Tuesday, September 11, 2007

random thoughts--updated

i've had a hard time getting very excited about bike riding lately.
oh, i've gone out; in fact, i rode nearly 470 kilometers last week,
despite missing two days for various reasons.
but since taking a knock on the noggin two months ago,
the wind just hasn't filled my sails like it had earlier.
funeral today that shouldn't be, and that makes no sense.
another one in the planning stages for a kid far too young,
who stumbled and fell over what many of us
skipped and tripped merrily over for years.
too many preventable and avoidable deaths and injuries
resulting from people who are too busy, too angry, too inconsiderate.
too many broken hearts,
too many tear ducts working overtime.
chad, dorth; marty, sharon--i'm so sorry.
so very sorry.
. . . . .
my long time friend and mentor michael fatka kicked a hornet's nest
that's been bugging me for a long time yesterday,
and the swarm emerged instantly, indignantly,
and also, ignorantly.
history lesson, kiddies. listen up:
michael fatka knows more about cycling, and bike racing,
than anyone else in this state.
he fought long and hard to give women a real, equal footing
on a national and international level.
why don't you ask someone older than 40 [probably 45] about
where the real heart of racing was in the 70s and 80s.
the birthplace of how many national champions?
how many players on the world cycling stage?
ask someone.
if they don't mention michael fatka, michael's cyclery,
or ames, iowa, in the first two minutes, politely walk away.
point in fact: my new little track bike, the red trek from the early 80s,
with shimano ax, carries the name "peggy maas" on the top tube.
i asked michael about it. he told me about peggy,
where she raced, who she used to race for,
and who she was hanging out with the last he'd heard.
i'd spent hours on the internet trying to learn anything about her,
and michael offered it up like fresh zucchini.
you boys who think you know good bike shops don't know squat
until you've spent hours, days, seasons sitting on the sofa at michael's,
reading the telegrams from andy hampston telling about THE giro stages.
till you see, and touch, and play with, bikes, jerseys, photos, articles
about the forefathers of the sport you claim to know.
everybody knows about the recent antics of steve tilford,
but who knows how he got there?
ask michael. he does.
he got him where he is--ask tilford about michael.
before you jump all over michael for not attending these races,
do you know how honored you would be if he DID show up?
do you know what a resource you are wasting
by not asking him a thing or two?
ASK michael.
now would be a GREAT time, since this may be the first time most of you
have even heard of this legendary cycling icon.
and i'm asking you to treat him with the respect that he deserves.
the man is an encyclopedia of knowledge,
and a fool is the person who ignores it.
michael's point is absolutely dead on,
and for you to attack him, or criticize him,
without questioning yourselves, your words,
with an eye on context and history, is foolish.
i understand that the "race like a girl" series is much-needed,
and long-overdue.
i applaud all those [especially dave, jane and donny]
who have worked long and hard to bring it to this point.
i further applaud and support--as i have said in person and print--
the women who are taking part in it.
i always encourage them and others to engage in
this wonderfully demanding and fulfilling sport.
but before this series was even mentioned,
i had questioned many folks, female and male,
about even the use of the term "gal" instead of "woman"
as a term of derrogation, with demeaning connotations.
in my experience, gal, chick, and other terms have long since been
tossed in the trash bin with the n-word, the f-word, and others.
words which do not belong in polite--or even civil--discourse.
and i still feel that way.
michael and i are of an era when women had to fight
for a place at the table,
and few were the men who were willing to join them in the battle.
for me, it was the fight for abortion rights,
the larger battle for electoral representation,
the right for economic equality,
educational equality, social equality, legal equality.
the right to be treated as a human, not a subset thereof.
sadly, because of incremental, more visible gains that have been made,
the masses believe that the goals have been met, that the war is over.
it is not.
the title "race like a girl," although "cute," is demeaning, a throw-back,
like separate waterfountains for whites and coloreds.
for micheal, it was this and more.
and his "more" included cycling.
as i grew with the sport of bike racing, his shops,
three different locations over the years, were places that were home
to racers and employees and customers of both genders.
to the extent that women's racing exists on a national level today,
a long overdue tip of the cycling cap goes to michael fatka,
and the old michael's cyclery in ames.
cycling in iowa today owes him better than what you're giving him.
i'll say it: thanks, michael.
[by the way, i still have the 1974 motobecane i bought at your first shop,
and the velodyne i won at the big store, and still use them.]
. . . . .
later this same day, i received this email from a reader,
who had cross-posted on bikeiowa:
For all you "newbie" racers,
maybe you should get a better idea of exactly WHO Michael is
before you tear into him any further.
He has done more for women in cycling than
any 4 or 5 race/training series will ever do.
I believe Kim pretty well sums it up, VERY well, in his latest blog.http://theorphanageandyou.blogspot.com/Thanks Kim!!
You very eloquently put into words,
what I've been trying to verbalize since this whole thing blew up.
Bear with me while I wax reminiscent here, folks.
Kim's mention of the loafing area at Michael's old shop
brought back a flood of memories for me.
That was my favorite thing to do on a Saturday morning, hang out in the loafing area, reading Andy Hampsten's latest postcard...mailed from some race in Europe, playing with the shop cats, discussing new (and old) technology with Ron, BS'ing with whatever bike-orphan was living at the shop for the time being. Browsing all the bicycle history that Michael had adorning the walls of his shop. Truly, two-wheeled paradise. My brother, who still lives in Ames, STILL considers it a rare treat whenever he might encounter Michael cycling the roads around Ames. On such an occasion, just to spend even 15 or 20 minutes with Michael as we rode back into town, is something I truly miss now that I'm no longer in Ames. For those that didn't race back in the day....those that only know carbon fiber frames, Lance Armstrong, and Gucci wheelsets...believe it or not, cycling did exist in Iowa prior to all those things. Michael was an integral part of that history...if not the foundation. AND....a few American pro's owe their careers to Michael for the strings he pulled to get them in the European peloton. Heck, I don't even have enough fingers to count the number of women that I am personally aware of that started racing because of Michael's influence...whether it be direct mentoring, sponsorship, or anything in between. I can only imagine how many women I'm NOT personally aware of. I completely agree with someone who had so much to do with getting women on bicycles, taking offense to the name. How about this, Josh? Instead of race like a girl (which suggests that racing like a girl might be lesser than racing like anything else), how about "Women's Cycling Clinic"...or was that just so simple a solution that it escaped your thoughts? Or maybe "Ride Like a Racer"...because isn't that what you're really trying to do? Get people, whether men or women, to graduate from bike riding to bike racing?
Sigh...anyhoo..thanks for listening.
. . . . .
[the mostly reverend says: thanks, rod.]

