A Great Ride
photo of JB

As the president of Trek Bicycle, I’d like to share my stories about interesting people, places, and the bicycle with hope of inspiring you to find your great ride.



The time has come

On February 14, 2018, 17 kids were murdered at their high school in Parkland Florida. Since that day, less than one month later, there have been 16 more mass shootings in the United States. I am not a Democrat. I am not a Republican. I am not anti-gun. But I am pro-sensible and safe gun ownership. I run a bicycle company and I care about the direction of our country. The problem of gun violence is completely out of control and in the absence of any government leadership, businesses are starting to take a stand. 

Here is what I think about Gun Violence in America: I was so disappointed with the performance of our government two years ago, that I wrote a book, 12 Simple Solutions to Save America. One of the chapters is titled “Reducing Gun Violence in America.” It is my opinion, that we need to stop talking about gun violence and actually do something about it.  It is embarrassing that OUR country is the most violent country in the world. Gun violence in the United States is 25 times greater than the average of other civilized nations. We have debated this issue for over 50 years with NO progress.

Over a ten-year period, more than 100,000 Americans have been killed while more than 750,000 maimed because of gun violence in the richest nation on earth. I am a solutions guy and when I look at gun violence, four simple solutions stand out to me. These four solutions would save over 10,000 lives per year, save the country billions of dollars a year, significantly reduce health care costs, and would save thousands of families the pain and suffering of losing a loved one. 



1. Rewrite the Second Amendment. After his retirement, Chief Justice Warren Burger–who was appointed by a Republican President–said that the Second Amendment “has been the subject of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word ‘fraud’ on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”  Justice John Paul Stevens–also a Republican–has suggested that the Second Amendment should be changed by adding five words. It should read, “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms when serving in the militia shall not be infringed.” It is time to stop letting the NRA hide behind the Second Amendment.

2 Ban all assault rifles and extended clips. The gun that was used in Congresswoman Gabby Gifford’s shooting fired 33 rounds in less than 30 seconds. Is giving people the right to buy an assault rifle in the best interest of our country? Is it in the best interest of our children? Was it in the best interest of the kids of Parkland Florida? It is time to ban all assault rifles and extended clips and implement a simple government program to buy these weapons back at full price.

3. Impose a universal background check on every gun purchased. Today in America, more than 40% of guns are purchased with NO background check. In polls, 87% of voters and 90% of gun owners say that they support background checks for all sales. Passing a universal background check on guns would save thousands of lives. Why don’t we pass univesal background checks when 87% of the voters want this to happen? Answer…The NRA.

4. Require mandatory gun licenses for gun owners. Guns should be treated the same as cars. Why do you need a license in order to drive a car that must be registered? Because driving a car is a big responsibility. If you misuse the car, you can cause serious damage. Not only to yourself, but to others. A gun is more dangerous than a car and everyone who owns a gun should be required to carry a license and have it registered.

Implementing these four simple solutions would save hundreds of thousands of lives, save hundreds of billions of dollars, and prevent unspeakable misery for so many families affected by gun violence. 


Chris Kegel: A son's eulogy



This past week has been a week of reflection. If you read my last post about the legendary Chris Kegel, you already know that the world recently lost one of its best people. Chris' legacy will live on for many years and there were so many people who loved him and benefited from his work. But nobody remembered him quite like his own son, Noel, who gave a eulogy that I felt needed to be shared. I have enclosed the text below in the hopes that you will take as much from it as I did:

The merits of kindness were well known in the past. Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius declared: "Kindness is mankind’s greatest pleasure.” The word itself has its history in kinship, or sameness. It describes the way we behave with our family, if nothing else as a survival mechanism to live and share within the tribe. That has evolved over the centuries and much of our Western tradition of kindness comes from Christianity which consecrates our generous instincts and makes them the basis of a faith—love thy neighbor as thyself.

But today, it seems, the world is more cynical and people seem incredulous, if not suspicious of kindness. Many seem to believe that at our core, we are fundamentally antagonistic to each other--that our motives are self-seeking and self-interested, that sympathies are merely forms of self-protection. Some may secretly think that kindness looks distinctly old-fashioned, or a virtue of the weak-hearted. Through this lens, kindness can be seen as a saboteur to successful life. In a sense, kindness is always hazardous because it is based on susceptibility or vulnerability to others—a capacity to identify with their pleasure and suffering.

The truth, I believe, is that we are leading secretly kind lives all the time, but without a language in which to express it. To me, Dad was a translator. As with most American boys in the 80s, I thought Star Wars was pretty cool. Dad liked it too and the concept of the force resonated in us both. “May the force be with you” was a simple meme to express a concept that in the universe, there is a fabric of goodness that is woven throughout. And if we can only join it, or latch onto it, the power will give us everything we need in life to succeed. We are all connected by it, and when we are kind and do right by others, the force grows, and when we cut others, we cut our own connection to the force.

You all know him as a friend, as a boss, as a colleague, or as a companion. Us kids knew him as a Dad. And let’s be honest, he was kind of a dork. Other kids’ dads wore suits and drove fancy cars. Our dad had goofy hair, wore Hawaiian shirts, red-rimmed glasses and drove a stick-shift Saab. Our dad was in the comics every week, got pies in the face on TV, was a local celebrity, though many people thought his name was Chris Kringle. But I sensed he liked it. I think he saw a pattern throughout history that progress starts at the fringes; it has been the crazy artists, the marginalized free-thinkers, the radical mad scientists that have agitated the sleep of mankind over time. No idea should be too crazy, every potential solution deserves consideration. I think he liked being a bit at the edge of culture.

