Kirk Graham

March 28th, 2024 by Jennie Schuman
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Old Bike, New Life

May 2nd, 2023 by JoAnn Cranson

By Kathy Braginton

I’m old and rusty.  I creak and moan.  I feel deflated, but I know there is still life in me.  The road is a distant memory, but I dream of my wheels on the pavement and the wind rushing through my headset.  Day in and day out, I am dusty and downtrodden.  What opportunities could I provide if I was clean and tuned?  

My owner recently rolled me out of the garage into the bright light of day.  I was slow to move, but eager to see what adventure may await as I was loaded on the bike rack.  He dropped me off at an unfamiliar place, patted my seat, and went on his way.  As I looked around, I felt uneasy and out of place at first, but I soon realized that I was not alone.  Around me were many other bikes, some looked as oppressed as myself while others were not so gloomy.  We were all loaded into a trailer and I was soon dropped off at the home of a nice man.  He took me in his home, lifted me off the ground, and hooked me on his bike stand.  

What came next was truly euphoric!  I was stripped bare.  The dust was slowly and intentionally washed away.  New cables were run, my pads replaced, and all that was old slowly became new again.  My tires were pumped and firm in a way I had not felt in quite some time.  Could my old and rusty frame really have new life?  Could I truly be upcycled to provide a new sense of transportation freedom to a new rider?

Upcycle Bikes refurbishes used adult bikes and provides them to partner organizations serving refugees, shelter clients, and other community members in need of an affordable and accessible transportation option.  The mission of Upcycle Bikes is to make bikes accessible to community members with transportation challenges.

Founded in 2022, Upcycle Bikes all started with one well-meaning bike mechanic with a desire to impact his community in a new way.  Thanks to strong community encouragement and a group of talented and passionate individuals, Upcycle Bikes is now easing transportation challenges across Grand Rapids.  Upcycle Bikes partners with the following organizations for bike distribution:  Bethany Christian Services, AYA Youth Collective, Safe Haven Ministries, and Guiding Light.  Bethany Christian Services says the bike donations from Upcycle Bikes allows refugees to go to work, school, tutoring classes, and other activities without relying on the bus or volunteers for transportation.

Members of the Team Athletic Mentors – Masters West team are collaborating with Upcycle Bikes to assist in building and refurbishing used bikes.  In giving of their time and resources, TAM has as many as 12 members servicing bikes out of their homes.

Averaging 3-4 hours per bike to bring the bikes back into service, TAM volunteers have found it therapeutic in a sense to volunteer their time  and give back to the community.

Other ways the team members have volunteered their time:

  • Upcycle bike drives and bike deliveries.
  • Event volunteers to raise funds for the Upcycle organization.

Upcycle Bikes recently moved into their new home at 800 Monroe Ave NW,  Grand Rapids, MI  49503.  Their new shop will allow Upcycle Bikes and TAM volunteers to collaborate on their efforts to provide more bikes into the community.  Here are a few ways you can get involved with the Upcycle Bikes organization:  volunteer fixing bikes, volunteering at a bike drive, or attending an event. Don’t feel you need to be able to refurbish a bike in order to volunteer.  Do you have an unused bike in your garage?  Bike donations can be made at Upcycle Bikes (by appointment), REI of Grand Rapids, Pedego of Grand Rapids, Alger Bikes, and Aquinas College (Campus Safety).  Monetary donations can be made as well through their website or by sending a check directly to the organization.  Upcycle Bikes is a 501(c)(3), all volunteer, non-profit organization that relies on bike and financial donations to satisfy their mission.

Check out Upcycle Bikes website for more information on upcoming events and how you can give that old bike a new life:  www.upcyclebikes.org.  Follow Upcycle Bikes on social media to keep up to date on all their happenings:  Instagram, Facebook, Linkedin


John Meyers

February 9th, 2023 by Athletic Mentors Staff
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Pat Dorr

August 10th, 2022 by Athletic Mentors Staff
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Winter Bikepacking

December 24th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By Jonathan Meyer

Over the Thanksgiving weekend my brother and I were invited to go bikepacking for the first time with fellow Team Athletic Mentors rider Joel Bretzlaff near Cadillac. Not surprisingly, the weather 180 miles north of where you live is bound to be colder and more wintery. But our expedition would not discover that until it was too late to turn back.

This is my bike setup.

