Another year, another Drunkcyclist Day. The day we have set aside as an international holiday for celebrating friends and bikes.
I’m writing this one a week early, which feels a little weird. Normally I type this up the morning of the 7th just so I can feel it a little more. But, I’m here, sitting in a hotel room in Kathmandu anxiously awaiting my departure into the mountains tomorrow. As you read this, I’m so far out of service that I can’t celebrate with y’all. But know that today I’m doing my own dance up here in the thin air. Pouring a little out for our homies that are no longer with us and having all the smiles and positive thoughts about those who are still here.
I first wrote the piece below from a hotel “business center” in Cancun while I was on a bike tour of the Yucatan. The thought came to me while I was riding, staring at my stem on the long straight road into town, and I really wanted to put it out there into the world. So I snuck into this fancy hotel and typed away until someone asked me to leave. I stalled as long as I could to get it close to finished, but it wasn’t quite done. I text Big Johnny from the parking lot to publish it for me anyway. Told myself that I would publish it every year as long as I was able. So here it is. Again..
Be excellent to each other. Read this bit below, if you haven’t before. Share stories in the comments. Get out for a ride today if you can. Keep it dirty.
It’s been a fucking weird ride, but goddamnit we are still here. #DRUNKCYCLISTFOREVER
When I meet people from the DC family out on the trail, the one question I get the most is “How do you know Big Jonny and how did you end up writing for the site?”. I am reminded of the story around this time every year, and today seems like the best day to share it.
I always try to adhere to two rules when writing a post. No politics and nothing too heavy. I am going to have to make an exception here and get a little serious.
I have known Jonny for about eighteen years now. Before that, I was just a fan of the site and only knew of BJ through our fantastic bike community here in Arizona. But I never really hung out with the guy. It isn’t hard to keep tract of the years we have known each other.
Eighteen years ago our friend died.
His name was Kyle, and if you have been reading this site for a while you may have stumbled across his name. We were only close acquaintances and riding buddies at best. I had never met his family, knew his birthday or any of the things close friends know. But the conversations we had and the rides we shared make me proud to call him a friend. He was an original member of the Drunkcyclist crew, and he was a hell of a guy.
When he passed, you could feel the sadness move through our cycling community like a tidal wave. We were grieving and we were going to handle it the only way we knew how. Ride and drink. The call went out over this web site and via word of mouth that there was going to be a memorial gathering. Leave whenever you want, ride whatever you want. Just get to the top of South Mountain. I met up with Jonny and a small group of like minded vagrants at the trailhead and we rode the National trail up the hill. We told stories of our friend and we talked about his favorite trail that we just happen to be riding on. It was never discussed but it seemed like we were all riding at a parade pace, a slow march in memorial to our fallen friend. It was one of the most memorable rides of my life.
When we reached Dobbin’s Lookout on South Mountain, it was an amazing sight to be seen. There were people convening from everywhere. Mountain bikers coming up trails, roadies coming up the road, and non riders in their cars. I liken it to when you see one ant on the sidewalk then your eyes focus and you notice that there are now 50 ants. People were coming from all different directions as if they were materializing out of the desert.
Waiting for us at the top was Kyle’s family, a minister, and a keg of beer. The family said some words and the minister facilitated some amazing story telling. We shared stories for who knows how long. We laughed about our friend’s shenanigans and grown men cried. As I looked around at all these people that came here to pay homage to their friend, there was one common theme. He was just a really nice guy who would do anything for his friends. My thoughts turned to my own impact in this world. How many people would show up if I died tomorrow? Would anybody say these amazing things about me?
At that time, I was a broke, angry, and out of shape loser settling into my position under the bell curve of society. I was living beyond my means and talking shit like it was my job. In short, I wasn’t a very nice person.
This moment was a tipping point in my life. That evening, as I sat on a rock overlooking the city, everything changed. It may sound over simplified and cliché, but that day I vowed two things. To live my dreams every day and to just be a nice person.
