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Friday, July 24, 2015

Love of music inspires a cross-country bicycle trip of the U.S. and visit to Memphis

Love of music inspires a cross-country bicycle trip of the U.S. and visit to Memphis
By:  Michael Lander

Because of his love for American music, Memphis and New
Orleans were two of Shinsuke Onzuka's primary destinations
on his cross-country bicycle trip to the U.S.
It was the love of music that brought Shinsuke “Shin”
Onzuka (隠塚信介) to America; it is a bicycle that is helping him to travel across it.

On June 2, 2015, Onzuka left on his
Surly bicycle from the Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, Calif. for a three month cross-country trip of the U.S. that will ultimately take him to New York City.

Onzuka, who
is from Tokyo, owns and has played a bass guitar, and he absolutely loves rock & roll, jazz, and a mix of the two known as fusion music. 

Because of his love for this distinctively American style music, he wanted to go to the places where it all originated and he decided that the best way to do that was on a bicycle.

Onzuka enjoyed four days in Memphis and spent much of his
time taking in all that he could in downtown Memphis
listening to music on Beale Street.

“I just wanted to try traveling the U.S. by my own energy and biking across it seemed like it would be very challenging, but a good way to do it,” Onzuka said.

For the majority of his 3,000+ mile bicycle trip, Onzuka traveled on the iconic and historic
Route 66 and he visited Monument Valley Park and the Grand Canyon.  Even though he really enjoyed the natural beauty and scenery of these and other places he passed through, he was most impressed by the friendly people that he has met along the way.

“I have met some very kind and friendly people who wanted to meet, talk, and even help me.  I had a tire with a puncture in it and I had several people who stopped and asked me if I needed help.  I also had some people who accepted me as a guest into their home.  There was also a man who I met by chance at a rest area near Oklahoma City who invited me to stay at his home.  He even suggested that I stay an additional night, which I did, when possible bad weather was in the forecast for the next day,” he said.

Memphis lived up to Onzuka's expectations and he thoroughly
loved the music, the food, and the scenery of the downtown
After almost six weeks of riding, Onzuka was eager to get to
Memphis so he could see and experience the music on Beale Street.  He arrived in the city on July 16.

“I especially wanted to come to Memphis and I enjoyed walking around downtown and Beale Street and listening to the live street music, which I have never experienced before in Tokyo.  I also visited and enjoyed seeing the
Gibson Guitar Factory and the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum.  It was all a very special experience for me,” Onzuka said.

“In Memphis, and in other places I visit, I like to also take in the atmosphere, breathe the same air as those who live there, and eat the same food and drink the same beer as the local people do,” he added.

Even though Onzuka came to Memphis to hear the live
music, he also wanted to take in everything that Memphis
is for those who live in the river city.

After spending four fun and music-filled days in Memphis, Onzuka left on an Amtrak train on July 20 for New Orleans, which he considers to be “the mecca” for jazz music lovers like him.

“When I got to Bourbon Street, I was surprised at first by how dirty the street was and how it smelled.  I had imagined an old, historic, and elegant place like Beale Street and it was different from that.  I saw a lot of places with live music and entertainment, restaurants, bars, and peep shows.  I found that it was filled with many ways to satisfy a person’s desires.  In seeing that, I realized that all of my favorite music has roots in all of this,” Onzuka said.

“When I went to Beale Street in Memphis, I was really surprised at the wide variety of live music, which talented musicians played, but the music in New Orleans greatly exceeded my expectations.  Bourbon Street was filled with not only jazz and blues, but also with fusion, funk, R & B, and hip-hop, which stems from jazz and blues.  Incredibly, there was no cover charge.  The variety, the musician’s skills, and number of live music places were great and it must be the only city in the world for music-lovers like me,” Onzuka said.

Onzuka spent much of his time in downtown Memphis and
especially on Beale Street.  In between it and Bourbon
Street, it has been the highlights of his trip thus far.

“Along with the music, I also enjoyed the local cuisine like Jambalaya and the Louisiana Creole food was very rich and tasty.  I did get homesick for some Japanese food so I had a meal there, which was good, but it was not quite like I have had in Japan,” he added.

Onzuka returned to Memphis on July 23 and set out on his bike headed for Nashville the next day.  He plans to spend a couple of days there in order to take in the sounds of a place that is known as “The Music City.”