He loved young kids, in part I think because kids haven’t yet learned our bad habits, to guard ourselves, or value selfishness over sharing. Kids seem to be naturally kind, instinctively concerned for the well-being of others, often disturbed by the suffering of others. How many times have you seen one little kid hurt himself and cry, which triggers another perfectly happy kid to also start crying? This suggests a natural human sympathy and unadulterated connection and dependence on others.

Everyone here knows that dad was profoundly kind. I perceived this as a skill, more than a trait. Kindness does come naturally to us, but so does cruelty and aggression. Dad was a lifelong learner and committed to a process of self-improvement. He became a student of success, positive thinking, and happiness; he consumed hundreds of books and tape programs with the intent to be a more effective human, a better man. So, as dad realized, real kindness is an opening up to others that enlarges us, and so gratifies our profoundly social natures. Acts of kindness demonstrate in the clearest possible way, that we are vulnerable and dependent, who have no better resource than each other. And for his kindness to now be gone is heartbreaking. When we gathered around him back in September in the hospital, our hearts broke. When his fate was revealed, we all sensed the mighty cables that hold up the world began to fray.

Heartbreak is unpreventable, it is the natural outcome of caring for people and things over which we have no control, of holding in our affections those who inevitably move beyond our line of sight. Heartbreak is an indication of sincerity—it is how we mature. It is something we hope to avoid and guard against--but it might just be the essence of being human—of being on the journey and coming to care deeply for what we find along the way. We should not seek an alternate path around heartbreak, because there is no alternate path. It is simply the reverse side of the love and affection we hold.

Dad’s fundamental belief in the sanctity of the inherent goodness in us all never came from a book. It stemmed from his deep love for and faith in humanity and over the past few days, with every card, every email, every online message, every tear, every handshake and hug, you all have returned his love. It means the world to all of us that were fortunate to be his family. Thank you.

Now it’s up to the rest of us. Let us make him proud. Let him guide our conscious when reaching crossroads. Let us choose connection to others. Let us choose kindness.

I loved him living, and I love him still. Rest in peace dad.

Noel Kegel 
February 18, 2017



Remembering a legend: Chris Kegel


Today the world lost one of its all-time best, Chris Kegel, the owner of Milwaukee’s Wheel and Sprocket, who passed away from liver cancer.

Chris was a legend who did so much for so many people. In a recent interview, someone asked me what Chris meant to me. My reply was that he was a great customer, an amazing person, a bridge builder. He was an amazing advocate for cycling, the nicest guy in the world, and he was a great teacher. The interviewer said “Teacher? I have heard a lot about Chris but not teacher. What did you learn from Chris?” This is the list I rattled off and I wanted to share it with you.

What I learned from Chris Kegel:

  1. Listen to your customers.
    I started at Trek in 1984 and moved into the office in 1986 when times were not good. One of the first things I did was meet with Chris. He had great advice, most of which I tried to follow and it made a BIG difference in the history of Trek.


  1. Take care of your customers.
    Every year at the Trek 100 Chris would be there with the Wheel and Sprocket truck pumping up people’s tires, giving a quick tune-up, making sure that the person with the 20-year-old bike they pulled out of the garage was fit properly and that they enjoyed their ride. Chris built one of the BEST bicycle retail businesses in the world and he did it one customer at a time.


  1. Treat everyone like a friend.
    In the 32 years I have known Chris, I never saw him upset. I never saw him treat anyone with anything but respect and kindness. He loved everyone, and everyone loved Chris. When I was visiting with him a month ago, we were swapping stories and he said to me, you know you’re saying “Put the best team on the field?” I wasn’t always the best at that. They never should have let me interview anyone—I really like everyone.”


  1. Give back.
    Cycling was good to Chris, but Chris was better to cycling. Head of the League of American Bicyclists, IMBA Board of Directors member, Head of the Wisconsin Bike Federation, founding member of People for Bikes, the list goes on and on and on. He was always the first to volunteer and never asked for anything in return. Very little was going on with cycling in America before 1997, when Congressman Jim Oberstar got in the game. Chris called on people to get involved and make things happen. There is an old saying that is true that goes, “a small group of people can change the world, indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” Chris was part of that small group who answered Oberstar’s call and got involved and created the bicycle renaissance in America.


  1. Build bridges.
    One of Chris’s favorite projects was a bridge that he helped to build in Ozaukee County in Wisconsin. Chris liked the project because it linked a number of trails, including the ones he rode, but he was also proud of it because he had to bring together different people to make it happen. Chris was the ultimate bridge builder. He got along with EVERYONE.


  1. Life lessons
    While Chris was fighting liver cancer, I was lucky enough to visit him in the hospital and at his home. Every visit was like Tuesdays with Morrie. No matter how much pain he was in, Chris would greet you with a smile. He loved to visit and he loved to tell stories. My favorite was a couple of months ago when he asked me if I would like to hear his philosophy on life.  Of course, I said “sure.” “Well when I was 18, I sent my girlfriend a letter and I explained my philosophy on life. I told her that I wanted to change the world. Not the whole world. That is too big and there are too many problems, and there are wars, and it is pretty messy, but I figured I could change my world. Chris’ world. I decided that my goal in life was that I was going to be a positive force in people’s lives and as I got older, my world would expand and I would be able to make a bigger difference in being a positive force and that one person at a time I could change the world.”


