Friday, August 12, 2011

Of News and Heroes

I've been getting in the dirt a fair amount lately which has inspired me to reflect on my abilities and motivation  as a rider of the mountainish cylces and my reflections can be summed up succinctly: I am pretty slow. I love exploring new trails, hammering through the woods, slicing down twisty descents, and even occasionally feel some satisfaction from grinding up painful climbs. But there are men and women out there doing all of this same stuff  much, much faster than I am doing it.

I have always had a tremendous admiration for people who, in order to achieve greatness, work incredibly hard, train incessantly, and dedicate their whole life to one specialized component of what makes them human. World class athletes generally provide great examples of this. With the completion of the Tour de France last month, there was a lot of talk about how cyclists are the greatest athletes on the planet. I don't consider myself a sports fan, although I do enjoy doing sports, but trying to say which sport is the most demanding is idiotic, and filled with personal bias, like trying to decide which is the tastiest berry (straw-, blue-, huckle-, ras-, whatevs-) or trying to decide who was the greatest American president (Van Buren, Pierce, Cleveland, etc.).

Every single sport has examples of true professionalism, amazing stories of overcoming adversity, awe-inspiring cases of physicality, even bowling, yes, I'm saying it, even marbles, yeah, that too. Except golf, those guys suck. So whatever sport you're into, there is someone out there doing it on a level that is nearly unreal, so check out that person, and get inspired; unless, you are that nearly-unreal person who is slaying all comers at the top of your game--but let's not joke here, if that is you, then there is no way you're wasting your time reading this gibberish.

Wait a second. I totally take it back. Even golf too.

Manuel de los Santos is one of sport's most inspirational figures. Growing up in the Dominican Republic, he played baseball from a young age and by 2003 was planning to turn professional. But a motorcycle accident changed his life forever when he lost his left leg above the knee.

Manuel de los Santos from Peter Montgomery on Vimeo.

Golf rules.
Anyway, that last paragraph was a long-winded way of introducing one of my heroes, a world class athlete whom too few people have ever heard of. This guy is now 50 years old and at the top of his game, an ace at several disciplines of cycling, David "Tinker" Juarez. I could write a lot about Tinker and his humble demeanor, his incomparable presence in mountain biking, his crackerjack performances in cross country, bmx, and long distance road rides, but let me just sum it up with this: Tinker won the Iron Horse Classic MTB race in Durango, CO in 1989 and also won the Butte 100 one-day hundred mile MTB race (with over 16,000 ft. of elevation) two weeks ago in July 2011. I have never done a hundred mile race but I am told that the Butte 100 is one of the hardest in that particular form of cycling. Counting his days as one of the first professional bmx riders ever, Tinker has been winning bicycle races for over 30 years. Tinker is modest, soft spoken, and one of the greatest cyclists ever; if ever, buy some remote chance, he were to read these words, his passion for the sport has made a positive difference in my life and his ability to compete, and win, races inspires me to this day.

Well after that little love letter, to Mr. Juarez, how about we check in with the cycle goings-on here in Pittsburgh. The fine folks at Bike Pittsburgh have got lots of fun cycleish events planned for next week. The party starts tonight for their annual fundraiser so if you're in the area, then make it happen. Check out the schedule and turn up the heat.

Finally, in an effort to tie in all the ideas that are swarming in my cramped (numb)skull--Tour de France, athleticism, longevity, personal heroes, porn--I thought I might present to you a short glimpse into the world of big money bike company Specialized. The McLaren Venge was a big deal when it came out this year for several reasons, not least of which because it costs like $90,000.

Most people who know me by now understand that I find a particular satisfaction in the longevity of certain bicycle parts made from steel and that I am particularly slow to adapt to new changes in bicycle technology. Tinker keeps on winning after 30 years in the business and I guess I sort of think that there should be some effort devoted, on the part of bicycle manufacturers, toward making products that last a long time. I guess some folks prefer to go with a different approach. "Innovate or die" indeed.

That wraps it up from this corner of the playroom. Next week I will be out in Durango, Colorado trying to get just a tiny little slice of the rad. I hope you all find a way to do the same.

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