The Bikes of Bobke Strut…1

Year: 1982
Location: Cooperstown, NY
Event: Citizen's race around Lake Otsego
Frame manufacturer: Puch
Frame material: The densest steel known to mankind. We're talking boat anchor heavy, neutron star-dense.
Gruppo: No recollection

The story: My first lesson of bike racing 101: if you tow a guy along for the final 8 miles of the race, don't be surprised when he blows your doors off with 200 meters to go. This is the finish line of my first road race. I'd already done several hill climb time trials that year, but this was my introduction to mass-start events.

In 1982 I was as green as the grass in Ireland when it came to competitive cycling. But the man outsprinting me with the stylin' Steve McQueen shades, Neil Toombs, would soon become one of my local mentors. I quickly ditched the running shorts, t-shirts, running shoes, hairy legs, and 27" wheeled bikes. The glow-in-the-dark-Protec helmet, however, was not ditched for a hairnet (which was legal at that time). I thanked the Lord in heaven when lightweight, well-ventilated helmets finally made their way to the market in the late 80s.

Everyone starting out in cycling deserves to have the friends and mentors I found in our local, Oneonta, NY cycling club. Nobody rolled their eyes or snickered under their breath when faced with my attire or utter befuddlement concerning all-things cycling when I showed up to race. Instead, they made their best effort to polish the diamond in the rough teenager who created a minor sensation by beating all but one of them in my first ever bike race: a hill climb TT up Franklin Mountain. Only a handful of these riders actually held a USCF license, yet there existed a grassroots calendar of hill climb TTs and road TTs every first and third Wednesday of the month when snow wasn't blocking the roads, unsanctioned road races, and an environment of inclusion and learning. Just good people, all around.
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