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Fate didn’t come knocking at my door that morning; instead he was sitting on the curb, across the street from my house at 5:55am. When I looked out the window, I didn’t recognize him. What kind of mountain biker wears a skater helmet anyway? Mitch told me that he had invited some new friends out to ride with us. At first glance, I didn’t have very high expectations.
My friend, Mitch Nakamura rode with me regularly. I rode a Turner 5-Spot and Mitch rode an Intense Pro. These are amazing bikes with five inches of suspension travel and Disc brakes front and rear. Every Tuesday and Thursday morning at 6am, we would go mountain bike riding. We rode The Ridge most often. It was an amazing area that stretches between Highland High School and Godde Pass. The Ridge had a good variety of trails. It was later destroyed by Eliopulos Development and now stands as a unfinished testament to greed and what people will destroy in the name of money.
That day’s riders included Mitch, Russ, Rich and myself. The guy in the skater helmet was a former BMX Pro and future BMX Hall of Famer. Who knew? His name is Rich Bartlett and he owns the premier Cycling store around, The Block Shop. Our other new riding friend was Russ, who handled repairs and sales for Rich. Our first ride together was fun, but Mitch and I understood very quickly that Rich was a different level of rider than we were.
From that morning on, we all started riding together. Rich is also a former adventure racer. He would take us out on epic rides. Rich would have a map and use his bicycle odometer to take to places that we never thought of riding to before. He always knew where to find more single track, the best kind of trail. We went from trail riding to covering mountain ranges. Breathtaking climbs, amazing descents and many hours spent in the saddle, pedaling. We had fun riding mountain bikes together for a couple of years.
Somehow, we started talking about road bikes. Rich was explaining to me that I could get much more fit, if I were training on a road bike. I used to ride a road bike in the 1980’s. It was a Peugeot 10 speed. The idea of getting another bicycle always made complete sense to me. At The Block Shop, Rich showed me what was available. The road bike had come a long way in the last twenty years.
When Rich explained to me that he was going to be carrying a new line of bikes called Orbea, I got interested. I read all of the specs and it looked great. The clincher was when he told me, that the Orbea’s were made it Northern Spain. That’s Basque country. I’m Basque. My Grandfather, Andy Seminario came over from the Old Country, Northern Spain. Sounded like the perfect bike.
The Orbea model I ride is the Orca. It is the flagship of the Orbea fleet. It is made completely with Carbon Fiber and has twenty gears. The entire bike weighs only 17 lbs. When I bought it was Bicycling Magazine, Bike of the Year and is the exact bike ridden in the Tour De France by the Euskaltel-Euskadi team. For a recreational rider, I probably overspent, but I think that I got my money’s worth. Two things I know: the Orbea bicycle rides like a dream and no matter what; you still have to pedal to go anywhere.
My wife actually bought the bike for me as a birthday gift. Sure I picked it out, but she saved her money from her job and paid the $5,000 for it. The only place that I was able to get such a great bicycle for such a low price was from my friends at The Block Shop. It retails elsewhere for close to $10,000. So on a hot July day, Rich took me out for my first road ride, on what he described as “just an easy ride”. We rode and rode and rode. Fifty miles later I was so hooked.
Over the next few weeks, Rich stretched my reality out a bit further. Tuesday and Thursday mornings, before a full day at work, Rich and I would ride 60 miles together. We would meet in front of Quartz Hill High School. We rode out thru the hills and over the pass on Munz Ranch Road. Then out thru Lake Hughes and onto Three Points Road.
There is only one place where I can keep up at full speed with Rich and that is on the five mile down hill, dropping out of the mountains onto Highway 138. Rich showed me amazing drafting techniques. We would draft and pass, draft and pass. While going 30 to 40 miles an hour. On the return trip home, we would sometimes catch a tail wind of up to 30 mph. It was amazing to carry on a conversation, on a bike, while going as fast as the wind. We would just fly for 20 miles, until we had to turn into the wind for the last ten miles.
I felt like I was there when Rich fell back in love with road riding. I asked Rich and he said, “there was no doubt about it”. He was reinventing himself into the rider that he is now. Rich went back into racing and is a Category one road and mountain bike racer. Go to this sight and see some of Rich’s times in the races that he won. He was on his way back to being not only competitive but to championship caliber. Check out his Wolfpack team winning the All City race on the streets of Los Angeles this year. I have to mention his amazing wife April. She has been there with him for the entire ride. She is truly a great wife.
I was also riding 75 miles on Saturday mornings. Long rides thru the mountains and the canyons before going into work. Then Rich invited me to ride on Wednesday evenings. There is a group that does Criterium training on a short course at very high speeds. I logged over 7000 miles the first year. By the time that I was doing Crit training, I was riding an average of 200 miles a week. I also later hit a goal that I set when I first decided to get my ride on. I rode 20,000 miles in three years. I finished that goal while we were living in Idaho
I started riding Centuries during that time. That is 100 miles. My best time for a 100 miles was at the Lighthouse Century, from San Luis Obispo. I rode with my friend Craig Earl and his son Ben. We finished in 4:58. That’s four hours and fifty-eight minutes. I rode others with them. The Earls are good bike riders and very good men.
My resting heart rate got down to 50 beats per minute. My weight dropped down to what it was in high school. I maintained a heart rate over 170 beats per minute for over five minutes on a climb once. I have also hit 60 mph on San Fransiquito Road. I have made many friends and seen many amazing things. Riding early in the morning, I have seen the sunrise from out on the road many times. It is beautiful to see while breathing hard, pedaling into the distance, twenty miles away from home.
The lessons of endurance, learned on a bicycle, effect the way I manage Sierra Motors and my life. Personally and professionally, I know how to endure. I know how to set and achieve long-range goals. I know how to suffer for the greater good. I know how to keep breathing and moving, even when the climb seems impossibly long. I know the value of having a friend to draft behind, when it seems impossible to make it home.
Rich is definitely one friend who changed my life. I eat better, sleep better and feel better than I ever have. Riding is not a hobby for me, it is a passion. It calls to me. I don’t live in the same town as Rich any more, but think of him often. Not just every time I ride my bike. Men of Rich’s quality don’t ride by often enough thru a persons life. There he was, sitting on the curb across the street from my house. Silly me, I didn’t even have high expectations.