I guess I am compelled to write my first blog on a very sad note. Yesterday the founder and owner of Trek Bicycle Dick Burke died after complications from heart surgery. I have been depressed about this since last Friday when I learned he did not have long to live. The reason this affects me so much is that I spent over 7 years at Trek in the early 90s and while there I developed a close and strong relationship with Dick. I consider him my main mentor in the bike business and in the bike advocacy world. I feel Dick was the father of Bike Advocacy in the bike industry and his philosophy and vision were the primary influence on me to make Planet Bike’s mission to be about promoting bike advocacy. Besides being a visionary and businessman extraordinaire, he was a down to earth kind of guy and a straight shooter who always let you know where you stood with him. I want to recount a couple of stories about Dick and I while I was at Trek.
Back in 92 when Trek held their dealer show at Oconomowoc’s Olympia resort, they scheduled an ATB Time Trial up the Olypia “mountain” (actually a pile of garbage covered by dirt). Seems the fastest time was established by a Cannondale sponsored pro mountain biker (on his Cannondale of course!) who also worked at a dealership that had Trek, which is why the guy was at the Trek show. Now, I was sort of Trek’s resident racer dude (before they sponsored the Travis Browns and Lances of the world), but not a pro by any means, especially on a MTB. Dick upon hearing the fastest time was by a Cannondale pro and therefore an affront to Trek, came up to me in my business suit and said “Robert, (he always called me that), can you beat that time?” Dick not really knowing how much better that guy was than me, felt I was to correct this affront and uphold the Trek name at its own show. Shit, talk about pressure! But Dick was someone I admired tremendously and given the weight of the whole Trek org rested on my shoulders for a few minutes, I was going to beat that Professional C dale dude or die trying. I could not let the Big Guy down, so I said I would do my best and I slid out of my business suit and into my lycra, warmed up for all of about 5 minutes (as anyone who knows me knows I need about a frickin hour to get the engine primed), I shot out of the start gate like a Ben Hur chariot and kept going on total fear and adrenaline for the 4 or 5 minutes it took to navigate the course and get up on top of the garbage pile….err, I mean mountain. Normally I cannot ignore total lock up in my legs when they are beyond my limit, but when Dick asks, screw the legs and lungs and just tell them to shut up and keep pumping out the horsepower by any means necessary. meaning there would be physical hell to pay later. While I did not actually see the finish line at the top, due to loss of any vision that could be actually classified as perceivable vision, I heard the finish line official (my ears worked still) shout out my time and damn if I did not best Mr Cannondale Pro by 3 seconds. Holy crap the impossible can happen!! I immediately changed back into my monkey suit and took my place back at the resort reception area to welcome dealers as my pumping heart, engorged thighs and profusely sweating body reminded me that I did not do my usual hour cool down and things were not right with my physiology. A few minutes later, a beaming Dick Burke, strolled up to me and slapped me on the back and said “Good job Robert! Good Job!”, not exactly a yellow jersey, but Trek’s reputation had been saved for the day. I guess the feeling I got from pleasing Dick was like that a son may feel from getting his father’s approval and boy it felt great! I learned many things from Dick, but that day I learned that the limits we tend to place on ourselves were really not what we are truly capable of, as I had no business beating that guy. But the difference between our perceived limits and what we are truly capable of is made up by heart, desire, and incentive to please those important to us in our lives. Ok, more stories later as I am having difficulty with vision again due to entirely different reasons…..