All four of us (James Meyer, Joel and Jason Bretzlaff, and I) are experienced campers and backpackers, but this adventure would still have us venturing into uncharted territory literally and figuratively speaking. Due to our limited experience in bikepacking, we had none of the required specialty gear like frame bags (storage that goes within the front triangle of your bike), large saddlebags, or front racks for carrying the larger items, and almost everyone went about acquiring these items in different ways. James and I borrowed gear from some avid bikepacking friends. I also built my own front rack with machined aluminum mounts, and an old 2×4, which I strapped the 4-person tent that we all slept in for two cold, snowy nights. Jason also fabricated most of his gear, using handlebar extenders for a front rack, and taking advantage of this impressive sowing skills to make his own frame bag.  The tent is the large roll strapped to the front, the frame bag is the dark grey triangle filling up the front triangle of my bike, and the saddle bag is the large bag sticking way off the back of my bike. All this gear plus the bike ended up weighing about 54lbs 9oz.

Picture from the first singletrack we rode.

A successful bikepacking trip cannot be completed without teamwork, and on this trip, we split the load of everything up evenly among our four team members. James and I carried the tent and the rainfly, Jason carried the Jet Boil, for boiling water to heat our food, and Joel carried
extra food for the group, and navigated us through the snowy forest on a route of his own design.

The planned trip was a 90 mile ride over the span of three days and two nights, starting on Friday and finishing on Sunday. The first day we started at Red Bridge River Access and rode 23 of our 25 planned miles through beautiful singletrack of the North Country Trail, blanketed in 3” of sticky

Picture from the single track just before the road into Mesick.

snow. For the first five miles of the trip, we were making fresh tracks. After about 13 miles of singletrack we rode pavement into and through Mesick, where we learned the dangers of icy pavement. Then we continued onto dirt forest road, and then finally a few more miles of singletrack, to where  we

hiked a few hundred yards off the trail and farther into the snowy wilderness and set up camp. After clearing away the snow and setting up our tent and sleeping arrangements, we boiled water for our dinners and headed to bed, preparing for the hardest stage of our journey, the 45-mile day of singletrack and forest road that awaited us tomorrow.

The next day we were low on water from hydrating while riding, and from boiling it for dinner from the night before and breakfast from that morning, and eventually we would need to find more if we were going to make the full 45 miles planned for the day. With that thought, we began our day on singletrack, descending into the river valley, and soon we reached a bridge where we would have to cross the river. This spot would be our last opportunity to refill on water, so it would have to get us through the rest of today, and all 20 miles of tomorrow. After filtering, we began to climb back out of the valley on the singletrack. Throughout the day we rode many miles of singletrack, forest roads, and ORV trails, all covered in 4 inches of snow and counting. The two main challenges for that day were the huge distance we needed to cover, and the forecasted 3 inches of new snow we were going to receive along the way.  As the day wore on, we began to get tired, and run out of food. Our initial plan was to camp at the top of Briar Hill, the highest point in the lower peninsula, but we would not make it past that point until the next morning. As the group lost steam and proclaimed they could go no further, we set up camp, made dinner, and went to bed. Over night the snow kept falling.

In the morning, we used a large portion of our remining water, and almost all of our remaining food. The main challenge for our final day would be keeping a positive attitude riding through about six inches of snow, with dwindling energy and resources, through even more accumulating snow. This would prove to be a difficult challenge, as temperatures continued to drop.  However, despite adversity, we managed to push through the wind and snow all the way back to our start point at Red Bridge. Though this trek was very challenging and difficult and even painful at some points, I very much enjoyed the experience, and would definitely do it again. I would recommend bikepacking to any serious cyclist who also has a love of the outdoors, although maybe make your first-ever trip in the summer when there won’t be six inches of snow hindering your progress every pedal stroke.

 


The Benefit of Athletic Mentor Teammates

December 6th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Bob Schultz

This year’s Iceman Cometh reminded me why I enjoy being a member of the Athletic Mentors family.  Shortly after Williamsburg Road, which is considered halfway, I had a rider behind me say “on your right” and was surprised to see an Athletic Mentors Kit go around me. I did not get a chance to see the face but got on their back tire to draft them. I was able to keep on his tire and finally pass but still did not recognize him. We started talking and introduced ourselves. It was John Harris, a new member from Petoskey. I recognized his name because he joined a Messenger group we have where he introduced himself. While we had just met, we were teammates and shared that bond. For the next hour we both rode as though we had trained together for years. John was faster on the flats and I was faster climbing so we traded leads and put each other in front where we felt the other could help and were calling out what was coming up next.