17 comments:

john said...

That was nice - you smart ass little bastard.
John

the mostly reverend said...

it's what i do, john.

oh, by the way, you'd better have a great winter, cuz i'm gonna kick your ass at leadville next year.

i thought i'd better broadcast it, stick my neck out, get commited to it, so i can't back out.
unless i fake another crash, and "break" some more bones.

Anonymous said...

Well Kim and Rod(!) I had a nice long email going this morning before heading off to work regarding this issue and how words matter and just because a woman came up with the name does not make it right, etc but it needed polishing so I left it and I get home from work and look at what you both have written. Thanks to you for stating it all for me. In short, I agree!

gpickle

the mostly reverend said...

the women of gotta gimme more need to eat, mr pickle, and we like to help.

Anonymous said...

Anytime, Steve. It's just what I do. LOL! "Talk" to ya later.

-Rod

Bart said...

The Michael I know was and still is an advocate for womens rights, equality, and abilities.

S.Fuller said...

My first bike shop I encountered in college was Michael's in Ames. I still have fond memories of his shop, the memoriabilia on the walls, being able to walk into a shop in Iowa in the late 80s and purhcase something exotic like a Bianchi or a Pinarello and walk out the door with it if you wanted.... lot of memories for me in that shop, back when I thought about being a bike racer, before reality and responsibility set in. Now, the place of my dreams is another restaurant. Life goes on, but it's a shame.

Ginny Elliott said...

When Megan wanted to start racing as a 14 year old, we had no clue where to turn. We stopped in at Michaels to ask for advice and were directed exactly where she needed to be. He has had an impact on so many racers, both men and women, yet doesn't seem to care about drawing attention to himself
Megan Elliott's mom

john said...

Kim - OK, now I'm motivated for leadville. Those other years were just a warm up for the duel of the old Iowa guys - let it be known - we could both win age groups, but you're the one I'm really looking for.
John

Anonymous said...

