

As we settled into the new shop, our sources for raw materials grew to include auctions, websites, thrift stores, garage sales, and individuals wanting to make more room in their garages. As all of the bikes come in we clean and repair them, tune them up, sometimes add new parts, do a safety inspection, and generally restore the luster of each bike. Sometimes it’s tough to keep as much in stock as we’d like because people love the idea of quality recycled bikes at a very reasonable cost. The excitement for our custom fixxies is…well, humbling.

Simply put, 2011 has been a blur. We’ve gotten to know our neighbors, the people in the surrounding community, and bike/environment lovers throughout the metro area. We sponsored some awesome rides and street fairs. We gave to incredible charities. We watched smiles appear on thousands of faces as they selected a new bike, got a fun new accessory, or told the story of an amazing ride they recently experienced. We learned about accounting and inventory. We helped people reduce their carbon footprint and traffic congestion. We cheered people on as they tackled (and met!) new fitness goals through biking. We watched one little guy’s interest in troublemaking disappear as he learned to work on his bike. We explored more of the beauty in the St. Louis area by taking new routes. We met some crazy bike loving artists. We learned countless things from the people who have welcomed us into The Grove and their lives. We even busted a bike thief or two along the way.

This has been one hell of a ride, and I’m so grateful to have shared it with my partners, our customers, and the community.

As always, keep on bikin’!

 


Louise Mullagh | @patisseriecyc
“One more kilometre and we’re in the cafe…”

It is funny what can happen in just one year, how your expectations of how things are going to work out can disappear in a flash. This time last year I wasn’t well and felt as though I didn’t really have a career or future ahead of me, it is a long story and one I have written about lots since I started to get better.

In short, I was off work on long-term sick leave with severe depression and the only way I could escape and get better was by riding my bike each day. On each ride  I would visit my local cafe,one which is hugely popular with cyclists from all over the area and somewhere I felt safe and looked forward to visiting.

On a very dark January afternoon I was sat trying to write the journal I had been instructed to do when an idea came into my head.This surprised me a great deal as I had been struggling to sit and concentrate,even though I was attempting to get a PhD research proposal together. It came to mind that it was cycling just a short distance to the cafe that was really important in my getting out and recovering, but that cafes seemed to be at the very core of what we do. I mooted the idea of setting up a blog that cyclists could add reviews to, so that we could share our experiences of good and not so good cafes on our routes. The blog was set up and publicised a little and within weeks had gained a lot of support and popularity.

I immediately felt a little better, that a light had been switched on in my brain and I had something to focus on as well as getting out on my bike each day for a short spin for fresh air and exercise. It was slow progress with the site as I kept taking steps forwards and backwards with my recovery and then I started a new job in April, meaning all my time and energy was spent getting used to being at work again.

Once I had settled back into work I started back with blog and finally got round to registering www.patisseriecyclisme.co.uk ,which felt like a huge step and really positive too. It had become clear that this was an idea that cyclists ,whether fixie riders, road racers, commuters and mtb’ers, were interested in contributing to and supporting started growing rapidly. A couple of months ago I asked a friend to produce a logo and what he came up with exceeded my dreams of what the logo would look like. I think he managed to get it exactly right and I just love looking at it, it gives me a huge buzz to see it on the site and on some printed materials.

The most overwhelming part of 2011 was the support I received from friends, old and new and also really amazing advice from business people I greatly admire. It finally gave me confidence that I had the potential to do something exciting with my future, the fact it involves cycling and cake is, well, the icing on the cake.

It wasn’t intended to be a business at first, as cycling is my passion, as are cake and coffee, but as momentum grew it started dawning that this could be my future. I seem to have tapped into something at the core of cycling, that the cycling cafe is held in high regard by not only the leisure cyclist but the pros too. Historically the cafe raid occurred during the Grand Tours, before nutrition was developed and there were limits on how much fluid and fuel cyclists could take on during the day. The domestiques would combine forces and ‘raid’ the cafe en route, taking anything they could fit into their jerseys and ride back to their leaders and distribute what they had managed to take. It was seen as a huge honour for the cafe to be selected by the riders, and many collected memorabilia from such races that is still proudly displayed.

