c i rc l es
i j u st l i k e
t o r ide my bike.
i nt r od uc t ion The following pages are an exploration of what bike
riding is to several East Tennessee riders. These accounts were gathered from informal interviews and are
conversational in nature. Though these accounts are very different from one another, they show how
ingrained riding is in some people’s lives. These riders are at home on two wheels, and have found a place amongst the riding community.
Each rider has different riding experiences, from road to mountain biking, to fixed gear riding, bike touring to cyclo-cross, and even riding unicycles; no matter
the bike, these people simply love to ride. My hope is
that someone will get a glimpse of how important this interest is, and have a deeper understanding of what it means to these people.
We ride 08/09
Stephen Guertin. Give him anything Mountain biker. Bike shop mechanic. Architecture with wheels.
tephen and his dad have been riding together
for a significant portion of Stephen’s young
and adult life. Stephen first began to show a
Both Stephen and his dad have different takes on riding together, however. Paul Guertin said that riding was
something he could do with Stephen as a friend versus
love for riding after he and his dad began to ride
going out riding together as a father figure. Their rela-
riding trips for boy scouts that the duo went on
and they could enjoy each other’s company as comp-
something that they could do together, on a more
riding experiences as something that he does with
through boy scouts. On one of the first overnight bike together, Stephen’s dad realized that this might be
frequent basis, simply over the fact that they enjoyed the trip so much. Sixteen bikes and numerous great
riding experiences later, Stephen and his dad still try to ride together whenever they get the chance.
tionship somehow changed when they were out riding
anions as they rode down trails. Stephen looks at their his dad, as a dad, contrary to anything his dad might say.
It is a father-son activity in his eyes.
Stephen would get his first serious mountain bike around the age of twelve, right before he was diagnosed with
diabetes. Stephen said that one of the first things he did after getting out of the hospital was go ride his bike.
Life was simpler on two wheels and his new bike probably came at the most opportune moments.
E m p t y yet full
Since he rode with his dad so much, bike maintenance
more of a toy unicycle, and was able to ride it around
became an important element to their riding routine.
the drive way by the end of the day, much to his
asked the mechanics if they could simply teach Stephen
unicycle to ride on mountain bike trails. At first
One day, his dad brought him into the bike shop and how to fix something after a miner crash. The shop
parents amusement. He would eventually get a bigger
he would go with his parents and ride along side them
owners were surprised when Stephen’s dad continued to
as they went on long walks through the woods
bike with an ease that was unusual for such a young one.
than he does and used to ride with a group of other
talk with them as Stephen figured out how to fix his
Though he was only thirteen at the time, Stephen
would continue to go into the bike shop learning what
he could. A year and a half later, they would hire Stephen.
Eight years later, Stephen still works at the bike shop.
Stephen rides pretty much anything with wheels, though he mainly mountain bikes. In addition to all of his
mountain bikes, he also has a road bike, and a unicycle.
It is funny to see Stephen smile as he talks about how
he got into Unicycling. For Christmas, one year, he got
around Knoxville. His dad road rides a great deal more friends on occasion.
This pair loves to just ride. Stephen put it best:
No matter the bike, riding is riding. When he goes out on his bike, he doesn’t think about anything.
It’s about being in the moment, just riding, and having fun.
Andrew Veenemen. Traveler. Atlanta
Mechanic. Engineering student. Into bike tours. native. Bike Shop
ndrew Veeneman is a Senior in Engineering
at the University of Tennessee. Originally from Georgia, this out-of-state student has been
riding a bike since he could barely walk. When asked
about how he discovered riding, Veen explained that his parents taught him to ride at the early age of three, and
he has done everything but stop riding since. His family has always been into riding, especially his dad, which
had much to do with staying involved with riding at such
an early age.
Being supportive, his parents got his first entry-level
bike around the age of eleven. Veen laughs at the fact
that it was definitely a bike he would grow into, but
nonetheless it was a real bike that fit his needs better, even if it did not fit his size perfectly.
Veen would go on to discover dirt bikes and even had
Riding bikes became something that he was able
to his advantage. This area would also become a haven to
a student at ut. Veen explains that he didn’t know
Friends’ influence to further explore dirt bike riding, and
a lot of his friends. He remembers going on his
a small dirt bike trail set up in his backyard, much
goof off on his bicycle, literally in his very backyard.
to fall on when he moved away from Atlanta to become
anyone in Knoxille and riding was truly how he met
rowing practice six day a week, would come to swallow
first utop bike ride and how it was a good feeling
to ride when he had the chance. His sophomore year
riders and outdoor enthusiast. The community aspect
a good amount of his time, yet he still was somehow able of high school he got his first job at a bike shop called Cycle Works and by the end of his first year working there, he was able to make his first employee
purchase and get what he would consider his first
real mountain bike.
to have something in common with other fellow
of riding was a crucial support system while so far away from home.
Now Veen is probably more involved with riding than ever before. He now works at utop servicing bikes,
and runs the group rides on Fridays. These rides are open to any skill level and are still enjoyable even when
the not so experienced riders take interesting tumbles.
Veen also has acquired a great love for bike touring.
