Several years ago I organized a ride from San Francisco to Santa Barbara with a group of buddies. This ride is a rite of passage for most cyclist on the West Coast. Stunning views, great food, and a nice tailwind most of the way……usually a nice tailwind. The year we did it we had some odd weather conditions and for the first two days faced a solid headwind. 5 Hours per day. Solid. In the face.
Headwind? No worries, we said. We were hard men, or at least we thought we were hard men……until we met this guy.
A couple hours into the first day we stopped into a roadside cafe to get some food and this guy rolls up. He was riding a Schwinn, single speed, beach cruiser. On the back he had a bedroll and some small panniers. He was super friendly. We chatted about the wind (Of course), various places to eat along the coast, and the beauty of the ride. We asked him where he was heading, he responded “Mexico”. We laughed.
He proceeded to tell us how he was riding from Canada to Mexico, averaging about 80 miles per day, on his Schwinn, single-speed, beach cruiser. We were incredulous. No way could he be riding to Mexico on that bike. We figured he must be some crazy homeless guy. We wished him luck with his trip and headed on our way
We stayed at a nice hotel that night, had a great breakfast, and headed south on our bikes . Our follow car driver (Legendary Photographer The Willisman) headed ahead of us to stock up on supplies and meet us on the road. When we meet up the conversation went something like this
Willisman: “You will never believe who I saw up the road”
Us: “Greg LeMond?” “Eddy?”
Willisman: “That guy on the beach cruiser”
We were shocked. No way could that be possible. We did a quick calculation and figured he must have ridden 80 miles the day before and started riding at 6 am that day to get so far ahead of us….. on a Schwinn, single-speed, beach cruiser.
Soon we caught up with the guy on the beach cruiser. We gave him a few pushes up the next climb while we got to know him better. His name was Steve. He was a teacher from Oregon whose wife had given him a month to ride to Mexico. He would have liked to taken longer but she wanted him home to do some gardening.
Over the next few days we got to know Steve. This was not his first long trip. He had also ridden his bike across America…..twice. The second time he set ambitious goal of 20 days. He did not quite achieve his goal but came close, riding the 3,000+ mile trip in 27 days, A record for a single speed. That is more then 100 miles per day, on a Schwinn, single-speed, beach cruiser. Steve told us the bike he was riding was the reward he got from Schwinn for his record setting cross country ride. Steve’s “Training” for his ride to Mexico was minimal. He would ride about 10 miles per day commuting to work but that was it. His “Training Camp” was the first two days of his ride, which he said were super painful.
We would offer him food and water out of our van but he never seemed to need it. In Big Sur we had rented two nice cabins on the river. We were relaxing, drinking beer, and Steve rolls up to the campground next door and unrolls his foam bedroll. He must have ridden 90 miles that day…on that bike. Reality set in. We were not hard men. We paled in comparison to Steve. He became our hero, the ultimate hard man on par with the heroes of Flanders and the Tour.
The next day was the last time we saw him. He must have started at 6 am again as it took us a while to catch him. When we caught him he was off his bike, pushing it up a super steep climb. “I need some more gears” he said, with a smile on his face.