Well, Chris achieved his goal in life. He changed the world one person at a time. There are so many people all across the world who are better off because of Chris Kegel and I am proud to say that I am one of them.



Taking it to 11 - The lessons of l'Etape du Tour


This month, I had the privilege to participate in my 11th Annual Etape du Tour—a crazy annual cycling event that covers the hardest stage of that year’s Tour De France route. This year’s edition had four mountain climbs planned, however an avalanche knocked out one of the roads and the race was reduced to the Col de Aravis, the Col de Colombiere, and finished with a beast of a climb up the Col du Joux Plane. We had a great group of people from Trek along with our good friends, Mason and Julie Farrell. The day usually produces some great stories ranging from climbing Mont Ventoux in 100+ degree heat, to helping out a fellow rider left for dead on the side of the road, to last year’s amazing drama of climbing 15,000 feet over 11 hours. Well….. no such luck this year. This was the most drama-free Etape in history. Instead of a grueling race report, I offer a few observations from an amazing ride in the Alps:
1. Don’t Judge the Rider by the Shoes. My good friends, Mason and Julie Farrell, came along with us. Julie does not like to clip in and refused to buy new cycling shoes. I thought this was a big mistake and instructed Julie and her husband to get comfortable with the idea. About a week into training, I asked how the clip-in progress was coming along and the response I received was “don’t go there.” I am not a “don’t go there guy” but with time I have grown wiser and I thought it best to shelve the conversation until we had a serious training ride. We met up with Julie in Santa Barbara a few weeks before the trip to France for a 70 miler rwith 8,000 feet of climbing. Julie showed up in white golf shoes to do the ride. No clipping in, no clips and straps. Golf shoes. Well Julie crushed it on the ride and she brought her golf shoes to France and crushed the Etape. Julie’s lesson is that when people don’t want to clip in, that is OK!!!

Julie and her golf shoes
2. It can be done. In April, Mason called me to ask if it would be a good idea if for their 25th anniversary he took Julie to the start of the Tour. I replied that it would be a good idea but…..a great idea would be for you to do the Etape du Tour.  Mason replied, “No thanks.” I did not give up. “I promise you an incredible, life-long memory.” Good athletes, though not serious riders, they took the bait. In 60 days, they worked hard and got into shape and finished Etape with plenty left in the tank. Most importantly, they had an awesome time and it turned out to be a great lifetime memory. Beats the hell out of watching someone else ride! The lesson of the Farrell's is that you should do that which you are afraid to do. Apple CEO, Tim Cook was asked a few years ago what he thought Steve Jobs’ greatest lesson in life was. His answer was that people are capable of much more than they ever think and that you need to push them outside of their comfort zone.

Mason and Julie. Plenty left in the tank.

3.  Every Person has a Story. Years ago, I was in Washington DC for a meeting and was asked to participate in a birthday cake presentation. To be honest, I don’t find this tradition to be very special but I reluctantly agreed. This was one of the worst I had ever attended. People showed up to check the box and it was clear they were not that happy to be there. I decided to liven the event up so I asked the birthday girl to tell us her life story in 5 minutes. This particular birthday girl was thought to be a rather boring person. Then she started telling her life story. Her parents had arrived in America on a boat, she worked her way through school, was married at 18, had an affair at 25 (are you paying attention now?), she wrote a book in her 40’s, the list went on and at the end of five minutes everyone had a completely new appreciation for this person. Since that day, I have had people tell their life stories at birthday parties and other occasions. I have never heard a boring life story. Five minutes to tell your story. The clock stops when questions are asked. During the Etape trip, I had a number of people tell their life story including Matthew Lovely, Trek’s head Chef. He does an amazing job and I have always thought of Matthew as just the rock star Chef at Trek who rides his bike a lot. I asked Matthew to tell our group his life story and he nailed it! I now view Matthew in a completely different light now that I know his life story. The lesson is that everyone has a story, you just need to ask.

Matt The Chef. All smiles cooking up the Alps.



The War Begins From Here: L'etape du Tour 2015

Each year, my wife Tania and I participate in L’Etape du Tour. L'etape is a one-day citizen’s bike race on one of the most difficult Tour de France mountain stages of the year. This year was our 10th annual ride and it was a BEAR. The course has more vertical climbing than any other stage this year and four of the five climbs rank in the Top 20 Climbs of this year’s Tour. According to Strava, we are in for a big day: 140 kilometers with almost 5,000 meters of climbing.


This year, we took a great group of people from Trek, some awesome Trek retailers, and a few friends. The night before the race, we held our pre-race meeting. Trek Travel gave an update on all the logistics, Trek's Mark Joslyn gave a weather update (two years ago I put Mark in charge of “weather” at Trek. Our business can be affected by the weather, and I wanted someone to be in charge), and having ten years of personal experience, I gave my “JB’s 7 Tips for a Successful Race":

1. Be Safe.
There are only two types of accidents at Trek Travel: 1) People crashing in parking lots because they can’t clip out of their pedals, and 2) Overzealous riders acting like idiots, screaming down the mountains. One is much easier to fix than the other.  Stay on the right side of the road and don’t be a hero on the descents. Save your heroics for the climbs.

