It should come as no surprise that bicycles lead to motorcycles, but in my case the opposite is also true.
The winter of 1980 we moved back to Colorado. I’d taken a job working as a BMW motorcycle mechanic. I needed to work a year in residence in Colorado to have access to the much lower tuition for instate versus out of state. By 1981 I was an engineering student and still working at a BMW shop in Denver. One day a customer approached me about volunteering to work a bicycle race that summer. The race was the 1981 Coors Classic International Bicycle race. That customer became a life long friend. We would use our own motorcycles and ride as volunteer motorcycle marshals. That is we were a combination of street cleaners, dog catchers, crowd control and information relay inside and around the racing peloton. The peloton is the whole bicycle race enclosed front and rear by escort, officials and support. Our job was loosely described as riding ahead to catch anything that might pose a danger to the cyclists or to the public. From loose pets to loose farm animals to dead animals along the route, undetected accidents or crowd problems and uncontrolled intersections we would stop and unofficially control that intersection since more often than not there was no law enforcement protection at every intersection. We would also sometimes shuttle photographers and officials along the course. This all ends up making for a very long day that begins well before the sun rises and extends to near and some days beyond sunset. Riding like this, we had no real support for food, fuel, shade, sunscreen, nature breaks or hydration. We were self contained and had radio communications with the race officials as well as the lead marshal. Prior to the race taking place we rode many of the courses to get familiar with the lay of the land as well as where rest stops could be and where fuel, food and if need be shade could be had.
It is a tough job, but enjoyable and very fulfilling. We were helping make the race happen, as well as helping keep the racers safer along with the public. We had to be ambassadors of the sport as well as motorcycling, along with appearing as if we knew what we were doing all the time. Which we didn’t always. Common sense ruled the day. If it didn’t look safe to us, it wasn’t so we did what we could to make it safe quickly and politely. We had very few problems. We learned a lot about sunscreen, international bicycle racing, how motor officers ride, what the perception of bicycles and their possible speeds are by both the public and the police. We met a lot of people from all over the world. Had a great time, spent a lot of our own money, and got really tired. One big impact was that both of us became bicycle racing fans, licensed racers and licensed bicycle race officials. This was a whole world I never knew existed before. I’d never seen a real bicycle race. never even heard of such things.
The outcome of this two week experience was my discovery of the world of road racing bicycles, and our immersion into official bicycle racing as officials, racers, club members and organizers. We made a lot of friends who we still keep up with a bit on and off today these many miles and years and bicycles later.
Little did either of us suspect that nearly forty years later we still be riding motorcycles and bicycles.
That first race was an eye opener. I’d grown up not being aware of any bicycle racing. Top amateur and professional bicycle racers riding bikes fast and far. I’d only seen bicycle racing on the big screen that Spring watching “A Sunday in Hell” and “The Stars and the Water Carriers“.
It was not until I was first away to college in the early 70’s, that I bought my first ten speed bicycle. I and a friend found these at the small town hardware store near the college. That bike was a Huffy and worked for a while. I knew nothing of how to really ride it or adjust anything on it. I sold it to my brother when I got back home, then a few months later bought a new bike. This was better, but still department store quality, though it had better components. Something I only discovered when stopping by a local bicycle shop I’d later discovered. That little shop was the first real bicycle shop I’d ever been in. That bike was stolen from beside my parents house a summer later along with my brother’s new bicycle. I replaced mine with one from a shop in downtown Denver, I would later race bicycle for. But, I didn’t know that then and fell in love with a green Motobecane Mirage with hand painted gold pinstripes. It had horrible components, center pull brakes with safety levers, and a pressed together crank. But, it served me well enough through my wife and I dating then our early marriage days, our first big move and back again. I began wearing out the components and learning about cycling from working at the BMW shop. The parts manager was a cyclist as well as motorcyclist and we would ride bicycles on our days off. I began commuting some days by bicycle too. After that first bicycle race the summer of 1981, I also discovered better bicycles and after folding the chainring on the Mirage found a shop with a fancier Motobecane Grand Record, with better components to wear out. And I did just that. The old green mirage went away and the new white super took up residence. This was the bike aboard which, I would learn to climb mountains, descend and ride in the wind. To this day, I remember when I was able to ride a particularly hard rolling road one gear higher. A couple of years later, both my friend I’d ridden as motorcycle marshal with and I were members of cycling teams and bicycle race officials.
