Reason #1 is easy enough, after years of running, playing basketball, volleyball...my knees were shot. During the summer of 1984, having just graduated from college, I was watching the Olympics road race taking place live a scant hour away from home. Watching the race and Alexi Grewal win put my mind in motion "hey, I'll get a bike and take up cycling - looks fun enough." So, off I went.
Flash forward 23 years and I'm still riding and Alexi is still the only American man to win the Olympics road race. In July, 2007, we moved to Point Reyes Station to open a bike shop and find a community that enabled us to live without rampant development and consumerism that was happening in our neck of San Diego. Steve Potts was a great inspiration in our move to Point Reyes. That first week we were here, we didn't have a refrigerator so we headed over to Steve's for dinner our second night here. As we enter the house, I see a very familiar face in Steve's kitchen - Alexi Grewal.
Wow! Alexi Grewal, the guy who really inspired me to start riding bikes, right there in the kitchen. Turns out he really isn't the bad boy of racing any more. He's got great, fantastic stories of his racing days. And he's definitely got his opinions on the state of racing. Miguel Indurain and Greg Lemond are, in his opinion, the great true champions of the sport. Images of Big Mig effortlessly stomping the competition and Lemond winning the World's ahead of Sean Kelly and Dimitri Konyshev are imprinted in my mind (that image of Lemond winning is, I believe, the best racing photograph ever).
His story of the Olympic road race is really cool. On the final lap, he was in the lead climbing out of the saddle and thinking he wanted to grab an easier gear. Not an easy feat when the shifters are on the down tube if you are out of the saddle. As he's thinking this, Steve Bauer motors past him and he thinks "shit, I don't need an easier gear, I need a bigger gear." As history notes, Alexi must have found that bigger gear to come around Bauer.
Turns out Alexi is in town for a while to help with a project before heading to Oregon for the winter. While Alexi was in town, I let him hang on to my Mary 29er with Jones bars. We go on a few rides and even without riding hardly ever, he's still got it and within a few days can stomp us on the climbs. He rides in work boots so I offer to put flat pedals on my bike for him. He shrugs it off and says that the SPD's on it are fine - no problem.
Here's where the story gets good and could potentially swell my ego. Alexi says that my Mary (that I designed while at Haro) is probably the most fun bike he's ever ridden. Ever - and he's ridden a lot of bikes. If that doesn't stroke one's ego, well, then you must be in line for the Dalai Llama's position.
And after all these years, I also saved a copy of the February 1987 Bicycle Guide magazine featuring Alexi's Olympic bike. Not the actual Olympic bike, the magazine notes that it is in the Smithsonian, but one of his spares. The article notes that the only thing different is the crank and pedals. Alexi used Shimano Dura Ace AX cranks with DynaDrive pedals preferring the pedals' low rotational axis. This was a concept he still mentioned he favored during our rides.
(What's playing: Danny Elfman Batman from Music for a Darkened Room - highly recommended)