2. Eat Real Food.
During the day you will burn 10,000 calories. Eat like a king.

3. Drink early and often.
Dr. Timmerman gave some simple advice: Fill two water bottles at every stop, make sure they are empty by the next stop.

4. It is OK to walk when you have to.
There will be some climbs where the pitch reaches 14%. Don’t be afraid to walk if you need to. The winner is the one who finishes, not the one who looks good.

5. Don’t burn all your matches early.
It is a long day.  Most of you will be on the bike ten hours plus.  In previous races, everyone passes me on the first climb. I pass everyone on the last climb. Slow and steady, make sure you finish.

6. Have a Ride Buddy.
Always best to ride with someone in case something goes wrong.

7. Have Fun!!
This is the BEST day of the year  for cycling.  L’Etape du Tour, in my opinion, is better than a marathon, better than the Ironman, and more difficult than both. Keep a smile on your face.

Lastly, I told the story of Theodore Roosevelt Jr. At age 64, he petitioned his cousin, Franklin, the President of the United States to be allowed to land in the first wave at D-Day. The request was granted and the 64-year-old Roosevelt landed with a bunch of 20-year-olds in the first wave. Finding themselves 1.5 miles off course when they landed, the boys looked at Roosevelt asking “What do we do now?” Roosevelt tapped his cane on the sand and said “Gentleman, the war begins from here.” I told the group, “You will face challenges during the day. Just remember that wherever you find yourself, the war begins from here.”

Photo 2
The intrepid Trek crew before the start of the 2015 L'etape du Tour


Race Day arrives.  
Our hotel is a good distance from the start. We are given the order from Trek Travel to be ready to go at 3:30 a.m.  I let the group know that 3:30 means 3:30 – not 3:34 or 3:37, but 3:30. So don’t be late. We are all on the bus with one exception! We depart at 3:33. We arrive early at 5:15 am. We have an hour to burn before the short ride to the starting gate. The weather is perfect for the start, with predictions for thunderstorms in the afternoon. We get a final weather briefing from Mark Joslyn, take a team photo, and roll down to the starting line. Thanks to Trek Travel, we are in the first 1,000 of the 14,000 that will start the race. As we wait for the start, we take photos and swap war stories. After today, we will all have a few more.

Tania and I always have our riding group. This year’s group includes  Tania, Pat Sullivan, Dr. Timmerman, Mark Joslyn, and our friend Chris. Every member serves a vital role. Sully does whatever it takes. Dr. T is our team physician. Mark Joslyn handles the weather and is the Boy Scout Leader who is always prepared. Tania is the Guide for Life. Chris is this year’s Honorary Friend (we always bring one to torture). And I am the timekeeper.

Chris, Mark, and JB just before the start.


At 7:00 a.m., the race starts. Three kilometers downhill to the base of the Col du Chaussy, and we are FAST. All is good. We start the climb and the view is spectacular. With everyone riding well, we make it to the top in good time. We begin the downhill and it looks a little sketchy to me – it’s a very small road, with very tight turns. Halfway down, the ride stops. It’s the first time we have seen this in 10 years. Someone has crashed and a helicopter arrives. This takes 30 minutes and we wait. Back on the bikes we finish the descent and hit 30 kilometers of flat roads. The only flat kilometers of the day. We are masters of the flats. All good. Only problem is that there is another crash.  The course is shut down for a second time, and we sit for another 30 minutes waiting for the helicopter.  

Chris takes on the Col du Chaussy.


The next challenge is the Col du Glandon.  At twenty kilometers long with pitches of 12% plus, it is a beast. It is the hardest climb in the Tour this year. We take our time and wind up the hill. By now, Sully and Dr. T go ahead and we are left with JB, Tania, Mark, and Chris. The goal is to finish. I coaxed Chris into doing this event. It is his first real cycling event, and we start out his cycling career with more than 14,000 feet of climbing.  

Working our way up the Glandon, we soon run into some trouble. With six kilometers to go, the massive amount of energy I am putting out breaks one of the spokes in my rear wheel. I have to walk my bike to the Trek Travel rest stop. My wheel gets fixed and we get back on the road.

Glandon Problem No. 2 rears its head with two kilometers to go. Chris gets a massive cramp in his leg.  He is on the ground in pain. My solution is ice cold water, a few salt pills and telling him to suck it up. Tania’s solution is to give Chris a leg massage. After five minutes he is back on the bike, ready for more. 

Teamwork on the Glandon.


In this race there is a "Grim Reaper". You need to hit certain times or you are done. Having sat for an hour waiting for crashes, we are right on the cut line and I see the Grim Reaper coming towards us. We move faster. We get over the Glandon and the Croix De Fer and begin a massive descent to the base of the Col du Mollard. All is well. Not only are we good in the flats; we are also good at descending.

We reach the base of the Mollard and briefly stop for a water break. Chris says to me, “John, I have asthma and it’s acting up. I have no idea why, but if it gets a lot worse, I’ll to have to stop.”  I am a numbers guy, who likes to quantify everything, so I ask Chris, “On a scale of 1-10, how bad is it?” His response is a four. When I ask if we should just stop now,  Chris says says "No. If it gets worse, I will tell you.”  