This historical aspect of the cycling cafe is something I hope to look at further with the development of my new site, something I can really get my teeth into and write about. I’m also going to be interviewing a lot of cyclists and professionals in the cycling industry, as well as owners of seminal cafes. Here in the UK the cycling cafe is often somewhere to find shelter with our terrible weather, but there you share the sense of comradeship with your fellow cyclists, this is something I treasure about the cycling community.

So, for me, 2011 was a huge year of change, but something incredibly positive came out of a really dark time. I am an advocate of bringing depression out into the open, to try and get rid of the barriers surrounding the discussion of it and if I can do this through cycling then that would be fantastic.

There are exciting projects in the pipeline, with kit being designed and a new website being developed, as well as a research proposal being put together for the spring. It was cycling that helped me recover, and the amazing people in the cycling community that gave me the support and confidence to try and follow my dream. I often think though that they are only in it for the free cake!



Mike Mason | @mikebikemason
That morning, we set off from Saint Paul with plans to camp at Carver Park Reserve—a decent ride for me and the boys, considering we were bike + trail-a-bike + trailer, and loaded with gear. After stops at Minnecycle to say “Hi!” to all the cool bike builders, the Midtown Freewheel for snacks and high-fives from the cool kids, Pizza Luce in Hopkins for some pie, a playground on the Minnetonka LRT trail for a romp, and downtown Excelsior for pastries, we finally rolled into our camp site at about 4:00pm.

This tour was our third adventure on a sub-24-hour-overnight, camping by bike right from our front door. Three years earlier, I’d almost been taken out by a Silverado on my ride to work, a terrifying experience, but I’d kept bicycling and developed a solid bike attitude to get to my downtown job in all seasons. Now, with a bike I had custom-built by Bradley Wilson of Capricorn Bicycles, and then had further built up by Angry Catfish, the bike we rode was a dream unto itself. Our ride to Carver was the real dream, though.

Hot dogs, chips, dried fruit and nuts in the belly, a raging fire going…I made ready with the supplies to keep them away from the critters that night (not so successful), and we bundled up to go to sleep. The next morning, our brisk sprint back to Minneapolis for breakfast would have benefited from a stop or two for the young ones to keep them entertained. But, after we’d filled our bellies with Grandma’s cooking, right off the Cedar Lake Trail, we headed home.

My way of touring isn’t about distance. It isn’t about your speed or cadence. It’s definitely not about looking “cool”; in fact, we look ridiculous (my friends call my setup “the Gravy Train”). Touring, for me, is about enjoying time with my family and friends. We had fun on this ride! I learned a few things to plan for next time, including some ways to improve the next adventure. Best of all, our ride to Carver showed my boys they can enjoy a day of bicycling, camping under the stars, and spending time with their old man.

 


Aaron Thomas Smith@mplsmusette
Having arrived at the course early to try and figure out a way to get on the back of a moto, I was disappointed to find that I would be unable to. My shiny new press badge did not get me as far as I had hoped. Chomping on an egg roll I stewed in my conundrum. How would I get in the race caravan?

Pete Hamer and the team my employer had sponsored for the 2011 NVGP proved to be my saving grace. I walked over to the sprinter van and trailer to find him scrounging about for some cleats.

“Hey Pete, I need to find a car with an extra seat – do ya’ll have one?”

“Um..er sure. Yup, I mean I think so. Marion?”

Marion Clignet poked her head out of the red Toyota team car. Magnets advertising Freewheel Bike and other accreditations smattered about. She looked me up and down quickly and made a face. This was not a face I enjoyed being made at me.

“OK. Media Badge, huh? Well, he can come I just don’t want no shit.”

Winner.