Bike touring consists of riding long distances over a span of several days (or weeks even), with certain destin-
ations in mind. One of Veen’s favorite rides was a bike tour with the Jordan’s, the family of several friends
that worked with him at utop. The tour was a supported
ride from Natches, Mississippi all the way to Nashville.
The coolest part was the bus. His friend’s father, who had experience with airplanes, gutted a school bus, setting
it up like an airplane with “first class” and “coach” seating.
Not only did it have the appearance of an air craft inside but also had bunks, storage space, and enough room
for everyone’s bikes. It made for an awesome 400 mile trip with good people.
Veen has also gone on an 800 mile bike tour from dc down to Knoxville. One year, Veen and his friend broke down their bikes, packed them up, rode the Mega Bus
to dc, and went on what would turn into a grueling self-supported bike tour. It was
humorous to hear Veen speak about how hard and long they would have to climb
hills, only to be rewarded with a brief downhill. They would do it again, and again,
and again. There was even a time when the pair climbed a 14 mile hill, in the
lowest, easiest, gear possible for what seemed to be forever. Once they reached the top, they got to do a ten-minute 40 m.p.h. cruise down, only to find themselves
at the beginning of yet another climb, exhusted. Veen stated he would surely never
do a trip like that again without training better and having a better fitted bike that treated his knees better.
Riding puts Veen’s mind at ease. He grew up with it, it’s relaxing and something that he’s passionate about, no matter the bike.
Whoâ€™s going to stop
Jonathan Crowson. Owner of a hand Race. Wins some. Sells bikes. Plays darts. Teaches spin class. built bike. Likes to
on Crowson, age 24, is an avid cyclist who
His first year of amateur racing was rough to put
end selling bicycles. This Oak Ridge native
in was in Knoxville, with a loop set up around
works at a local bike shop on the front
first started to ride when he was fifteen, after purchasing
Thompson Bowling Arena. Excited and ready to
he started riding, he realized that something felt right
the second turn. It was embarrassing, but he finished.
his first well-built, more mature, bicycle. As soon as
about it. Riding was something he was naturally
good at. He realized that he had the potential to excel at the new sport he had discovered.
Upon delving further into riding, Jon discovered that
his real dad was also into riding and fell into it in much the same fashion he had. It was an interesting coinci-
dence and, in a way, a reassurance that maybe he found something that was for him. By the time he was
sixteen, Crowson started to travel to attend his first set
of amateur road races around the Southeast Region. 26/27
it lightly. The first racing event Crowson participated
win his first race, Crowson was lapped before
Several races followed with similar results and he realized that a lot more training was needed to
be competitive. Even though he didnâ€™t win, or even
do well, he kept racing because there was still an underlying drive to do well. He didnâ€™t want to let his parents
down either. They were paying for him to enter and
travel to these races, and remained supportive despite his poor standings. So it turned into a puzzle. He wanted
to figure out what he was doing wrong and realized that
what he thought were long training rides didnâ€™t
compare what other rider were doing. The following racing year was much better. Crowson would go on to win the state championship for his division and eventually attend college on a biking scholarship.
“it’s just something to have fun with.”
School and riding was a tough thing to balance though. Crowson had up to this point viewed riding as some-
thing he was talented at and a challenge, but his biking scholarship led to riding almost over 40 hours a week
training with his team at Cumberland. It was becoming more like work rather than something he did purely for
enjoyment and the thrill of being competitive. Crowson
decided to leave school and continue racing events.
Jon also had a brief encounter with Cyclo-cross, a sport that includes navigating obstacles in grassy fields as
riders race to the finish line. Cycle-cross tests
precision and skill, as riders weave their way through
The next thing he knew he woke up in the hospital with
little wider than road bike tires, allowing for good
had no identification on him (there’s not exactly room
obstacle courses. In this sport, bicycle tires are a
traction on fields. Crowson explained that these
events were fun, especially because of the people he
was able to meet. There was a community brought
together over a common interest. These Cyclo-cross
races were a good way to spend the weekend and
hang out after a good day of riding, but eventually he
would turn more towards his true love of road racing. Crowson laughs at the fact that he has crashed the extent that he has. His worse crashing experience was at a
race in Atlanta. He describes how a rider went down in
front of him, and as he attempted to bunny hop over
him, somehow got pushed. Before he knew it, he was headed facedown on top of the already fallen rider. 28/29
no idea where he was. Because he had been racing he
in spandex) so no one even knew who he was.
After trying to give the nurse a phone number, which took him three tries to remember, he finally got in
touch with his parents. Crowson got numerous stitches, many on his face and substantial road rash. Though he
crashed so badly, he didn’t think twice about getting back on his bike. He just kept on riding. For Crowson,
riding is a lifestyle. Crowson still trains extensively and prides himself being able to ride with anyone,
beginners and experts alike. He feels at home with the biking community and couldn’t imagine a life with-
s om e t h i ng s ar e t im el e ss
John Myers. Has riden more miles than most will walk in a lifetime. Former professional cyclist.