Up the Mollard we go and our group is rocking. Motivated by the Grim Reaper, we are really moving. We get within a kilometer of the summit of the Mollard, and I see the Grim Reaper right behind us. I am thinking, “Can this really happen? After all this are we going to be stopped? No, they would not do that to us. We have waited for over an hour because of crashes, I am sure they will extend the time.”  

Upon reaching the top of the summit we find a huge crowd of riders standing behind the gate with a race official explaining that we have failed to make the cut off. The race is over. We all have our skill sets and in this case, mine is my phone. I know the head of the ASO - the organization that owns the race. I saw Yann earlier in the day, and I give him a call. “Yann,” I say. “I am on the top of the Mollard and they have shut the race down. Seems to me because of the closures, you should extend the time.”  He says, “I am on it!”  I walk over to the race official who is very close to having a riot on his hands. “Why did you close the race?” I inquire.  “Direct orders,” he responds. I say, “Well, you may be getting another order in a few minutes, so you might want to be ready to open the gates.” I tell Chris, Tania, and Mark to get ready to go. My call to Yann works; in a few minutes the gates open up, and we are back on the road. The race has been extended by one hour - a great move by the ASO!  

At the top of the Mollard.


Back in the saddle, we move down the Mollard, carefully navigating the 40 switchbacks to the bottom. While a very technical descent, it’s incredibly fun. We are riding FAST, and we make it to the Trek Travel rest stop at the base. We eat and drink fast and head to the base of La Toussuire. If we ride well, we will make the finish. My prediction from Saturday night was correct.  95% of people passed us on the first climb.  On the final climb we passed 99% of the people.  It was a brutal 19 kilometers  up to the finish. There were hundreds of people on the side of the road totally spent. With five kilometers to go, one guy about 20 meters in front of me, just stopped pedaling and collapsed. Mark and I got off of our bikes and helped this guy out and three others on the way to the top.

With about five kilometers to go it was clear that we would make it. We ended up finishing strong with 53 minutes to spare. We crushed the last climb! 14,000 people started the ride, 9,000 ended up finishing. It was an incredible day in the Alpes.  “Rider of the Day” went to Tania.  I have ridden many events with her and this was by far her best ride. Chris won the “Never Give In” Award.  He was in the hurt box a number of times and NEVER talked about quitting. MJ did an awesome job taking care of the team all day. “Best Support Award” goes to Trek Travel. The rest stops were amazing, the logistics rocked. We spent 12 hours and 7 minutes on our bikes and had one of the BEST ever!

LEtape Finish group sportograf-66684424_lowres
JB, Chris, Tania, and Mark cross the line all smiles.


Étape du Tour: A cold ride in July

Photo 3

Every year I write a recap of my Étape Du Tour. The Étape is an annual citizen’s race held on one of the most difficult stages the Tour de France covers that year and is put on by the Amaury Sport Organization (ASO), the organizers of the Tour. This year’s Étape featured over 10,000 feet of climbing and included two incredibly tough hors-catégorie climbs: the Col du Tourmalet and the Hautacam. As usual, it was a day to remember.


The alarm went off at 4:10. Breakfast at 4:30. Everyone on the bus at 5:00, with the exception of two people who arrived at 5:04 (but who is really keeping track?). A one-hour drive to the city of Pau and Trek Travel drops us off at a parking lot with our bikes ready to go. The big issue of the day is weather. The forecast is terrible. Showers at the start: 50% chance. Rain on the Tourmalet: 70% chance. Afternoon thunderstorms on the Hautacam: 90% chance. The best decision I made all day was to bring everything. I went with booties to keep my socks and shoes dry, arm warmers, leg warmers, a light jacket, and a heavy GORE-TEX jacket. Toss in full finger gloves for good measure. I used them all.


12,000 people start the ride and we’re in the first group. No rain at the start. We start FAST. Three fast, tight, turns in the first 300 yards, and then a screaming downhill. We’re having fun. We ride for 79 kilometers until the first rest stop. All is good so far. We are way ahead of schedule, and not a drop of rain. We hit the first big climb of the day, the Col du Tourmalet. The Tourmelet is 17 kilometers in length, climbing 3,000 vertical feet with an average grade of 7%. It is a big climb. Almost as soon as we start, the rain starts to fall. We move up the climb at a good pace. By now, we call ourselves the Gang of 4. My lovely wife Tania, Mark Joslyn who is in charge of the Awesome Bus (human resources) at Trek, and Pat Sullivan (Sully). Sully has been at Trek for 30 years. I invited him on the trip because his best work in his thirty-year career at Trek has been his last three. He has made a BIG difference in his 30 years at The Bicycle Company.


All good as we approach the summit where Trek Travel has set up a rest stop one kilometer before the top. The only problem; it is raining harder and it’s getting COLD. Cold enough to see your breath. We pull into the rest stop, which had the bags we packed with extra clothes in case it rained. Well…..it rained and most of the group with one exception decided to change clothes. The one person who passed figured he was soaking wet in the pouring rain and if he were to change clothes, he would be soaking wet again in a matter of minutes. As I sat around during the change of clothes I was getting colder, so I told the group I would meet them at the summit. Then the temperature dipped again. We meet at the summit and Sully seems a bit disoriented. I give him a mental health check and he is all good.