We hopped in and I quickly realized I was not dealing with just your everyday French Directeur Sportif. She informed me of her illustrious track/road career spanning the last decade and a half. Google her name sometime, it’ll be a couple hours to find everything she’s done. To say I was in awe was just a little bit of an understatement. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

It was the least boring six hour drive you could hope to have. Photo opportunities were not as plentiful as hoped, but her stories kept me more than entertained. Anything from how bicycle racing takes place in France to her multitudes of victories. As the caravan made its way up the big climb of the day we yelled support to our guys as they passed. The yellow jersey even dropped back during this time, so naturally I got up in the window and hung out taking photos. I was getting some great ones when we started to descend.

She found gaps in between cars, trees, houses, spectators and racers that I didn’t think you could fit a bike, much less a car. We flew down the hill at a pace that seemed less than prudent. I began to consider getting back in the car.

“Aaron, we’ve got a bump coming up.” Marion calmly noted.

“Okay.”

“Aaron, get your ass in the car.”

“Working on…”

Just then we hit the bump and I flew. I’d say more than seventy five percent of my body made it out of the vehicle. Marion grabbed my leg and yanked me back in, all while deftly maneuvering her way around an official.

“When I tell you to get your ass in the car, you get your ass in the car.”

And with that I was officially welcomed into the race caravan.

 


Michael McKinney@miklmck
Last year, after moving from a storage locker in Washington County, I moved into an apartment on Grand Avenue. I didn’t ride my bike there, or cart my belongings in an xtra-cycle through the streets, or receive sponsorship to live there, or in some way benefit in any way from having a bicycle on my wall that I also rode on occasion. With no job and no income, I had little to rely on and often found myself scrounging for bus fare or vegetables from the Farmers Market, things I might have taken for granted months earlier.

In December, after selling parts off of a decommissioned cyclocross bike, I was given a re-built 58 cm Centurion road bike, circa 1980, with new tires. Salvation from the bus lines and a way to get to work as a seasonal Nordic ski instructor with the city of Saint Paul. Bent handlebars, Suntour barcons, bent wheels, bent frame and one purpose. After the epic winter, the massive snowfalls and the spring season that wasn’t, I kept riding it until September, gradually replacing the parts until the frame itself was replaced with a Schwinn steel frame.

The parts are all the same and it rides well, but I saved the frame after being told it was a previous wreck, and having ridden it so long without total failure was commendable in and of itself.  The barcons lesson was fun, when I lost a camming action nut that keeps tension in the shifter, and rode around town, trying to find parts.  Riding on the ice cube quality ruts of Summit Avenue, not so much.  I now have three frames, dating back to 1987, that each carry the burden of some hard earned lesson, yet no longer carry the burden of my velocentricity.

 


Robyn Hendrix | @robynhendrix
Thanks to a Community Partners Bike Library Learn to Ride class in Minneapolis’ Seward Neighborhood and encouragement from friends, in 2011 I finally started learning how to ride a bike, at age 29.  It was awesome.  Can’t wait to get back out there and continue practicing (and earn a few more bruises).  It’s never too late.

 


Sgt. Jim Dexheimer | @sedxge
A couple of bike cops in Madison wanted to connect with the families in a troubled housing complex. Trying to include bikes in as many things as possible this year, we had this idea to offer bikes to the kids. Forty townhouses, mostly single moms in their early twenties, and dozens of kids with no bikes. But we hoped to do more than just give away bikes. We were hoping to teach these kids to ride safely and to develop lifelong habits of biking. Especially biking to school. Building on ideas from our state Safe Routes to School Coordinator, Rene, and ideas from a speaker from Copenhagen at the Wisconsin Bike Federation’s bike summit, we decided to organize a bike bus, with cops riding with kids to school. Also building on the idea of #30daysofbiking, which changed my life and taught me how to include biking in my life, we committed to riding with the kids every day in September, to and from school.