We talked after the race thanking each other for pushing us faster than we would have individually. We both needed the encouragement climbing Ice Breaker on tired legs then finishing strong. The phrase “Pain loves Company” proved very correct.

John and I had never met but being part of  Team Athletic Mentors means more than wearing a similar kit. I have talked to hundreds of riders during races and ridden together with some, but it’s not the same. We are teammates and worked as one. Not everyone is the same speed where riding together makes sense, but a simple word of encouragement when you go by helps. I am lucky I now have a new friend to ride with the next time I am in Petoskey.


Rockford Bike Shop – “Where Everybody Knows Your Name”

May 19th, 2020 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Bob Schultz

Remember the TV show Cheers “Where Everybody Knows Your Name?” This could describe Rockford Bike Shop / Speed Merchants.

They are the shop where you know everyone and they know you because they are part of the biking community organizing rides, racing, meeting on a trail and of course sponsoring bike clubs.

Let me first describe the new name of Rockford Bike Shop. Speed Merchants has been a long-time sponsor of Athletic Mentors. Tragically, the owner, Kim Wood, died almost two years ago. His manager, George Swanzy, kept the shop open until he bought the assets and opened the shop in a new location as Rockford Bike Shop. Different name but same people serving our biking community.

George has sold and serviced bikes almost thirty years for some of the best cyclists in the area, including many of the Athletic Mentor riders. Craig Geitzen, who is well known for his gravel road and cyclocross racing, is working on bikes while George’s wife Katie is at the front desk. When you walk in, they know your name, level of riding and what bikes you own. It is not unusual to put a bike on a rack right there to diagnose it or make a repair while you wait. It isn’t just our circle of cyclists they treat this way. I have seen families come in to get a child their first bike and they still get the same attention.

With their knowledge and experience in cycling, they are on the leading edge with the newest in bikes, components, tires/wheels and accessories. Rockford Bike Shop is the dealer for Trek, but they service any brand of bike you own.  I have had George tell me he would be happy to take my money, but I don’t need that level of a component, and other times don’t be so cheap, because I won’t be happy in the long run.

They are not only a bike shop but they have a number of group rides that leave from the shop.   The most famous is the “Leg Wrecker” weeknight ride/race.  Check out more details about this ride that has grabbed national attention in this recent Velo news article

Unfortunately, just two weeks after reopening, the government shut them down as Non-Essential, just at the busiest time of the year. Now that they are back open it is important we support them. Visit www.rockfordbikeshop.com or call (616) 951-7181. Their address is 169 Marcell Dr NE, Rockford, MI 49341.

It is not Rockford Bike Shop but rather George, Katie, Craig and Jackson (their basset hound).  We know them, ride with them and enjoy a beverage with them. Amazon does not know how I ride nor can they make a quick adjustment on my way for a ride. Let’s make sure we support George and the rest of the crew at Speed Merchants / Rockford Bike Shop just like they support the cycling community!


Iceman Reflux

October 23rd, 2019 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Terry Ritter

Somewhere along the way I became an elder statesmen in the racing scene. Though I can’t pinpoint when this exactly was, I know it’s happened every season when the Iceman rolls around. There’s a chat with a new or novice racer and I reminisce regarding all the changes I remember over the years in the great November race. Though I’m sure others (though not many) can tell me some interesting changes, my quarter century of Iceman participation leaves me with a few things many people who identify with this event probably don’t know.

There Used to Be a More Traditional Race Format

For a number of years Iceman was organized like most traditional races. There were ubiquitous categories like Beginner, Sport, and Expert, with age groups aligning with the age groupings based off the long defunct NORBA standard. This meant each of these categories had five year age divisions up to and over 50 years old. It made for smaller fields, but you also knew who you were racing against when the gun went off, which was the norm. It was certainly a different way to race head-to-head versus today’s individual time trial method, where your time is then compared to others regardless of your starting wave. Obviously, you could almost pick what class you wanted, and that did group riders of dissimilar abilities, Today’s waving placement method, though frustrating for some, works more effectively to eliminate this disparity.

