Like Mike

Early in 2016, I finally sat down to watch Inspired to Ride, the documentary about the inaugural TransAm Bike Race. I had heard a bit about it, but I had no idea the kind of impact it would have on me. Well after watching it once, and then again the next day, I was in love with the TransAm. To my wife’s major annoyance, I talked about it for months on end. I pouted when she reminded me that there was “no fucking way I was racing across the country while we still had kids in school.” I daydreamed about sleep strategies. I pored over endless pictures of racing rig setups. I wondered if I could bunny hop the curb at the Newton Bike Shop like Mike Hall did.

Mike Hall. That dude was a machine.

Here I was, a middle-aged man, and I wanted to be Mike Hall. I wanted to get on a bike like he did and race across the country with little to no sleep while snarfing down the shittiest slash tastiest convenience store food in America. By all accounts, he was just a ridiculously fast human who also happened to be an incredibly nice guy. He was doing what he loved and he was damn good at it. How many of us can honestly say that? I would be happy with just half of that equation. Not only did Mike win the first TransAm, but he also won the Tour Divide (twice) and founded the Transcontinental Race (TCR).

During the last few weeks he had been riding in the very first Indian Pacific Wheel Race (IPWR), a grueling unsupported race across the Australian continent. And I had been following along, blabbing about the race to anyone even remotely interested in bikes. I was all in and had already added it to the mental list of SHIT I WAS GOING TO DO. Of course Mike was among the leaders, battling it out with the great Kristof Allegaert and Sarah Hammond. Until he wasn’t.

Mike was hit by a car and killed this morning. The Indian Pacific Wheel Race has been cancelled.

It’s a weird feeling to shed tears over someone you never met and who doesn’t know who you are. You feel silly and immature and embarrassed. I can’t really explain my reaction, but it was an honest one. I just wish I had a chance to thank him for living a life that inspires me.

Thank you, Mike.

20 thoughts on “Like Mike

  1. Well said. Very few people inspire me these days, but Mike did. Having that kind of effect on people who have never met you is a wonderful trait which should be celebrated.

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  2. Thank you for sharing. So many of us are shocked and devastated by this loss, I don’t think I could have put it into words quite so well.

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  3. Well your piece has me in shaky breathing tears and I don’t even follow racing. Well done and much love to Mike’s family and obviously large group of admirers.

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  4. ” By all accounts, he was just a ridiculously fast human who also happened to be an incredibly nice guy.” – This describes you to a T!

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  5. I never gave much thought to racing, let alone endurance stuff until I saw ‘Inspired to Ride’. Mike truly stood out in form and character, and he will be deeply missed.

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  6. Devastating. I have an idea how you feel… when I was a kid I followed the career of an upcoming race care driver from his start in cart racing all the way to the end. Car racing was, and remains a huge part of my family’s life so it was not unusual that I would adopt a driver as my hero, but a Brazilian driver in a traditional British F1 family certainly was. Senna was a brash, brilliant, exciting spectacle of a car driver, he could make a car do things it wasn’t supposed to do… He was handsome, engaging, smart, and I wanted to be him. I watched his entire career unfold from newbie to 3 time world champion. I shook his hand in Detroit and got his autograph, I witnessed him transition from a kid who believed he could not get injured to a man that carried the weight of the danger on his shoulders. Then I watched him die on live TV on May 1st 1994. I was in graduate school at the time exploring who the hell I was supposed to be, and then in a blink I resorted to who I really was… a weeping fan mourning the loss of a hero. My love of auto racing died that day with Senna and the sport has never felt the same, but dreaming and desire are now part of who I am thanks to a man I didn’t know.

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  7. Very similar thoughts/feelings here – I have done a few bikecamping tours – based on the TourDivide, and such – but only 3 nights each. And then the IPWR was great to watch. Mike seemed super-human, larger-than-life – and then GONE. I was working at home on my own, and when my wife came home, she saw my face, and said “oh no, what happened” – and I lost it. Tears for someone I’ve never met – and again – over the coming 48 hours. The outpouring around the world has been amazing – he touched so many lives. A special individual – his flame burned bright, for sure. Thanks for your blog post. (glad it’s not just me…)

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