Saturday mornings were early rides starting from downtown Denver with the team. That team was based in and sponsored by the shop where I’d bought my first Motobecane. I was riding for a team that I’d been backed into by way of running the marshaling for a race that team were promoting. We would later unite as members of his team and the team I rode with mostly even though I was officially a member of another team. By 1985 we were both on the GS Cicla Vita team.
But, back when I was more focused on bicycle touring/travel and commuting I’d joined the parts manager, Vern in joining the DBTC, “Denver Bicycle Touring Club”. Through that association I learned about long distance stuff, breaking pieces off that old Mirage and road side repairs. I rode my first race, at Ken Caryl Ranch that was part of a larger race put on by the team I would eventually be part of. A small world of cycling racing I was to learn. Many of the people I would encounter through racing were also avid motorcyclists.
I learned all about cycling gear, from shoes to helmets to gloves and shorts and jerseys. Socks too as everything was regulated by rules when racing. I had a rear rack for my Grand Record and I still own the luggage I used to carry huge engineering textbooks in college. The Grand Record had no eyelets to attach racks or fenders but I managed to fiddle some odd fasteners into the forged dropouts that worked well enough. There were long rides on rolling flats north and east of Denver and south and east. Then the mountain rides to the west where we rode for what seemed like all day. With most of my college classes at night and Monday’s off from work, we got in a few weekday rides that after about two years resulted in our being able to hang onto that team peloton on a Saturday team ride. We would eventually be able to jump off the front and chase down a break. I learned to climb. And Could ride away from a lot of people on hills. I had no sprint power, and could not hold a big grinding gear on the flats, but I had endurance and the ability to stand up and “dance on the pedals”, as Phil Liggett put it during a Tour de France. Well, for a mid-30’s guy anyway.
By 1984 bicycles had taken over for me beyond working on motorcycles. I had school, riding to and from as much as I could and almost no motorcycle riding that was not either work associated or bicycle racing associated. By the time I got out of school, I was working long hours and mostly commuting by car as by then my wife and I were tag-team shuttling daughters around as well. There was a point when I would arrive home with the minivan full of kids, we would sort them out, make dinner, then my wife would load up for another round. That poor car barely sat still. There was a point when I was working, where my office was only six miles away, that both the batteries in my old car and oil my motorcycle were flat. I took to placing them both on tenders after finding that one weekend morning.
We worked the track trials for the olympics and then bought track bikes. Getting on the Olympic training center velodrome was very hit or miss. We would call the day prior to get an idea of the schedule then run down there, only to get locked out by some national team or just as we got all the stuff unloaded and set up and us kitted up to be chased out for a national team. After the umpteenth time that happened, I sold my track bike. I was working so much it was hard to find time between work and kids and house so, something had to go. The 160 mile round trips to the track and back were it.
Nearly 40 years later, here I am still cycling. This last year, with the Covid-19 confinement and safer at home indoor training I managed nearly ten times as many miles on my bicycle both outside on roads and indoors on the trainer, than I rode the motorcycle. That was a first since my days racing bicycles and my first years working as an engineer.
The only times I’v ridden my motorcycle in the last year were to the dentist, an abscess tooth fix, medical office for vaccinations and the last ride was to get my first jab of the Covid-19 vaccine.
The motorcycle one of my trips to get jabbed was fun. There are times when I almost think I’ll put it up for sale, then I get a ride like this. Short, but take the longer way home down the coast always makes me smile.
Thanks to going on a year of indoor training and almost no motorcycling, I decided to pretty much shelve any epic ride plans. As in month or more long rides on the motorcycle. But, I figure to buy a 2X2 bicycle rack for the 990R and carry the bicycle with my on the moto. Get a bit of both in. Maybe some Colorado, definitely some fun around here with different folks. And maybe, just maybe a longish ride to Texas to ride both with a friend.