Fortunately, I have kept in touch with Jonny over the years and it has eventually brought me here to you guys. If you have a DC jersey you will notice a name and some dates on the back. This has been the story of that man. If you are in ever in Phoenix and find yourself riding up South Mountain road, look for the little memorial across from the ranger station. Stop and pour a little water out for the cactus that’s there. I do it every time.
Our friend was only around for a short while but his impact will be felt for a lifetime. Make time today to go ride, to think about your friends, and to appreciate life.
–Thanks for the life lessons, brother. See you at the end of my ride.by
Kyle and I were roommates and degenerates at the dawn of DC. We raced SS together for 4 years & I only beat him 3 times out of what had to be 50+ races: once he double flatted (Estrella), once he broke his chain (crown king gold mine) and once I’m going to tell you about today…
I moved to Phoenix knowing only two people, I had met Kyle when I flew out to Phoenix for a job interview and he took me on this crazy mtb ride at south mountain, up National, down telegraph and back on desert classic. I’d never ridden anything like this before, super gnarly and technical with crazy drops and then a blazing fast hard pack rip through desert scrub. It was awesome and I was moving here! Kyle welcomed me into his house. We quickly bonded over our passions for cycling and we pushed each other to always be better, but Kyle was always better even when he didn’t train, he was a machine on two wheels with a super smooth flow that matched his personality. I was cocky but he was always so humble. He truly loved riding his bike.
So we roll up to one of the AZ state series races at – the night before where we set up camp, started a fire and introduced Kyle to Big Johnny. They hit it off over a bottle of Jack and some frozen burritos on the fire. They were still up around midnight killing off that bottle when I went to sleep in the bed of my truck.
Race morning I roll out of bed and Kyle is rapped up in a blanket curled around the burned out fire and pops up like a daisy ready to go. We check in and get our race numbers and launch time then head over to the race corrals for the start. I get up front to the SS class (we go first wave) and settle into a spot on the line with moments to spare, but I can’t see Kyle. The official is giving the count down to go time and no Kyle… the official hits 10 seconds to go and I look back to see Kyle jump out of a port-a-potty as the gun goes off! So Kyle is now stuck behind all the age group classes in the back of the corral and has to make his way through the crowd who are waiting for their start and clueless to his struggle , if you race you know what I mean. We had three loops of the course and besides the hangover, I was feeling pretty good. I knew I had Kyle in a spot I could turn the screws too. I was cruising till we lapped some of the age group riders and got hung up in traffic through some single track but kept moving up. I got to the top of the final hard climb and Kyle bumps my back tire and slaps my a$$… I can’t believe he caught me, are you f’n kidding me!?!? How did he make up that time and get through all that traffic, he was flying!! We were at the final decent and Kyle was a pro downhiller so I had no chance but I was going to make him work for it. I never went so fast or made more questionable decisions than on the way down and somehow I gasped him, hit the rolling section and hammered to the finish. His did I drop Kyle on that decent? Finally he rolls through the line, two very soft tires and a huge grin. Apparently Kyle had been cutting through the rough while passing all those lapped riders and had gotten two slow leaks courtesy of some jumping cactus while chasing me down. ( reminds me of a time Kyle and I were showing some Arizona visitors the dangers of choya cactus and got our hands stuck to each other , but that’s a different story) When he caught me he was spent and his tires were low, so he let me go. I thought I actually dropped him but he let me take it.
Kyle came from an amazing family and was always willing to share what he had and lend a hand. He was truly the best of us. I miss ya brother. I rode the bike today, toasted a frosty beverage and thought of my friend. Enjoy drunk cyclist day and get on your bike and ride! #rideforkyle
Keep the faith!
After two years of cancellation due to Covid, Taupo cycle challenge is on again & I’ll be down there flying DC colours. (no, I’m not accepting auto correct for the spelling of ‘colours’, that’s how it’s spelt in the real world).