Officer Andre Lewis lead the project and went door to door several times before he signed up his first kid. Many of these parents were distrustful of cops, and there was a history of strained relations between this community and the police. Officers often felt threatened and harassed when responding here. That is why Andre had been trying for months to improve police community relations and had been frustrated at every turn. Until we came up with the idea of the bikes.

After the first family signed up, the floodgates were opened and Andre was welcomed into their homes. After working on the program all summer, our source of used bikes fell through a week before our first meeting with the kids. Our whole community policing team scrambled to find bikes. We posted a message on several neighborhood list-serves. The local paper picked that up and the response was incredible. People all over the county found old kids bikes on their garages and offered them to us. We collected over 80 bikes before we had to start turning them down. The cops fixed them up and several local bike shops did safety checks. Local businesses contributed helmets and locks. By August 7th we had 15 excellent bikes for the fifteen kids who were signed up. We only had room for the first through fifth graders who attended Leopold School.

On August 7th we had our first training and fitting session. We did a practice ride to the school followed by a party for the kids, their parents and the cops. Every kid committed to riding to and from school with us for every school day in September in order to earn his or her bikes. We had another training session two days before school started (with an ice cream social) and turned the bikes over to the kids.

All of our goals had been accomplished before school even started. We had two positive events with the families and officers now felt comfortable at the complex. But the best part was yet to come. All fifteen kids successfully completed the program and kept their bikes, with over 90% attendance. We had great weather but we had not anticipated the chilly mornings. Most of the kids did not have gloves or mittens but they toughed it out. We had rain one morning and I showed up just to make sure no kids were expecting us. Davionte came walking up to me and I noticed he was crying. As he unlocked his bike I told him we didn’t have to ride, that I could give him a ride in my van. I told him it was his choice and he said, “Ride the bike”.

There was one citizen, a physician’s assistant at a nearby clinic who heard about the program who showed up every morning to help us ride. We had at least two officers for every ride, sometimes teachers rode and once the principal rode. It stretched our resources but we flexed hours and volunteered on off days. When construction at mid-month closed our access to the bike path, officers searched for an alternate route and eventually cleared and improved a 100 foot deer trail through a woods on a Sunday evening. No overtime was used for the approximately 120 officer hours just to cover the rides.

We had crashes, flats, all sorts of mechanical problems and one stolen bike. But we all learned valuable lessons and had some awesome times with the kids. When we arrived at school we all shouted “Leopold Bike Club”. When we got to the new Cannonball bike path, the chant was “Cannonball”. We heard from the school staff that our kids had significantly improved attendance and punctuality during September. We tweeted many of our rides @LeopoldBikeClub and got support from around the world. We used these tweets to teach the kids that they were a part of a much larger cycling community (ala #30daysofbiking). And in the end we had a party at the school. The officers ended up with memories that will last a lifetime. Some of the kids were still riding into December.

 

Jennifer Weber | @jenjen2683
Instead of spending the Thanksgiving with my wonderful family, I went to Moab with a group of people I hardly knew. I don’t need to explain how epic it was. It’s Moab. Every ride is Epic. Day three of five, my calf and chain ring got into a fight. The chain ring won; branding me with my first stitches. The scar reminds me of the best bike trip I have ever been on, with the most amazing people I have ever met. It was the best ride of 2011 and perhaps in my life.

Not all scars are bad.

Comments

  • Charles, thanks for including us in this touching, amazing collection of stories. It’s an honor to know you and we look forward to seeing you at ArtCrank St. Louis!

    Randy Bond

  • [...] ride to school, every morning. The club’s an amazing story, and you can read more about it at ARTCRANK’s Best Bike Stories of 2011.  Posted by 30daysofbiking at 2:59 [...]

    Jim Dexheimer on 30 Days of Biking » 30daysofbiking.com

  • [...] poured in from near and far. The response was so great that we ended up running not one, but two “Best Bike Story” [...]

    Tell Us Your Best Bike Story From 2012! | ARTCRANK

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