It’ s time to celebrate bicycles! In honor of National Bike Month, we’re celebrating May with Mark Winkelman, a cyclist from Kansas who’s been cycling and participating in organized club riding for 43 years. We had the privilege of featuring Mark with his favorite vintage bicycle on our cover and we would like to thank the BikeDFW organization for connecting us.
Mark is an active member of the Plano Bicycle Association. Mark has been involved in organized bike riding for over 43 years and his experiences show everything a bike has to offer.
Tell us a little bit about yourself:
“I’m Mark Winkelman, originally from Kansas and moved to the Dallas area during college. I graduated from the University of North Texas with a Business degree.”
What was the biking scene like in your area growing up?
“Fortunately we had a vibrant active bike club in my hometown. I became interested in organized bicycling during the bike boom in the early 1970’s. I rode my first 100 mile “Century” in September 1974 in eight hours on a heavy steel Raleigh 10-speed when I was 13 years old.
In 1975, I placed third in the State Road Championships and then first in the State Track Cycling Championships the following year in 1976. I qualified to go the the nationals, but I declined because of a lack of experience riding on banked ovals. One of the best things about racing, more so than the race itself for me, was the camaraderie with the other guys traveling in a car to the various venues. We’d crack jokes and I’d laugh so hard that I cried.
I also rode across the state of Kansas four years in a row, 1975 thru 1978, with the organized event called Biking Across Kansas. In 2014, I did the necessary training to once again cross Kansas on my bike.
During the day while pedaling I sang those songs over and over in my head to help pass the time. What a great way to revisit youth. Sometimes that’s what cycling is about, revisiting and rediscovering your youth.”
Grab a road bike for the road or take your mountain bike to your next hike. Riding with a group is the safest way to go and the memories will last you a life time.
What is the biking scene like in your current area and are you involved?
“Fortunately here in the Dallas-Ft.Worth area we have so many opportunities to ride and to do so with various established bike clubs. I’ve ridden with several different clubs over the past 35 years in the area. I’m currently an active member of the Plano Bicycle Association. I like PBA for the people and for the great variety of weekly rides offered.
From beginners to accomplished cyclists. The more experienced ride leaders and other club members are good about helping new cyclists with their riding skills. Plus riding in a group helps you to be seen much better than riding alone. These days with so much distracted driving, being seen is so important. I never ride on the open road without a helmet and a flashing taillight.”
Like a car or a musical instrument, bicycles offer a sentimental connection to you and the ride.
What are some of the differences in your bicycles from 1975 and 2015?
“They’re different in so many ways. The style of the frame and components are different. One big difference is the old bikes are made of steel and my new bike is made out of carbon fiber, so it’s a lighter frame. The newer bike has a much wider range of gears so its easier to pedal and ride. But the older bike has its pluses too. It was hand built by craftsmen. One of the reasons why people like riding and collecting vintage bikes is because they like the hand built craftsmanship an older bike offers versus a newer bike. The older bikes provide the enjoyment of riding something that has so much character and history. The newer bike lacks the soul of a vintage bike.”
Bicycles continue to rule as a popular form of exercise and transportation in both older and younger generations.
Could you tell me about your first race in 1975?
“I had a training buddy in Topeka who was an ex-pro cyclist so I had already conditioned myself and learned some of the techniques of competitive cycling. My first competitive event was a 20 mile road race. I ended up placing third in the final sprint, ahead of my old buddy Steve Tilford. The guy that was next to me in the old black and white picture is Steve.
He went on to be an extremely accomplished professional bicycle racer. He rode next to Greg LeMond, Lance Armstrong and many other famous names in cycling. He was a several time national champion, mountain biker, rode in Europe in all sorts of famous races and on well known teams. He made a lifetime career out of it.
Unfortunately he was killed in a non-cycling automobile accident a few weeks ago. I still knew him and we stayed in touch up until the end. He was a very strong cyclist and competitive up until he died at 57 years old. We maintained a common bond, sharing the same memories of when we first started cycling in the 1970’s.”
Do you prefer a vintage bike or a modern bike?
“If I want to go on a nostalgic ride, I’ll pick a vintage steel bike. If I want to ride a little faster and with a little more ease, I’ll pick the newer bike. My new bike is a 2015 Trek Emonda. When it came out in 2015 it was billed as the world’s lightest production bike, at only 10.2 pounds.
I didn’t want to like it because I didn’t want my old bikes to collect dust. Old steel bikes are where my roots are from and my 1975 Masi Gran Criterium was a top of the line racing bike in its day. At first my new carbon Trek got all of my attention. I did like it. It rode great and so efficiently.”
What’s the most memorable ride you’ve had on a bicycle?
“I’ve had so many memorable rides. Probably the most memorable day was in 1977 when a friend and I accomplished a 200-mile “Double Century” in one day during on our ride from Topeka, KS to Denver, CO. We were making a 600-mile journey that week to participate in the annual League of American Wheelmen convention.”
What does a bicycle mean to you?
“It’s evolved over time. As an early teenager it was a way to explore the world on my own. Freedom. It also became a way to challenge myself physically. First I began with ten mile rides, then 20 miles, then 50 and eventually 100 miles or more in one day.
Now in later years, it still represents a challenge, but with fitness thrown in as well as a heavy dose of nostalgia. When I ride my vintage bicycles they’re like time machines. I’ll remember rides I used to take and folks I used to tour, train and race with decades ago. That’s why I’m interested in vintage bikes today. They take me back to a different place.”
Bike riding is alive and well through the vintage bikes,newer bikes and the memories that come with them.
Jasmine Palacios is a performer/writer born in Dallas, TX. She studied at the Austin School of film, Institution Theater and Coldtowne Conservatory. With upcoming projects in Los Angeles, New York and Dallas, she's based herself in Austin, TX, pursuing all that is entertainment. Some of her biggest influences include Jim Carrey, Black Sabbath, and Paul Thomas Anderson!