Thursday, November 16, 2006

Don Tate: Cyclist

[Click on picture to view an enlarged version.]

When a bike enthusiast emails me I add the name to my “Bike List.” I have 126 email addresses on the list now. Occasionally I send a group email out when I have something to announce. I try not to do this too often as everyone, including myself, gets too much junk email; I have no wish to add to the problem.

I sent out such a group message last Sunday to announce the first anniversary of my Bike Blog. Some of the recipients emailed back to say they enjoy reading the blog. One email in particular from the wife of someone on my list, touched me deeply; here is an excerpt from the message:

"My husband Don passed away Dec 15, 2005 from neuro endocrine cancer. He enjoyed reading your blogs and hoped to ride his bicycles again. Don bought his first "real" bike when he was fifteen years old from money saved from his newspaper route. He always said cycling was in your blood; it became a passion that carried with you through out your whole life. For Don, this was true. Even though he couldn't ride while he was undergoing chemo, he would sit in his bike room (a designated bedroom in our home, "because his bikes were too precious to him to be left in he garage") and plan cycling trips."

Fuso owner, Don Tate had first contacted me in January 2005. Among his collection of memorabilia, he had a copy of a souvenir program/magazine from the 1985 Coor’s Classic Bicycle Race. It had a full page color ad on the back cover for my then new Fuso frame. The ad is pictured at the top of this blog; it featured a picture of the first Fuso (# 001.) built the year before in 1984.

Don asked me if I would sign his copy of the magazine for him. He subsequently mailed it to me and included a very nice glossy copy of the ad for myself. This was greatly appreciated as I had lost my copy of this particular program.

Don’s statement that cycling is in one’s blood is very true; it is something intangible deep within the psyche of the cyclist. We can’t explain it but we all know it is there. Because we share this thing, whatever it is, we feel connected in some way.

It is more than just a group of people sharing a common interest, like playing golf, or collecting Baseball Cards. Although we could never describe what it is we experience when riding, we automatically know that another bike rider knows, and that creates a bond between some of us.

I say some of us because this is something different from a runner’s high, which is an adrenaline rush, newcomers to cycling do not always get it right away; a few never get it. Wrapped up in the materialistic, they see the bike as an art object, or thing of beauty; never realizing that the true beauty is in the ride, not just in the metalwork and paint.

There is a definite physical connection between rider and the bicycle; the machine becomes an extension of the rider. Then there are psychic connections not only to the bike but also to the elements like the wind, whether it is a head wind or tail wind. There is a connection to the terrain also, uphill, downhill, or even a fast stretch of smooth, flat road.

I never had the privilege of meeting Don Tate face to face, shaking his hand, but I feel I knew him. I knew of his connection to his bike and to cycling. Because he also rode one of my bikes, and because there is a part of me in every frame I built, I felt an added connection, which is probably why I was so deeply touched his wife’s email and its content.

Some of us believe in a Heaven, or afterlife; I believe this journey we call life has to lead to something. Maybe it will include cycling, or maybe the feeling we get when riding is what we will feel all the time.

That would be Heaven.


VintageSpin said...
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VintageSpin said...

Well said Dave. I too was affected by the words of Don’s wife, cycling being a “passion that carried with you”.
My wife Wendi’s grandfather, Albert “Allie” Krushel also knew of what you write. After a lifetime of riding and racing, when eventually he was too sick to ride (per the doctor’s orders), he’d wait till his wife and her girlfriend would leave the house, then sneak down to the basement where he had rollers set up (in those days they were huge wooden affairs).
Wendi’s Aunt describes how they pretended to leave one day, and heard a loud whirling noise in the basement. Upon creeping down the stairs they saw him balanced on those rollers, spinning away.
He wasn’t training for a race, being too old and now feeble to do so; so it was something else. It was a part of him, you either get it or you don’t.
I’m sure they then left to do some shopping, leaving him where he needed to be.
Albert Krushel took the bronze medal in the road race at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, was friends with Jim Thorpe, raced the original six day Madison races at the Garden; but the memory of him riding on those rollers will always be with me, thanks to Wendi’s Aunt relating what isn’t written.

He died not long after; apparently what many of us “know” never leaves.