Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Riding to Honor My Dad

By John M. Gruber

Last week was Thanksgiving. Naturally I reflected on what I have to be thankful for and this year my thankful thoughts drifted toward memories of my dad. My dad passed away just over a year ago after a three year struggle with ALS. One of the many things I am thankful for related to my dad is that he instilled in me a love for cycling. I have memories of him helping me pick out my first mountain bike and my family dropping him off in the middle of nowhere with his bike so he could ride back in to town as he trained for his triathlons. Some more recent memories are our early morning rides on our local bike trail and the hope we would continue these together during his retirement.
Once my father was diagnosed, I knew I had to participate in a charity bike ride to raise money to fight ALS. The first ride I discovered in my search was the Death Ride Tour. The Death Ride happens in the mountains of Colorado. The ride usually takes place the first weekend of June and encompasses a loop starting in Silverton, then to Telluride, continuing on to Durango and then returning to Silverton. The total mileage is approximately 235 miles and total climbs are 16,000 feet over multiple mountain passes.

Being primarily a mountain biker and recreational road rider, I was going to need a new bike to participate in the ride. The bike I put together for the ride is very special. It started with the last bike my dad rode, a Trek Madone that he spent his last years riding. My dream was to ride his bike, but unfortunately my dad was a bit taller than I was, so my vision turned to using as many of the parts from his bike on a frame. Researching both custom and factory options, the Soma Fog Cutter rose to the top. My local bike shop, Spoke n Sport, in Sioux Falls, SD assisted me with the build, transferring the parts and helping me to ensure the bike was ready. 

The handlebars, crankset, shifters and derailleurs were all parts from my dad’s bike. It was surreal riding in the mountains of Colorado knowing my dad’s hands changed gears with these shifters and turned the pedals with these cranks. Unlike some years, the weather conditions were great and the ride was breath taking in both the views and physical exertion. The Fog Cutter handled everything with ease, from washboards leading up to stop signs, riding in a pace line with some serious “roadies” to descending out of the mountain passes with speeds reaching 50mph. When the bike disappears beneath you it makes the ride so enjoyable and over the course of the ride, this happened. Each morning, I woke up and had a smile on my face knowing my time in the saddle was going to be great.I continue to be thankful, I was able to raise over $1600 for the ALS Therapy Development Institute and honor my father by doing something he loved.Instagram: @johnmgruber