Photo 2

The descent off the Tourmalet on a regular day is scary: 14% grade, switchback turns, no guard rails. Add pouring rain, and cold temperatures and it is absolutely brutal. We go down slowly, as does everyone else. We get about two kilometers down the climb and Tania is freezing. Her hands are cold when it’s 80 degrees so 40 degrees and pouring only made them worse. She is shaking on the bike so we pull over to give her hands a rest. As we re-group and start to move, I notice a guy off of his bike just sitting off the road with his head down. He looks really bad. I walk over and ask him, “Are you OK?” He answers, “No.” He looks to me like he is suffering from hypothermia. “Can you get on your bike?” “No.” Finally I said to him, “We are going to get you up and we need to start moving. If you don’t move, we have another problem.” The guy could barely move as I picked him up and got him on his feet. It is pouring rain and completely miserable. This guy is the walking dead; incoherent, cold, and lost. I gave his bike to Sully and I put my bike in my right hand and I hugged my friend, (whose name I still didn’t know) with my left arm. Typically I’m not a hugger. I’m more the warm-and-hearty hand shake guy. Yet here I am hugging a guy whose name I don’t know trying to warm him up in any way I can as we walk down the mountain.

There is no help in site, so I ask Mark to go find the police while we walk down. Mark finds the French police and the answer is the same with four different guys. "We are full, there is nothing we can do." We walk three kilometers down the mountain just Sully, our new friend, and myself. He is a nice guy, still mostly incoherent, but I start asking him questions to get his mind working. We start to have bits and pieces of a conversation. We are making progress. We finally get down to a building, which is locked, but it does provide some shelter from the wind and rain. We stay there for five minutes and realize that our friend needs more help. We move on to another building 500 meters away. When we get there, we find another group of French police. This time after politely asking a couple of times, they take our friend into their van and turn on the heat. I stay in the van and massage my friend’s legs to help him warm up. After ten minutes there is a knock on the window, it is Mark Joslyn. MJ is an Eagle Scout Extraordinaire, he has a cup of coffee and a hot chocolate. Our friend is coming back to life and is very happy to have a warm cup of coffee in his hands. I stay with him, get his contact info, and tell him that I will take care of his bike. I ask for his name and his phone number. One problem, I am shaking so bad that it takes me ten minutes to type his name and phone number into my phone. I tell him not to worry; I have his bike taken care of and will get it back to London for him. “I have friends in the business.”

I get out of the van and Mark takes me behind a building to where a pizza place is hidden from sight. The same place he got the coffee. I give the owner 20 euros and ask him to take the bike. He is happy to do it. Tania calls Trek Travel and says if you have a chance, pick up the bike. As long as we are in the warm pizza place, we order hot chocolates before we are back on the bike. There is a time limit and we just spent 90 minutes on our humanitarian aid program. At this point, I did not think we would finish.


We get on the bikes and it is still pouring, still cold, but we could see sunlight at the bottom of the Tourmalet. We started the fast descent with another 25 kilometers to get to the base. We were back in the game. I did the math in my head and figured we could make it. Before we reach the next rest stop at the base of Hautacam, my wife, still shaking, asks me if she should continue. I told her, “NO.” Five years ago, Étape finished on top of Hautacam and it was cold and rainy just like today. Tania had turned bright white at the finish that year, and then had to descend the mountain to get to the village. That proved to be the hardest part of the ride that day; getting her off the mountain. I said, "We have seen this movie before, don’t do it." While I was dispensing this advice, I already knew what the answer was going to be. Tania grew up with four brothers and has what we call the “I want to play too syndrome”. When she was younger she always wanted to play with the boys and sometimes the answer was “no.” When that happened, her response was always the same: “I want to play too.” And so, while she was making a decision, I already knew what the result would be. She was going to go up the mountain. She confirmed it with, “I am going to go up the mountain and if it gets really bad, I will turn around.” To which the cynical JB replied, “let me get this straight, if we get to within 5 kilometers and it is really cold and pouring, you are going to turn around?” No answer. And so up we went. The Hautacam is a bear at 17.3 kilometers and a 7% grade. The weather turned out to be better than we thought, no rain until the last 3K. Tania made it to the top and never rang the bell. We made it up the mountain and finished l’Étape in just under 10 hours.

We return to the Trek Travel area to trade war stories with the rest of the group. It was an amazing day. This was our ninth straight Étape. Everyone has a different story with this race and this year was no different. I ask Zack from Trek Travel at the finish whether he picked up the gentleman’s bike. "Yep, and you wouldn’t believe it. After he warmed up, the police put him in the pizza place so I brought him down the mountain and two of his friends along with his bike.”



The Trek 100: 25 years and $12 million


Last Saturday was the 25th annual Trek 100. Trek hosts the ride every year to raise money for the MACC Fund which benefits the fight against childhood cancer. In the last 25 years, we've raised over $12 million to help this great cause. When we founded the ride 25 years ago, the cure rate was 30%. Today that cure rate is almost 80%. I like to think that all of the people who have participated in the Trek 100 over the last 25 years have made a small difference in the lives of children with cancer and their families.

