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Determined.
Editorial by Tom Demerly.


Tom Demerly riding indoor trainer.
I was crossing the street in front of our store a couple days ago in my car. I was on the way to work on a cold, damp and gray 28-degree day. A generally pretty dreary type Michigan winter day. It’s tough to get motivated on a day like that. The sun comes so late and seems to leave so early, apparently it doesn’t even care for the weather this time of year around here.

Crossing the intersection I glanced to the side and noticed Greg Isenhour, an employee of ours, getting off a bus.

“A bus?” I thought. “Hmmm. What’s up with that?”

Greg works full time at J.C. Penney running the men’s department and part time here at Bikesport, Inc. Right now he is one of those “developing talents” in the bike store and he sucks in information like a pearl diver inhaling after a dive. I swear the guy has every page of Lance Armstrong’s new book memorized, the previous one too. Greg wasn’t working today so it was odd to see him in the store, especially if he had to ride the bus to get here.

Then I remembered: The day before Greg had made a commitment to do a long ride on the Computrainer with me. I am training for the upcoming Ironman New Zealand and doing my best to build up saddle time. Even on the Computrainer a four-hour ride feels like about sixteen hours, so it is invaluable to have another guy on the Computrainer next to you to draft off of. For those of you unfamiliar with a Computrainer, it’s a computerized stationary trainer thingy you put your bike in and ride. A load generator simulates riding on the road, including drafting and hills. It’s pretty cool.

I park my car after my eight block commute and see Greg walking in the store. I tell myself I have to drive to work, all eight blocks from home, because I have errands to run. Sometimes it’s even true. Most times its just laziness.

“Greg, what’s with the bus?” He tossed is backpack with his riding clothes on the floor in the office to prepare for our ride.

“Oh, I said I’d ride with you today. I’m here to ride.”

Now I don’t know how this strikes you, but I was impressed. Pretty damn impressed. How many 20-year-old guys would spend their day off on a bus going up to the place they work, outside of working a 60+-hour workweek, to train indoors for four hours on their bike?

A few days ago I would have answered “None”. Today I know one.

I told Greg how impressed I was that he was determined enough to get on the bus and come up to the store to ride the Computrainer. Most people, especially this time of year, can find a million excuses to not train. I know I can. But Greg apparently found more reasons to train, despite the hassle of arranging his schedule around the bus schedule, waiting outside in the damp cold, spending four hours on an indoor trainer bored out of his wits and then riding back home on the bus without a shower first.

As luck would have it the store was swamped and I was so busy I had to delay our ride until it became a greatly abbreviated version of four hours. We managed a pretty good hour; Greg did another hour on his own. But before he got on the bike he helped out around the store.

Later on that day I was soaking in the hot tub at the pool thinking about what Greg did.

The guy rode the bus up to the store to ride the trainer for four hours.

Would I have done that? Man, I’d like to answer yes…. I hope I would. But I don’t know.

But he did.

In doing so Greg demonstrated more about himself than perhaps any cycling result he is likely to produce over the next few years. There was no finish line on the Computrainer, no results published online. No fanfare. No one to watch his performance. He isn’t training for anything big. He just wants to be better at the sport.

Last year when Greg started coming in the store he had an ill-fitting road bike he bought somewhere else and his position was awful, saddle way too low and reach way too long. We took pity on the guy after he showed up for a few rides and fixed his position. Then, we sold his old bike on E-Bay and got him a new carbon fiber frame with Campagnolo components. Greg still only has one change of cycling clothes, and he washes them every night so he can ride the next day. Pretty soon he started asking if we needed any part time help. On top of his 40-hour a week job.

Would you do that? Are you that focused, driven, determined?

Honestly, I doubt if I am. Sure, I’ll put in the work if I know I am jetting off to Thailand, Curacao, and New Zealand all in the space of four months to race, train and kill time in the winter. But Greg is just riding to be a better rider. He’s riding because he loves the sport. He’s riding because he wants to be better.

And he is better. A lot better.

Last year Mike Aderhold and I were on a ride to Grosse Ile with a few of our friends, we had to sit up a couple times to wait for Greg. Today Greg routinely pummels me on the Computrainer. He went up an 8% grade at 24 mph on the Computrainer for well over 2 minutes in his 53/15 gear. When he got to the top of the climb he shifted down to the 12. Without any time to recover, he made my little Nintendo man on the screen go backwards as the numbers that count his lead built up like Bill Gates’ bank account on a good day in the NASDAQ. His little Nintendo man disappeared over the virtual horizon on the computer screen in front of me. Interesting thing about the Computrainer, you ride right next to the guy who just dropped you on a climb and put 1,000 feet on you in about two minutes. That’s about a fifth of a mile, and I was trying.

If it weren’t for Greg I know my preparation for New Zealand would not be as good. He and I have already done a number of long, tough, hilly rides that took hours and hours on that thing, staring at the computer screen as all those little numbers- speed, average speed, watts of power output, average watts, heart rate- just tick along. The distance number seems to tick the slowest on those long rides. On Christmas Day Greg and I rode the Computrainer four and a half hours. We turned up the music, covered a table next to us with drinks and food, and got on the bikes. At the end of the ride I told him, “Greg buddy, we get extra points for this ride because nobody else is on their trainer four hours on Christmas Day.”

On New Years Eve we rode again. Same story. Hours and hours.

Greg has lost a lot of weight, gotten stronger, learned about the sport. He’s becoming a cyclist.

I’m glad this guy walked through the door last summer. If he hadn’t, I doubt I would be as dedicated to training right now. He has really been an inspiration and also a healthy guilt trip coordinator when I don’t train.

Greg is a determined guy, and I’m glad. He has so much determination he really doesn’t recognize obstacles, inconveniences or reasons why he shouldn’t ride. He just finds more ways to ride.

No doubt, he has a lot of determination. And lucky for me, sometimes he has enough for two guys.

 

 
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