Ted rolls in on his daily commute
I’ve always loved bikes. My dad always tells stories of having to forcibly remove me from my first big wheel and bicycles. My first bike was a hand-me-down painted with blue house paint. My parents tried to keep me well rounded with other activities like golf and tennis lessons to offset my BMX racing. Sure, I’d go to practice, but only if I could ride my bike there. They didn’t approve of carrying a bag of clubs on my bike. My passion for riding and racing never wavered through high school and college. This was no phase. Perhaps it’s hereditary. I watched my dad follow his passion—helicopters—and made them his life. His father did the same in the automotive industry. By the summer of 1997 I was full-dipped in bike racing life. I portioned my food and kept a log of what I ate, slept, and planned my work life around the bike. I was 26-years old and disliked every “real” job I had–I never lasted more than a year in any. On the bike I wasn’t a naturally gifted racer, but I got to race with the gifted ones, and I loved the challenge.
In a very immature moment I quit my sales rep job and left Dallas for Austin. My good friend, Randy Phillips had moved here and graciously allowed me to take refuge on his futon. He worked at a shop and went to school. Mostly we rode. Lots. Like me, Randy lived bikes and never stopped—he is now an engineer at Trek Bicycles. The trails here were amazing, and soon I found myself at a crossroads of sorts–I needed a job in Austin that I could keep. I was sitting in my third interview at huge computer company trying to convince myself I’d last at this sales job. It is a real job, like grownup people have. And they paid real money. But mid-way through the interview I “sat-up” and began coasting. It was a long interview with 3 people and a painful 40-plus minutes of numbing questions that I short answered. That job likely made someone very happy, and perhaps a great career.
I knew I had to take the bike shop job that was my “fallback”. At a pretty low hourly rate, I was finding my way living on far less income than I had in years. I don’t mean that in a “pity me” way. I had all that I needed, but every penny was calculated. A $4 jug of OJ was something that existed only other peoples fridges, I’m not sure why OJ stuck in my head like a luxury item, but with $30 a week in the food budget, it was. Until I could buy Orange Juice without thinking twice, I wasn’t a success.
On the bright side, I did score expired Cytomax that was so caked and rock-hard I’d chip it up with a knife and soak in hot water to dissolve. Fortunately, I fell short of the obsession of a shop manager who weighed the Clif bars on a gram scale used to weigh components to make sure he got the biggest ones. So at least I wasn’t him. At some point semi-slick MTB tires became all the rage, but I didn’t have to worry about buying them. I already had semi-slick tires most of the time from being worn out. I raced with duct tape on gloves more than once and lived the through friendly heckles. To the Schlotzsky’s on Toomey Road, let me thank you for the endless soup deal, and allowing me to eat from the kids menu. $2.14 for a mini-pizza, cookie, and small drink.
When I took the job I’m not sure I had a long-term plan, only that I loved getting up and coming to work and didn’t spend my hours looking for a way out. I have spent years since that time and still love to wake up and come to a bike shop. I found opportunities to work as a journalist covering races. I’ve been to 10 Tours de France. I was even lucky enough to get to work with a pro team, but none of those places were “home”. More than anything, those forays confirmed that hard work, professionalism, and dedication mean a lot in this industry. The experiences make me who I am. I truly experience joy seeing someone excited about a new bike. It’s a sincere feeling that motivates me. I was out at a cycling event kick-off party with my wife and ran into a 16-year old and his father. I’d sold them his first bike about 12 years before and another a few years later, but had lost touch. The dad recognized me and recounted that day when I helped a young kid discover the bike. Cycling had become a family activity. It enriched their life as a family, and I was in part responsible. That is satisfying.
I’m a lifer. Cliche, but your bike is my business card. Whether for sport, or pleasure, or transportation, your bike and every detail about it matters to me. I’m not the only lifer here either. I’m surrounded by them. I can’t speak for everyone in my boat, but I’m pretty sure for most if you called us a “lifer” we’d smile, and own it. At the root of all, bikes are my joy, and today, like as tot, you’d have to drag me away.