This year's ride was one of the best! We kicked off the ride at 7:30 am on a beautiful Wisconsin day. I welcomed the riders and introduced the founder of the MACC fund, Johnny MAC himself. Johnny MAC played for the Milwaukee Bucks way back in the day and was part of the team that won the World Championship in 1971. When I was in the third grade at Swallow School, Johnny Mac spoke at Sports Night and I had him autograph my pennant. That Milwaukee Bucks pennant flew high in my room until my mother tossed it years later after I left for college. I am over it (kind of). Anyway, after Johnny spoke, Laura Monagle sang the national anthem, and the Wisconsin Badger marching band gave everyone a great send-off.


This year, Brian Conger who runs our B-Cycle bike sharing business, recruited 10 people to join him in riding 100 miles on a 42 pound B-Cycle. Crazy. They all made it. I saw them at the second rest stop - big smiles. I saw them at the third rest stop - smaller smiles. Big smiles when they arrived after 8:37:23 on B-Cycles. 

What makes the Trek 100 ever year are the riders, the volunteers, and the incredible rest stops. Where else can you go to have 8 awesome rest stops? Live music at each, a fruit stop, a bbq stop with wings and bread pudding, a pizza stop, and the list goes on. When you get to the finish line at the Trek 100, more food, cold beverages, and lots of time to talk about an incredible ride for a GREAT cause.


A special thanks to Johnny MAC and the MACC Fund for being such great partners for the last 25 years.




Remembering an American Legend


Friends of the Bicycle,

On Saturday, May 3, we lost a legend when Congressman Jim Oberstar passed away in his sleep. He was 79 years old. The Congressman was the leader of the bicycle movement in America.

As his story goes, his first wife was battling breast cancer and he was thinking of an activity they could share. So he dusted off the bikes. After Jo lost that battle with cancer, the Congressman started to spend more time on his bike. One of the conclusions that he came to is that facilities for bicycling in America were horrible and since he sat on the Transportation Committee in Congress, he was going to do something about it. He began with his Vision of a Bicycle Friendly America and very few people in the movement. Beginning in the 1990's, he worked to build that movement and in 1997 I received a call from the Congressman. "John, I would like to visit with you in Washington. I need your help." I showed up in Washington and listened to the Congressman's Vision of a Bicycle Friendly America and was sold in five minutes. Trek got off the sidelines and joined the team, all because Jim Oberstar asked.  


History will say that the bicycle movement that Congressman Oberstar started made a difference. When the Congressman started this movement, federal funding for cycling was at zero. Over the last 15 years, it has averaged over $700 million. In that timeframe more than 30,000 bicycle projects have been completed in all 50 states. Over the years, I was lucky enough to get to know Jim Oberstar not only as one of his soldiers in the bike movement but also as a friend. I am a list guy and here are my Top Six Memories of the man I called "The Chairman".

1. Meeting the Congressman in 1997. I will never forget our first meeting. I flew down to Washington and was ushered into his office. Small man, big personality. Kind of like my Dad. Oberstar had a big smile, a bigger voice, and a hearty handshake. He gave me his Vision of a Bicycle Friendly America for over an hour. I was sold after the first five minutes, but when Oberstar got on a roll, you got out of the way and just enjoyed. No one commanded the English language the way that Congressman Oberstar did. After that meeting, Trek got off the sidelines and became an active participant in changing transportation policy in the United States to include the bicycle. It has been one of the most meaningful campaigns that I have been a part of.


2. Listening to Oberstar speak at the National Bike Summit. Pick a year, any year, and he was AWESOME. You could always count on a few things in an Oberstar Speech:  
1.  No script.
2. The history of the bicycle movement.
3. Spectacular stories seemingly unrelated to cycling until the very end when Jim would reveal that the entire story was about the importance of the bicycle.
4. Speaking at least two different languages during the speech. Sometimes as many as four.  
5. The finish. No one closed like Oberstar. Towards the end of his speeches he would pick up the pace, and the volume, and it would electrify the room.  
The first year Oberstar spoke, there were 80 people in the basement of a lousy hotel. Ten years later there were 800 people packing a Senate conference room. Oberstar had built an army.

3. Jim Oberstar and Safe Routes to School. Oberstar thought there should be more kids riding their bikes to school. In the 1970's, 30% of kids either walked or rode their bikes. I was one of those kids. I knew what he was talking about. By 2000, the number had declined to less than 5%. Oberstar came up with a program called Safe Routes to School and he wrote it into law. He personally made this program happen, and it has turned the tide so that today for the first time in the last forty years, the numbers are starting to go the other way.  

4. Jim Oberstar and his family.  One summer the Congressman and his family were vacationing in Wisconsin and Tania and I had them over for dinner. We had a great time and I learned that night that not only was he a great Congressman and a great leader of the cycling movement, but he also had a great family. For desert that night I cooked Crepes assisted by four of his grandchildren and by the Chairman himself. We made Crepes and I had each of them taste test the whipped cream directly from the bottle. Truth be told, this crepe making did get a little out of hand and I do have a video of JB, Congressman Oberstar, and his four daughters making crepes and dancing to Michael Jackson all at the same time. Jim Oberstar was FUN!

5. Losing. When Oberstar lost his re-election in 2010 and lost his Chairmanship, it couldn't have gotten much worse. I felt so bad for him. I will always remember getting a phone call from him after the loss. I was in New York City and it was raining and the phone rings. It was Jim Oberstar calling to tell me that he was sorry that he could not get the job done. He was sorry? I was mad. How did we not see this coming? How did we sit on the sidelines and not rally every single person who cared about Jim Oberstar to help him win that campaign? It still bothers me. Always the gentleman, we chatted for 15 minutes. He had no regrets. He was looking forward to the next chapter in his life and…he was looking forward to riding his bicycle more.