As difficult as a cross-country trek might be even for the most experienced and avid cyclist, it was not for Onzuka, who readily admits to being little more than a novice at it.

Before this trip, Onzuka has not had much experience riding
a bike for long distances, but that wasn't enough to deter
him from attempting a cross-country trip of the U.S. on a
bicycle, which he preferred to do instead of other means
of travel.

“I bought my Surly bike just before this trip and researched and read blogs about cycling for beginners.  I had not done much training before coming here and I had only ridden a bike as a way of transportation when I was in school decades before,” Onzuka said.

In spite of not having physically conditioned himself for this long-distance ride, he was fully prepared with all of the gear that he needed and he has not had any difficulty traveling, on average, 60 to 70 miles per day so far.

Onzuka is chronicling his cycling adventure on his “A Fool on the Bike” blog (
アメリカ大陸、ユーラシア大陸を自転車で横断する男の記録) in Japanese at

Onzuka has long-dreamed of making a trip to the U.S. and was
extremely happy with having had the chance to go to the
places where the music that he loves originated and is still
being played today.

At about the half-way point of his cross-country adventure, Onzuka says that he has really enjoyed his experiences thus far, especially with the music and with those who he has encountered.  It is, for him, a trip of a lifetime.

He hopes to get to New York City before the end of August.  After that, he is considering riding his bike across Europe, but he wants to see how he feels after his trip across the U.S. before he commits himself to something as ambitious as that.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Wolf River Conservancy is working to expand the Wolf River Greenway from downtown Memphis to Collierville

Wolf River Conservancy is working to expand the Wolf River Greenway from downtown Memphis to Collierville
By:  Michael Lander

The existing Wolf River Greenway has approximately 800 users
on their trail each day according to the Wolf River Conservancy.
They use black box technology to count them.

For decades, the
Wolf River Conservancy has helped to preserve and protect the 14,000 acres of existing land, wetlands, and wildlife habitat along the Wolf River, which also includes a substantial part of our local area’s watershed. 

They have also strived to connect people to the Wolf River and educate them about its value as a natural and sustainable resource in
Memphis as well as being a spectacular place for outdoor recreation.

Now, the conservancy, under the leadership of their executive director –
Keith Cole, is leading an effort to provide us with what could be one of the biggest quality of life improvements that the Memphis has area has seen in recent history.

According to Cole, if all goes according to plan, in five years from now, Memphis area residents will have one continuous, 36 mile linear multi-use, scenic trail that will allow runners, walkers, and cyclists the opportunity to travel to and from the Mississippi River to Germantown and Collierville and back without having to contend with or worry about vehicular traffic.

Alta Planning + Design is the planning and design firm that the conservancy has hired to plan, design, and oversee the construction of this Wolf River Greenway expansion.  Charles (Chuck) Flink is the Senior Advisor for this project and he is considered to be one of America’s best leading planners who has successfully completed greenways, trails, and open space plans in more than 235 communities across the U.S.

The Wolf River Greenway, and connecting trails, are popular with
cyclists, runners, and walkers alike.

“Alta is under contract with the Wolf River Conservancy, and is working in partnership with the City of Memphis, to lead the planning and design for the Wolf River Greenway.  We are also responsible for the public engagement work and have partnered with Pique and Archer Malmo, both of Memphis, to complete this work,” Flink said.

“We have a very talented team of local and national firms working with us on the project, including, from Memphis, ETI Corporation, Tetra Tech, Geodesy, and THY Inc.  The national firms include Alta, DHM and The Greenway Team in Denver, Colo.  Alta will serve as the lead consultant for all the work associated with this project,” Flink added.

The 18.4 mile westward extension to the existing greenway trail, which currently ends at Walnut Grove and Humphreys Blvd., will be parceled out into four segments with construction beginning on each of these at the same time.

“The first four segments of the greenway will be constructed simultaneously.  They are located at both ends of the project, with two segments in the middle.  The goal of this effort is to take on some of the least complicated phases or segments immediately, and get them built.  The entire greenway will be a very high quality project.  The trail will be 12 feet wide, and the surface of the trail will either be asphalt or concrete depending on specific design requirements,” Flink said. 

The original timetable for constructing the Wolf River Greenway trail would have taken almost 20 years to complete, but the conservancy did a full-court press to expedite the timeframe on this project and it is now expected to be done in only five years.

