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The Story of Calvin.
Editorial by Tom Demerly.

Colin in front of store.
Colin getting ready for a ride in front of Bikesport.

If you visit our store in the afternoon you may notice a tall, dark haired young guy about 16 behind the counter. His name is Colin McMahon, and this is The Story of Calvin.

About five years ago we sold BMX bikes (we don't anymore). A young guy about 11 got a bike, for Christmas I think. He was quiet and shy and had a tough time deciding which bike he wanted. He finally picked one and his parents bought it for him. Pretty quickly he showed up back at the store with the bike saying, "It makes a noise". It did, we fixed it. Then, he came back again: "It still makes a noise." He was quiet, polite and soft spoken and obviously a perfectionist about his equipment, even at 11 years old. My kind of guy. I took the bike for a ride and couldn't get any noise out of it, so I invited him back in the shop area and we put it in a work stand to try to figure out the problem. He stayed for about an hour or so while we tinkered with it.

The next day he was back.

And the next.

I finally said to him, "Hey, dude, if you want to hang out here and it's cool with your parents that is fine with me, you can even do some stuff for us…"

One day my Mom (80 years old) was in here and said, "Who's that boy?" I said, "That's Colin, he kind of hangs out, like a consultant." My Mom is like a human Enigma machine: Tell her something, it goes in her brain, gets twisted around and is spit out in code. She said, "Oh, his name is Calvin?, OK…"

Ever since then he has been known as Calvin.

Soon after Calvin started hanging out Michael R. Rabe (another story), Vice President of Racing for the Wolverine Sports Club and cycling bon vivant noticed Calvin and said, "If you're going to hang out here you're going to race…" We built Calvin a bike (actually, Michael R. Rabe did most of it) and put him on the CompuTrainer. He kicked butt.

Calvin has been an athlete all his young life: Hockey, baseball, etc. He is a bit of a natural. He took to cycling instantly. During those first rides he would pedal and Michael R. Rabe would shift his gears for him, keeping his cadence at just the right r.p.m.s, standing next to the CompuTrainer the entire way.

In the spring Calvin got his own bike and started going on rides with us. A couple other younger guys showed up for a while, tried riding, but eventually either lost interest or discovered less constructive (sometimes illegal) pass times. They discovered cycling is a tough sport. So did Calvin. But Calvin stayed. I don't remember what happened in his first race, it doesn't really matter. He may have won. What matters is he kept at it. His parents supported his efforts, rare these days- especially in a relatively obscure sport like cycling, but Calvin's parents are the very best kind of people you can meet.

Suddenly Calvin started to win. And win. He won everything: Time trials, criteriums, track races, cyclocross, road races. He became an incredibly versatile cycling athlete. Sometimes, like all young guys, he would make a mistake and we gave him endless ribbing for it. Once in a cyclocross race he claimed to have taken second because a squirrel attacked him. We tormented him for weeks afterward; even taunting him with a stuffed squirrel tied to the end of a pole while he did a CompuTrainer workout. But now he is a five-time state cycling champion.

When Calvin first started riding we had to take it easy on him, after all, he was just a kid… but then he started getting cocky (like all male kids about 13) so it was time for the alpha males to show him who was boss. At 13 he was still droppable. I know, that's terrible, a bunch of 40+ guys going out on a ride and putting the hurt on a 13-year-old. He would try to get away on a group ride and we would take a pull at 30 M.P.H. and that darn well put him in his place.

Then the inevitable happened.

I don't remember what day it was, but it was hot out. We were headed up a hill we call "5 Mile Hill" (It's about a half mile long). Calvin was on the ride. A few other guys too. Suddenly, Calvin just went. Well, we can't have that. A boy has to know his place. I chased him, so did a few other guys. We gave it everything. When I looked up, Calvin was gone.

He dropped us.

When I caught him he didn't say anything. He just politely sat up and took a drink from his bottle, as though the drink was the reason he slowed, not the fact that I was destroyed along with everybody else because of his uphill acceleration. You see, he is so polite he didn't even rub it in. I'm not sure where he learned it (it darn sure wasn't from us), but not only had Calvin learned to ride; he also learned something some Tour de France winners never learn: Class.

Calvin, Michael R. Rabe and his Mom went to the U.S. National Cycling Championships in Florida that year. They drove the entire way. Calvin had a good race and gained a lot of experience. The following year he came to winter cycling camp with us at the Walden School of Cycling in Orlando, Florida. He trained with all of us, putting in up to 80-mile days and riding 300 miles in a week.

Like all guys his age his eating habits are a bit weird. The morning of a tough 80-mile ride he ate a half bowl of dry corn flakes and half a glass of water. I ate an entire breakfast. At the rest stop for lunch he and I were bonking in a big way, but kept the faith and kept on going. Most of the time Calvin survives on bagels, Mountain Dew, gummy worms, Twix bars, chips and more Mountain Dew. It doesn't seem to affect him, he's rock solid.

Since Calvin (Colin) started coming in here he has gone through four frame sizes. He is six feet tall now and gets his driver's license next month. He says getting his license is a good thing, then he can drive to more races. This year he rode to the cyclocross series in Michael R. Rabe's van with me along as first year cyclocross understudy.

To this day Calvin has an eye for perfection. Whether it is for the girls behind the counter at the coffee shop or for the bikes on the floor ("I saw a bike on the floor with a kink in the brake cable") Calvin is on it.

Why is this story important? It is the story of how someone's life, a number of people actually, has been positively influenced by our sport. And, while there are a lot of great reasons to celebrate cycling, this may be the best one.

 

© Tom Demerly, Bikesport Inc.
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