6. Saying Thank You. For sometime, I had wanted to say “thank you” to the Chairman for all that he had done for the bicycle movement. He was the leader and without him none of the success over the last 20 years would have happened. The Congressman came to Trek World in 2009 and in front of over 1,000 people, on behalf of Trek and Trek Retailers, I said “thank you”. I gave the Congressman a map of the United States with pins in the map for all of the recognized Bicycle Friendly Communities; a platinum, gold, silver, or bronze pin for each community. The crowd went crazy. Five minute-long standing ovation. The Congressman accepted the gift and then on a perfect August evening in Madison, WI with a lit Capitol Building in the background he spoke to the faithful about the future of the bicycle in America.  


All of us who care about the bicycle owe Jim Oberstar a debt of gratitude. The best way to pay off that debt is to do something. Let us take the movement that Jim Oberstar started to the next level and make him proud.




Brutal Honesty: A guide to a healthy company


A few years ago, something terrible happened. In the span of a few months we suffered three massive employee health crises. One of our longtime employees died in the prime of their lives. Shortly after, another one of our people along with a spouse of an employee experienced life-altering medical catastrophes. All from preventable health-related causes. I knew something had to be done. Everybody thinks this is a company of 0% body fat, ultra-fit cyclists. The truth is that in addition to those people, we're very much a midwestern company facing the same issues as everybody else. After those tragic few months, we began a journey to a wellness plan that today has changed lives and created healthier, happier, employees. Here's what I believe are the 7 drivers to a successful Wellness program:

1. Mandatory Biometric screenings and Health Risk Assessment (HRA). We began to tie employee and their dependents' score to premiums and we hold them accountable. If you're not going to care about your health, than Trek is not going to pay for it. Learn more about screening and onsite programs at http://www.the-hero.org/.
2. Onsite Clinic. We give our employees access to an onsite nurse at all times.
3. Onsite Fitness Center. Make sure it's open 24/7 and host classes. We bring in trainers for 4 hours a day, 5 days a week, and the classes are packed.
4. Onsite Café. We have a café that offers healthy food options and a great salad bar. We implemented a Twinkie Tax (higher price for unhealthier options), removed the worst offending food, and let the employees know the caloric count on the menu.
5. A Blueprint for Change program. At Trek, we've seen huge results from our whole wellness program. Employees sign up and instantly have a personalized fitness schedule, nutrition counseling, challenges, and goals.
6. Tobacco-free campus. Learn about our program at http://www.alerewellbeing.com/quit-for-life/
7. A One Wellness program. We created a targeted program for high risk employees that includes fitness, nutrition, wellness classes, lab checks, and regular meetings with physicians.

Do your country a favor, do your company a favor, and most importantly, do you employees a favor and be brutally honest about the health of your company. The future depends on it.

If you have questions, we would love to help. Here's the email of one of the people who has implemented our wellness program: Mail_TrekWellness@trekbikes.com 



3 things you can do to make cycling safer in 2014

Fellow Cyclists,

I love working at Trek. I love riding my bike. Last year I rode over 6,000 miles. Many of those miles on my 22.4 mile route to work from Madison to Waterloo. I love the exercise, I love the sun rising in the morning and setting in the evening, I love all the sights along the way. To be honest with you, the only thing that makes me nervous are the cars. While there has been a lot of progress made over the last 20 years on making cycling safer (27,000 new bike projects around the United States, thousands more dedicated bike lanes, a 3 foot passing rule in 24 states, and the list goes on) the reality is that there are too many people who die riding a bicycle every year, and there are far too many near misses.

A year ago, I gave a speech in Las Vegas about this. The goal of the speech was to motivate people to work together to create a Bicycle Friendly America. At the end of the speech I was approached by Brendan Lyons from Arizona. Brendan told me that my message was inspiring and that he was going to do what he could do to help make Arizona a more bicycle friendly state. Unfortunately, in October, I received an e-mail from Brendan letting me know that while on a ride with his girlfriend, he was hit by a distracted driver and seriously injured. After 21 days in the hospital, he is finally out and is making good progress. While he is working hard to regain his health, he is working even harder to make the United States a friendly and safe country to ride your bicycle.

Brendan and I after my Interbike speech in 2012


There are over 60 million people who ride their bike every year. Republicans, Democrats, men, women, old and young. The bicycle is a very simple solution to congestion, environmental issues, and health issues. As a nation we can reap all of these benefits as long as we continue to work to make the roads safer for cycling.

I have always said that in the United States we have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, who show up. In order to create a bicycle friendly America we need people who care about cycling to do something. If you really care, here are three specific things that you can to do help make a difference:

1. Watch and share the Dear Motorist video with cyclists and drivers alike. We are all in this together. 


2. Join PeopleForBikes. They are working tirelessly to create safe, separated bikeways throughout the country.

3. Send me a note at John_Burke@trekbikes.com with your best ideas for improving safety. Great ideas can come from anywhere, and I want to hear yours.

Join me by setting a goal to make a difference in the effort to make America a more bicycle friendly country in 2014.