There are heroes, and then there are superheroes.
I first started riding with the folks at Quad Cycles in 2002, seven years ago. Even back then, the ebullient guy who led the rides was already a living legend. The name Bobby Mac will evoke a smile from anyone who has ever ridden in the exceedingly popular triangle formed by the towns of Arlington, Lexington, Bedford, Concord, and Carlisle.
Although Bobby’s rides can be whatever you make of them, they’re primarily oriented toward charity riders, and Bobby does an amazing job encouraging novices. He passes on his cycling wisdom by routinely barking out phrases such as “Ride with love in your hearts and smiles on your faces,” or “Be nice to everybody you meet out there”, as well as gems like “If you’re gonna fall, do not fall on me!”.
He is a charismatic leader who never speaks ill of anyone, and his demeanor is always oriented toward fun. Despite riding the exact same route hundreds and hundreds of times over the years, he still finds the enthusiasm to sing a modified version of a 1987 Was (Not Was) song in tribute to his favorite hill, “The Dinosaur”, so named because of a sculpture at the mini-golf course at its summit. Bobby has also named the statue “Sarah”, because he’s Bobby: he can do that.
Bobby barks a lot, but it’s all out of love for the sport and his fellow man. While he casually tosses out aphorisms like “Indifference to the plight of others is a sin”, he backs that up with action, participating in rides that benefit causes from AIDS research to cyctic fibrosis. He even helped organize the Massachusetts Red Ribbon Ride, which carried on the tradition of the former AIDS Rides after Pallotta Teamworks’ criminal mismanagement came to light. Several magazines and newspapers have run features on him and his work.
As you might imagine, Bobby’s an amazingly strong rider, too. But to hear him tell it, it wasn’t always like that. He came to biking when he was over 300 pounds and unable to make it more than a couple miles without collapsing from the effort. Biking helped him lose weight and recover his overall fitness, which he maintains despite his off-season job as a chef for one of MIT’s fraternities. It only adds to his mystique that although he works with food, no one has ever seen him ingest anything but Cytomax.
Bobby’s been our leader for so long that it’s difficult to think there could ever be a day when he won’t be there at the head of our pack. But as much as none of us want to face it, that day is inevitably coming. Bobby has macular degeneration, which causes a loss of vision in the center of the field of vision while leaving most of one’s peripheral vision unaffected. As you might imagine, this isn’t good for a cyclist, especially considering Boston’s monstrous roads and notorious drivers. It’s something Bobby has worked around, but who knows how long that will suffice?
In addition, last week Bobby celebrated his 60th birthday. While 60 is hardly ancient, and it’s not difficult to find 70 and even 80 year old riders, it again raises that question in one’s mind of how much longer Bobby will be able to ride.
On June 17 2006, we held an emotional ride in appreciation of Bobby’s tutelage, and called it the Tour de Mac. Last weekend we held another celebratory ride to observe Bobby’s 60th as well as the grand reopening of Quad Cycles, which has moved into new digs about a half mile closer to town. Although the early April morning was cold and the forecast promised rain, the sun came out and provided a fittingly beautiful day for an early season ride with good friends, and perhaps fifty people turned out, including former US Professional Road Race Champion Mark McCormack.
Bobby Mac deserves recognition for the inestimable amount he has done for cycling in the region. He inspires everyone he comes into contact with and is the undisputed and irreplaceable center of our cycling community. He’s nurtured hundreds of new cyclists, and mentored nearly as many charity riders, and done so with gentleness and flair. Like scores of others, I’ve grown as both a cyclist and as a person in the past eight years as a result of my contact with Bobby Mac and the community he created. He is truly one of the greatest heroes I’ve had the pleasure to meet, and I’m thankful for every day I am able to ride with such an inspiring examplar.