The Pro’s Started the Race First

It’s probably been well over a dozen years, but the race was more traditional in other ways as well. Primarily, the Pro fields, both men’s and women’s, started in their own waves, but were the first to go off. This created a lot more buzz at the start, and also insured they had the “clean” lines. But it was recognized that many of the Iceman racers were also fans, and they never got a chance to see the pros race, and specifically to finish. The solution was to have the pros go off in the afternoon, after most of the fields had finished and had time to clean up and get a little into their celebratory mode. I was racing the Pro class when we first did the later start. Having done only morning send offs to that point, it was really strange to stand there trying to amp up to compete and there was hardly anyone in the parking lot, and next to no buzz at the start. I distinctly remember being able to hear others around me breathing it was so quiet just seconds before the start. And though I went through a lot of that race competing with just a handful of riders, it was really cool to get closer to the finish and see all the people, then to get to Timber Ridge and have so many cheering. That made it worth it!

The Start and Finish Have Changed Over the Years

Back when the Iceman was a fledgling event the finish was at Holiday Hills ski resort, home of the start and finish of the now popular Mud Sweat and Beers MTB race. Since I started race this event in 1996, the start has been at the Kalkaska High School, downtown Kalkaska, and soon to be the Kalkaska Airport (this year). I can remember my first finish in 1996 being out in a field off the VASA Bunker Hill trailhead. No festivities, banners, or food trucks (or bathrooms, even). Before long the race established Timber Ridge Camp Ground as the finish line and it has grown to be a cool hang out as the years have passed.

Awards Banquette

For a number of years the race had an awards banquette in the evening, usually at the Grand Traverse Resort. With most of the racers finished by noon-2 PM, there was a good 4-5 hours before the awards were to be given out. This allowed a nap, something to eat, and hooking up with friends before heading over to the festivities. I had fond memories of one of my friends who worked for the promoter and lived locally doing an early afternoon spread where a number of the invited pros would come to hang out, eat, and maybe start the beer drinking early. It was a small setting, and people got to talk to each other. For a span of a few years the Iceman was sponsored by Gary Fisher and they used to send a large amount of their national MTB team to the race. I have a neat photo of myself and a young Ryder Hesjedal, many years before he switched to road and won the Giro d’italia.

National Pros Competing

One of the cool things about the Iceman, and cycling in general, is how approachable the top competitors are around the event. The expo the day before wasn’t always what it is today, but often you’d be able to talk to a few of the racers you just see in magazines. But the fact is, though we enjoy a pretty solid pro field in recent years, the Iceman was usually a locals or regional event. One or two good riders would show up that made a living racing a bike, but it wasn’t unheard of for someone you know to break the top 10 in the men’s class or top 5 in the women. Some years the winner would not have been recognized outside of the state. For one of the years Ryder came (and the pros started first in the morning) I remember passing him and another pro about 7 miles from the finish. They were just out enjoying the ride after a long season. To the benefit of the spectators, this hasn’t been the case for a while. Now you are sure to recognize most of the top riders as national competitors, some who have come to compete a few times. And, they know they have to take it seriously because there’s quality riders behind them. Good payouts, great accommodations, the lure of competing in a race they have heard about for years is likely strong drivers to toe the line.

Champions in Our Backyard

A bonus tidbit, but the Iceman has had a number of world champions compete over the years. Cecila Potts won the 1997 Junior World Championships in MTB and holds four winner’s trophies from Iceman. Art Flemming won multiple national championships for his age group and is the 1996 world champion for the 50-59 year old class. A few years back the great Ned Overend, 6 time national champion and 1990 world champion did his first Iceman. TC local Larry Warbasse, long before he was a national road champion and Pro Tour rider, competed in numerous events. Local John Mesco was a junior national champion in downhill. The present men’s 2x Iceman Cometh champion Jeff Kabush holds 15 Canadian national championships and a World Cup win. Alison Dunlop, the 2009 Iceman winner, was also multi-national champion and world champion in 2001. The late Steve Tilford raced for years as a national pro and won a number of age group world championships. Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski and his wife Heather Irmiger have both won national championships and competed and won our great race. I’m missing a few, and haven’t even mentioned the interesting racers many would recognize (Gary Fisher, anyone?), but the point is the race has had its share of accomplished participants in all fields cycling.

The Iceman Cometh has really evolved over the years, from a small group of friends to a spectacle that people put on their cycling bucket list. Along the way it has found a way to become better while still holding that same spirit of fun that is mountain biking and racing. I consider myself fortunate to have witnessed so much of it and am still around to share. Happy Birthday, Iceman! Here’s to 30 more years.


Mostyn Lumbard

July 12th, 2019 by Jim Allan
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Tommy Hahn

December 3rd, 2018 by Jim Allan
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