Trails like the Wolf River Greenway are popular with those
who are not comfortable, or feel safe, on the area's

“We were challenged to have this trail built in only five years, but we have been very fortunate to gain some much-needed funding, which has made this all possible,” Cole said.

Even though an extremely compressed timetable might seem overly ambitious to some, Flink believes that it is a very realistic target that can easily be met.

“Sure it is ambitious; however, it is achievable.  We have already accomplished a lot in the past six to nine months so we’re off to a good start.  We have divided the 18.4 mile project into 16 separate phases and we already have seven phases under design.  It is our goal to have all of the remaining phases designed and ready for construction by the middle of 2016.  That gives us about 2.5 years to finish building the remainder of the greenway,” Flink said.

“We can accomplish our ambitious schedule by awarding multiple design and construction contracts at one time so we will be simultaneously building different segments of the greenway across the length of the project.  It will seem rather chaotic at first, but we have a master plan that will come together within the stated five year timeframe,” he added.

The estimated price tag for the greenway trail is $40 million, most of which will go toward construction.

“Part of the costs for this project is in planning and design with a significant portion allocated for construction.  The majority of the lands have already been acquired, or are either state, county, or city owned so this does not factor in to the overall costs,” Cole said.

The greenway is popular with area residents and other visitors
and is likely to increase substantially after the trail connects
downtown Memphis to Collierville by the year 2020.

Here is a
link to the map depicting the anticipated location of the future Wolf River Greenway Trail.

“The Wolf River Greenway (WRG) will provide transportation, recreational, and educational links across Shelby County connecting Memphis with Germantown, Collierville, and the many other neighborhoods that cross through it.  The 26 mile Music City Bikeway (MCB) in Nashville is currently the longest in the State of Tennessee, but the WRG will be much longer when it is fully built out,” Bob Richards said.

Richards is the Tennessee Greenways and Trails Coordinator and the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) contact employee who works in the state’s Recreation Educational Services Division.

“What is unique to me about the Wolf River Greenway is the unique environment of the Wolf River and its direct connection to the Mississippi River.  Memphis is also a fabulous community and its location on the Mississippi River is one of the most unique features of the community,” Flink said.

“The proposed greenway is also unique in that it will extend through what I have been told has been a traditionally underserved area of Memphis community, specifically the North Memphis, Frayser, and Raleigh neighborhoods.  So it is good to know the quality investment will be made in these neighborhoods and that residents will have access to the greenway,” Flink added.

“This project is also unique in how it is being funded.  It is a credit to the Wolf River Conservancy and the Memphis community that so much private sector and philanthropic funding will be used to build the greenway.  We are forecasting a total project cost of around $40 million.  The bulk of those funds are coming from private sector sources and that makes this project one of the most unique in the U.S.,” he further added.

Visitors to the greenway and other area trails are
treated to some beautiful scenery, especially
along the Wolf River corridor.

If people are looking for reasons for why they should be excited about this trail, Flink has more than a few to offer them.

“The greenway is going to open outdoor access to parts of the community that very few people have ever interacted with.  There are parts of this greenway corridor that are stunningly beautiful and somewhat remote.  Most importantly, the greenway will support an active lifestyle and there is no cost or fee to use it.  It will be open to everyone to use,” Flink said.

“The greenway will also support long-distance bicycling, walking, jogging, and other non-motorized uses.  It will, additionally, support the Memphis Farm-to-Table industry.  We are also looking at ways in which it will create employment opportunities, too.  So this is more than simply building a pathway through the woods.  It is a catalytic project that will improve the lives of Memphians through a diverse offering of activities and programs,” he added.

One of the most positive aspects of this trail may come from the impact that it might have on improving conditions where there is currently poverty and blight in the Memphis area.

“We are routing the greenway through some of the more historically underserved areas of Memphis and our goal is to have a positive influence and impact on daily lives, employment, investment, and education for everyone,” Flink said.

“This project shows the vision of the leaders in Memphis and Shelby County.  The plans to connect the greenway with the Harahan Bridge project will put Memphis on the bicycling map.  The Main to Main project using the bridge as a bi-state connection will be an attraction in and of itself, and will show Memphis as a place to come and have fun and enjoy the many opportunities to see the city by bike,” Richards said.

