85,000 miles. That’s a long way on one bike. But then, Mike doesn’t miss many days to ride, so he just keeps ticking them off. I used to see him quite often, long before we ever met. He’d be riding up Newport Road and I’d be riding down, or vice-versa. He wore a purple bike cap that distinguished him on the road. Plus, he had that GT mountain bike. Same bike every time.
Newport Road is one of the main conduits to the dirt roads from downtown Ann Arbor. It gets you out there quickly, onto Maple, Stein, Tubbs, Joy, Jennings, Northfield Church…
One day I was taking photos at the base of Tubbs Road and he rode by. I hopped on my bike and caught up to him on that long, winding uphill. At the time there weren’t all that many people riding the dirt roads, so those who did kind of stuck out. We had a nice chat and I found a kindred spirit who enjoyed the quiet back roads.
Mike is sometimes on his own and sometimes he has others along as well. He has a group of friends who’ve stayed connected since middle school and they still ride together. One of the other stalwarts in this group is Dan Ezekial, a public school science teacher and member of the Ann Arbor Greenbelt Advisory Commission. Mike and Dan are often out together riding the dirt roads northwest of town in all seasons in all kinds of weather.
Many of the farms they ride by on Jennings, Northfield Church, Zeeb, Farrell, and so on, have lands preserved in the Ann Arbor Greenbelt, or they’re preserved under other programs. Both Mike and Dan feel a sense of pride in being a part of that, and in being able to experience it so close to their community.
Turn to page 42 in my book, Dirt Road Washtenaw, and you’ll find Mike himself propped on his GT on Northfield Church Road where I found him one chilly winter day wandering about. This is his turf. Many of those 85,000 miles were logged in this particular part of the county. If you need to know anything about the land up here, its fauna or its inhabitants, Mike is a good guy to talk to. He rides it every day. He’s made friends with some of the residents, and often rides by the house of one of these friends, Mark Braun, about whom I’ve written in another Bike Grits article.
In another twist, Mike went to school a year behind Mark Nobilette. He got Mark his first job at a bike shop where Mike was working, Ann Arbor Cyclery, back in the mid-70s. Mark has since gone on to be a world-class frame builder. (In another coincidental twist, Mark did work, years back, after moving to Colorado from Ann Arbor, as a contract builder of GT bikes for a while.)
Mike’s been riding the dirt roads since 1987. He was a roadie for a while, but the cars were annoying him and he couldn’t ride with his friends and hold a conversation, so he started out riding the dirt roads with his Stumpjumper (he still owns it, of course–he holds on to old friends and to old bikes). In 1995 he made the leap up to a GT Karakoram and that bike has also experienced trips up to Alaska as well as the dirt roads and trails around a cabin he owns up in the Manistee area near the North Country Trail.
GT stands for Gary Turner, a pioneer in the building of cro-moly BMX bikes back in the 70s and 80s. He and Richard Long expanded this garage-built frame operation into a multi-million dollar business by the mid-90s. It was eventually bought by Bain Capital, the infamous company where Mitt Romney made his millions.
Mike’s GT is a cro-moly, rigid suspension bike that has most of its original equipment, including the original hubs and mavic rims rebuilt by that master wheel builder, Steve Sauter, from Great Lakes Cycling. Mike is proud that he’s made it this far with this bike, so much of it still stock, and hopes to add the final 15,000 miles necessary to make it to 100,000 miles before swapping it out for something new.
What new bike would Mike want? He’s thinking about having one built by his old friend, Mark Nobilette. Style? Perhaps there’s a Nobilette-McGraw special edition tailored for the dirt roads just waiting to be filet brazed: taken from imagination, forged into reality, ridden for mile after mile after mile…
GT Karakoram Specs (partially from Bikepedia)
Weight: 25 lbs, as ridden
Frame: TIG-welded steel, Tange chromoly double-butted
Fork: Rigid chromoly, triple butted, unicrown crown, GT Bologna Lite
Component Group: Shimano Deore LX
Crankset: Shimano Deore LX HyperDrive-C, 22/32/42 teeth
Rear Cogs: 8-speed, 11 – 28 teeth
Headset: 1 1/8″ Dia-Compe Aheadset
Rims: Mavic 236, 32-hole
Hubs: Shimano Deore LX
Tires: Mike recently switched to a road tread and feels it rolls well on the dirt roads.