You need to change your moniker from the Mostly Reverend to the Cycling Curmudgeon, kind of a cross between H L Menken and Jim Flansburg. That sentiment not withstanding, it was a great history lesson, as many have never walked both levels of Michael's and gazed at the museum that was his shop, nor heard his stories.
Do you have any idea what a large chunk of the Rocky Mountains you just bit off with your Leadville claim? Better get yourself a good mountain bike (road bikes don't fare too well on Power Line) and start training with a sock in your mouth as there is not alot of oxygen up there.

Duffy

Anonymous said...

Maybe it aughta be called Race like Jaque Bradley...

the mostly reverend said...

brian, if you haven't noticed, i often ride with one or two feet in my mouth. putting socks on them would only increased the laundry.

the mostly reverend said...

dave ertl, local racer and cycling coach, sent me the following email, and approved my posting it here:

I was there from 80-84. 84 was the crème de la crème. Connie Carpenter getting a medal at the Olympics, Kiefel, Hampsten, Nelson Vails, and others. I remember being on a ride with Michael and Tilford. Tiflford had just won the first ever mountain bike championships (on a cyclocross bike) and was talking about bouncing off trees to stay upright. He also made the comment that in crits in the rain he likes to go out fast and crash in the first turn to find out what the limits are. Michael’s response was “Steve, if you quit racing and started smoking, you’d live longer”.


It’s good that the new generation got to read in your blog about Michael as with his shop gone, many don’t know what a museum it was, and what an icon Michael is. When I first started racing in 1973 in Connecticut, and subscribed to B&W Velonews, I used to see pictures of those guys in the grey jersies with ‘Michael’s’ in the oval on the front. Several years later I ended up in Iowa and was honored to wear his SRC Raleigh jersey. I still have them hanging in my basement. I had a chance to buy Jackie Bradley’s used Reynolds 753 Raleigh black/red/yellow team bike. Now I wish I had.

Yes, ah, the memories.

David Ertl
USA Cycling Level 1 Coach
NSCA Certified Personal Trainer
CycleCoach@Hotmail.com
515-689-1254

other stories, former ames riders?
send them, post them.
let folks see what they missed, and why they shouldn't wag a finger at michael, without knowing this first.

Anonymous said...

I just found this post and its a great one. I worked for Michael for many years, he taught me a lot and it was an honor to work there. I always thought Velonews or someother rag should do a story on Fatka and what he did for our sport.

Anonymous said...

I had the opportunity to work in Michael's shop for a few years and I'm not sure I'll ever have the opportunity stand it a place containing so much cycling history. It would always amaze me how one of Michael's fleeting cycling observations would be a major revelation for the rest of us. On top of it was the shop manager, Ron Ritz, who had been with Michael for 20+ years. Ron could randomly pull up the most intricate component specs from something out of production for 15 years. Because of Michael I was allowed to live many of my childhood dreams; a beer with Lemond at the interbike show in vegas, coffee with Steve Tilford in Park City, and random phone conversations with Andy Hampston and Bob Stone. The shop may be gone, but the memories are as vivid as this morning. Thanks Michael.

the beav said...

I was fortunate enough to work at Michael's for five years as a kid growing up in Ames. It was a truly remarkable shop that oozed American cycling history, knowledge, and memorabilia from every corner, especially the old shop at 223 Main. I still have one of the Raleigh Heron t-shirts like in the photo, worn and raggedy from numerous washings. The Heron Raleigh t-shirt at the Medusa head logo on the Michael's Cyclery stickers were the defining look for the shop from the beginning until the move to 320 Main in the late 80's.

I know my love of cycling is without a doubt due to my experience working for Michael. The finer points of precision and quality ranging from the simply task of building kids bikes to learning the nuances of wheel building and building custom pro bikes were taught daily under the exacting standards and tutelage of Chaz and Ronn. Michael was often on the road during the last years of Levi's Raleigh and Levi's Toshiba teams, but when he was, there was even more cycling education to be had. Lots of great rides with Michael as he sang Dylan songs and imparting racing and life lessons. Great memories...

sydney said...

+1 on the whole 'race like a girl' language. Women's Racing Series, etc. There are so many other names it could have had.

We have to be careful about the language we use to refer to ourselves because it does shape how others perceive and treat us.

Let's race aggressively and make it fun to watch, so spectators come to see the race, not who looks cutest in their lycra.