Mosies along. Can throw a mean frisbee.
n old poster has stayed hidden away inâ€Żthe
corner of the bike shop. The poster is that of the rider John Myers, with a plastic looking
helmet, oldschool cycle, tall tube socks, leaned over with no one in sight behind him.
My previous connection with John Myers had been
throwing Frisbees out behind the bike shop or just hang-
ing out with a beer in hand. I would even go as to far
as to say we were more than acquaintances at this point though our conversations were generally quiet, slow,
yet somehow fitting to the both of us. Little things like even coming through the door to just pat me on the
head in greeting, no words, and grabbing a beer from the counter was how we worked.
So on a Friday night I made it a point of asking
John about the poster. He explained that he had won the race the previous year and stated humbly that
he had in fact been a professional rider as hard as that
was to believe, even though we all were well aware.
When asked what year the poster was from, he was elusive, and shy about it at first, embarrassed at his age.
He would grow even more embarrassed and laugh
at the fact that he couldn’t even remember; it had been that long ago. Then, he got really excited and figured
that somehow by using the Saturday, May 17 date on the poster, we could figure out the year by looking it
up online. It was comical to see him run to a computer
with Gerry, one of the bike shop owners, and start
trying to figure it out—it was 1972 and he must have been in his mid-twenties (he wouldn’t own up to
anything after that). 36/37
Our conversation lasted awhile, and he spoke about how
John found himself almost effortlessly falling into the
the past. He said he started riding late, probably around
whenever he had the chance. He spoke of traveling to
he got into riding. His eyes lit up as he looked off into
the time he started high school, and it was around this
time that he got his first real bike. He would eventually
find himself drawn towards racing.
One day, while he was out riding with his buddies,
he decided to time himself on the same lap of a race that had finished earlier in the day, yet still had
the setup still intact. He timed himself riding just as
fastas the professionals were, and realized he mightâ€™ve found something he was naturally good at. He sort
of just happened it to riding. It was a talent, and later a passion.
role of a professional cyclist and would go on to race races around the country, and even mentioned going
to New York and riding on a fixed gear in the velodrome.
It was a different time and age. The culture was way
different and they were just riding to ride. He may not have been able to remember the year of the poster
but could remember well the speed and the feeling of
just being out there on his bike, especially for exper-
iences like speeding around the velodrome, which isâ€Żin its own way almost indescribable. Thereâ€™s a rush of
speed partnered with a sense of adrenaline caused by a
controlled sense of fear. Without breaks, one false
move can lead to a tumble of riders at high speeds and
no way to stop. Quick jumps or careful maneuvers
are the only way to avoid a down rider.
“john is the best wheel builder i know.”
to look into the past John just kept talking, like he needed to. He has never stopped riding and still rides around five days a week.
Sometimes it can be discouraging. He went on a shop ride and got dropped faster than he expected, a re-
minder of the body’s limitations. He explained that it’s
rough to go from being one of the best, most stra-
tegic riders back in his day to struggling to do what was
once so easy and effortless. It’s hard to have a passion
for something and then not be able to do it like you once
were able to, and harder to attempt to still bring that
same passion despite everything. Even though he may
not be able to ride as well as he could in his prime,
he still loves going down this one hill in Hardin Valley.
He described it as a huge hill on one of his bike
routes he frequents, and by his reckoning, is probably
around a 40 m.p.h. downhill. It’s his hill; the place 35/36 40/41
he still feels the same speed and joy for riding he used to in his younger days.
Opening up about his past with riding seemed to be a relief. John said he didn’t talk about this kind of
thing anymore, to really anyone, but the way he talked
it all just came out like it’d been their on the surface,
ready to be released. It was a hard thing for him to do.
Our conversation ended with such an emotional
pause that all I could really do was just stand there
and look at the rider who had seen such great
times from the vantage of his bicycle. After several moments, our conversation ended with an interest
in my own passions, and a sincere thanks for listening to “an old mans rambling”.
c l os i ng wor d s Hopefully you have seen a glimpse of what riding is to these people. I was inclined to write about local riders because I’m constantly surrounded
by riders who I believe to be some of the best in Knoxville. I struggle to keep up. This semester started out with one of the best and worst
rides I have ever been on. I stumbled into a morning ride to see the sunrise at Cades Cove. We encountered a bear that seemed to barely notice us
as it frolicked across the road in the morning light. The sun peaked across the mountains to clear the rolling fog that had settled on hills. It was
one of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve ever seen. And then the ride back about did me in.
Out of shape as I was, I struggled to keep up, was almost insulted by encouraging words, and then managed to go head over handle bars,
onto pavement, for something that I could not have helped. How did such a good ride turn so bad? I was so thankful to make it back to the car,
bloody knees and everything. Yet, I don’t think I will ever be able to forget that sunrise and the feeling of riding there on my bike.
I have a passion for riding more in the sense that I love riding for what it does for the people I love. Do not get me wrong, I love to ride but not
to the same extent. I have those moments when it iss just me, my bike and the world, but sometimes riding is so ingrained in peoples’ lives that it holds a deeper place.
So I give thanks to those who have so enthusiastically talked to me about what they love best. I give thanks to good times, good people, and to morning rides.
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