I'll be darned if my buddy
Michael R. Rabe didn't buy the farm. May 2nd, Friday
night, 9:37P.M. cycling lost one of its best, the
world lost a great person, and I lost my best friend.
Damn the luck. Typical deal.
Rabe caught the golden BB from a dim-witted 22-year-old female
with a suspended license driving a junker car with hardly
any brakes, a filthy windshield and two kids in the car and
a drink in her belly. She said she never saw him. It was dark.
She said she heard her car "hit something" and then
decided to stop to see what it was. Her brakes were so bad
she stopped a significant distance down the road. Yes, she
had a drink. Just one. It was very dark. Rabe, the ding-dong,
had no lights. He was on his time trial bike. A conspiracy
of factors that lead to a fatal conclusion. Wrong place. Wrong
So what do we take from this except a new claim ticket at
the emotional baggage counter?
Lesson One: This is a dangerous sport.
I've written and ranted extensively about the risks in our
sport. Make no mistake: It is extremely dangerous. You can
be killed at any time. There are substantial statistical arguments
to support the probability that you will (not might) be killed
eventually. If you aren't comfortable with that thought, find
a safer sport.
What can be done to minimize the risks? Plenty. Like the
great cyclist and 5-time Tour de France winner Bernard Hinault
said, "Stack the odds in your favor". Wear a helmet.
Ride in areas and at times that minimize your exposure to
traffic. Avoid riding in the dark. Carry I.D. and a telephone.
After Rabe bought it he spent 15 hours as a "John Doe".
If he had his ID on him the police could have made a call
at least, for whatever good that does.
Another thing you can do to minimize the risk is less tangible,
but every bit as effective. It is attitudinal. The great surfer
Duke Kahanamoku risked his life almost every day surfing enormous
waves in dangerous currents over jagged coral reefs. Kahanamoku
was never afraid of the sea. He respected it. This is what
the Polynesian master said about risk:
"There are two kind of surfer- gun shy and gung-hao
(gung-ho). Gun shy surfer can't accept risk. He is dangerous
surfer. He die soon. Gung-hao surfer embrace the risk. He
know it and learn it. He walk side by side with it every day
in harmony. He good surfer"
What Kahanamoku is saying is: If you live in fear of traffic
and having an accident you probably will. There is a Pearl
Jam song that says "That what you fear will meet you
half way". So true. If you are scared to ride in the
road maybe this isn't your sport. If you are scared to ride
in the road but you aren't interested in other sports then
put your helmet on, get out there with a structured group
ride and learn how to me more confident and competent in a
road riding environment. It will add years to your life.
Having said all that it didn't help Michael R. Rabe one bit.
He broke a rule of safe cycling by riding in the dark with
no light and the driver was breaking the law since she was
operating an unsafe vehicle while driving on a suspended driver's
license. That points out a sub-lesson: It doesn't matter how
experienced a cyclist you are, you can still wind up like
a bug on someone's windshield. A crappy, stupid, drunk driver
doesn't care if this is your first road ride or your 5,000th.
But they will make it your last.
Stack the odds in your favor. Wear a helmet. Ride on routes
you are familiar with. Don't ride during hours that are more
dangerous. I know some of you will listen, some won't. So
I will be attending more funerals. Eventually as the guest
of honor, lying in the box. Then at least maybe Rabe and I
can ride together again.
Lesson Two: Life is Short, Live it.
I am deeply affected by losing my best friend. It doesn't
affect him because he's dead.
But I am more affected by having him as a friend for 18 years.
Michael R. Rabe and I lived the good life. We did what we
wanted, we did what we loved and I never missed a chance to
tell that guy what a great guy and a good friend he was. He
We ate Coney Island's downtown at midnight. Worked on bikes
until 3:00 A.M. Went to races and trained, we ate whatever
we wanted. Sometimes when we were here late, eating pizza,
listening to loud music and building bikes Rabe would say,
real loud, "Hey, look at this boys, we're livin' like
Kings!" How true it is.
I wear my heart on my sleeve a lot more than Rabe because
I am pretty in touch with my own mortality. I survived a few
close calls, so I know I am on this earth on "extension"
or borrowed time and I expect that extension can be revoked
at any time, without notice. So I figured I'd tell Mike "Hey
dude, thanks for helping me with my cyclocross bike
There is a huge lesson to be learned in that. It is the old
cliché of living every day as though it may be your
last. Rabe did that. He chased his dreams; he did what he
loved. Sure, he had to cope with reality like everyone else.
But when Rabe died his brother and sister found an entire
room filled with unopened mail going back years. Rabe didn't
waste time going through junk mail. As it turns out, that
was an excellent decision on his part. He died young. That
would have been an utter waste of time.
Sometimes when someone said something pointless, stupid or
inane to Michael R. Rabe he would reply with, "Is that
what you wanted to tell me? You just wasted 10 seconds of
my life with that
10 seconds I'll never get back."
Rabe rarely wasted those precious 10 seconds. That is lesson
Lesson 3: Give something back.
Philanthropy is when you give something back out of the
goodness of your heart. Rabe lived it. He was a bike man through
and through. He was an official, coach, promoter, racer, tourist,
mechanic, announcer, jersey designer, and about everything
else in cycling. Most of what he did he did for others out
a love of the sport and a desire to bring other people into
Rabe loved cycling himself, and he enhanced his enjoyment
of the sport by involving himself at every level. This brought
other people into the sport.
Ask yourself: When was the last time you did something to
benefit cycling? Or anything for that matter. When was the
last time you volunteered? One thing I learned from Rabe was
to always give something back to the sport. There have been
plenty of times when I thought I should just punch out and
go home rather than stay here past midnight (when I got here
at 6:30 A.M.) to finish someone's bike. Rabe would always
stay. "This person needs their bike tomorrow. They're
doing a ride
". That was the highest priority to
Mike. So we would order Pizzas, turn up the music, clean the
counters and get to work. It wouldn't be long before Rabe
would blurt out, "Hey boys
.We're livin' like Kings
Indeed we were.