Ah, a New Year! Time to reflect and tell old stories.
I’ve been a storyteller for as long as I can remember. When I started to write for the local newspaper and eventually headed to college to study journalism, my Dad would often remind me of my childhood.
I would sit on the steps of the front porch, or the curb — or really anywhere I might run into people, according to my Dad — and simply ask anyone passing by, “You know what?”
And off I’d go, downloading my latest story.
When it comes to bicycles, I have a seemingly endless treasure trove of stories. I have all my own personal experiences and have added thousands of other stories of adventures in my years covering bike racing.
I never thought much about the stories of a bike until one November morning in Shanghai, China in 1995.
We sat at the breakfast table chit-chatting. I joined the Saturn team as Bart Bowen sat down.
Now remember, back then the guys and gals primarily criss-crossing the USA racing bicycles didn’t make a whole lotta money. I certainly wasn’t making much, if any. We were kindred spirits.
These folks simply loved bicycles, and loved racing. I loved telling their stories. As Led Zeppelin screams, there was a Whole Lotta Love …
Any chance for some extra cash for any of us felt like winning the lottery.
Bart couldn’t contain his excitement after learning that one of the members of the race crew wanted to buy his Saturn team bike when the Tour of China was over — it being the last race of the season.
“The guy asked me if there were any cool stories about the bike,” Bart said with a shrug. “I didn’t know what to say.”
At that moment, the concept of If Bikes Could Talk was born.
“Are you kidding me?” I said. “Tell him about West Virginia!”
The looks on the faces of everyone at the table matched: pretty much everyone’s jaw dropping to the table. They didn’t have to say a word. I knew what they were thinking.
They were thinking, Good Golly Raz, you’re in this whole cycling thing a little toooooo deep!
They were right. Even I chuckled a bit. Then again, I’m a storyteller. You know what? We’ll let Bart’s bike tell the story from here.
“Seriously Bart? You gotta remember. A bright, sunny, hot, windy day in West Virginia. Everyone knows we have climbing days ahead, so everyone’s sticking together. Everyone knows what’s up. A field sprint is on today’s agenda.
“Much as I love it when you crank me up to the max, I prefer to be out in the open air, alone, thank you very much. You know I get claustrophobic in those field sprints.
“So I give you that nudge to let you know I’m ready, willing and able when you are. And BAM! We kick ass with 400 meters to go.
“We’re blazing up the gutter with clear sailing ahead, and all of a sudden this green-yellow blur catches my eye on our left. Damn, it’s that pesky Jeff Pierce and he’s pulling the entire field with him.
“Ah, excuse me Jeff, but isn’t your career highlight a solo win at the Tour de France? Why did ya have to bring the whole frickin’ peloton with you this time?
“Suddenly that stampede of bikes slices over to cut us off, and we’re pinned against the curb. My tires are screaming, rubbing against the cement! We’re battling to stay upright and, well, not DIE! Then we go, WHOOP WHOOP!
“Yeah, baby! We bunny hop onto the sidewalk with adrenalin screaming through our veins and BOOM! We bounce out front again and win!
BOOO-HAHAHAAAA! Take that!”
Suffice to say the faces at the table remained stunned. Bart shrugged his shoulders like, “Oh Yeah,” YAWN, just another day at work.
That’s the moment that I began looking at bicycles from a different perspective, understanding that the memories we make on a bike are not ours alone. They are shared.
Time to ride.