A continuous, linear Wolf River Greenway trail will enable
cyclists to ride from downtown Memphis to Collierville
and many neighborhoods in between.

Alta Planning + Design prepared a study, entitled
“Memphis Gets Moving – Health & Economic Impacts of Building the Wolf River Greenway”, which provides all of the detailed information and benefits of this greenway trail.

As stated in the study, the greenway will connect neighborhoods from Downtown Memphis to Germantown and Collierville and it will provide an access to nature, to jobs, schools, shopping, restaurants, parks, and other attractions. 
Once it is built, the trail system will have a tremendous economic impact.  It is projected to generate at least $1.9 million in tourism spending each year, with over $250,000 in tax revenue.  It should also draw tourists as well as those looking to buy homes or open new businesses. 

Memphis currently spends 74 percent less on parks per resident than the other 50 largest metro regions in the country, but this trail may help to turn this trend around.  It should also save money on transportation costs, savings that can be realized from reduced costs associated with congestion, collisions, road maintenance, and fuel.

More important than anything, the completed greenway trail should enable Memphis area residents to get out and live more active, healthier lifestyles.  This is especially needed in a place like Memphis that has long been identified as being one of the least fit cities in the U.S.  Thirty-five percent of the adult Memphis area population, (and nine percent of low-income preschoolers) have been classified as being obese.

Trails like the Wolf River Greenway enhance the quality of life,
they can improve people's health, and can be used for
commuting purposes at a much lower cost than with a
motor vehicle.
There is ample evidence that supports the premise that parks and trails lead to increased physical activity, decreased healthcare costs, improved air quality, and it encourages a shift from energy-intensive modes of transportation to more active modes like walking and cycling.

Even though the conservancy has overcome one of the biggest hurdles and challenges in getting the extension, which is funding, there are still others that it continues to face.

“We are constantly making efforts to communicate the mission and goals of the Wolf River Conservancy, to reiterate how we want to help make Memphis a better place to live, and to ensure that the public understands the true value of what the greenway will mean to them,” Cole said.

From Flink's perspective, he sees a different set of challenges that will need to be overcome.  

“The biggest challenge is building the greenway with the floodplain of the Wolf River.  We have to design and engineer the project to withstand the tremendous forces of nature.  The project, once completed, will be designed for periodic flooding,” Flink said. 

“In addition, we also have to weave the project through an existing urban environment, which includes crossing of active railroad tracks and busy roadways.  We need to fit the project into existing residential neighborhoods.  So the challenges involve designing, engineering, and constructing a greenway trail system within the existing urban context,” Flink added.

As with any major project within a community, public engagement is always needed and that also goes for the Wolf River Greenway.

The Wolf River Greenway and other trails are an amenity
that Memphis area residents can enjoy at no monetary
cost to them.

“I hope that Memphians will plan to join us for the Wolf River Greenway public open house meetings, which will be held across the city during the weeks of October 20 and October 25.  The goal is to have residents come to the meetings, view the overall master plan and detailed design drawings and share with us their thoughts, concerns, and ideas for how to make the greenway successful,” Flink said.

“We will use a ‘drop-in’ format for all of the meetings which will make it easier for residents to attend at a time that best suits individual schedules.  We will have a variety of experts on hand to answer questions and solicit input,” Flink added.

In addition to being a leading greenway planner, Flink is also an author who, along with Robert Searn, wrote “Greenway:  A Guide to Planning, Design, and Development.”  The book has been described as an invaluable source for professionals and citizen activists. 

Flink also co-authored another book, with Kristine Olka and Robert Searns entitled, “Trails for the Twenty-first Century.”  It is said to be a step-by-step guide for planning, design and management of multi-use trails.

“When Bob Searns and I were asked to author both “Greenways” and “Trails for the Twenty-first Century,” we understood that there were no published works that offered the ‘soups to nuts’ recipe for creating greenways.  Both of us have been very surprised to learn how successful both books have become.  The Chinese have taken both volumes and completed translations that are now used as textbooks at leading universities, such as Peking University in Beijing,” Flink said.

The bridge over the Wolf River connects the Wolf River Greenway
to Shelby Farms to the north of it.

“The feedback and response to both books has vastly exceeded our expectations.  I also feel that both books have stood the test of time.  They are as relevant today as when they were first published in the early 1990’s,” Flink added.

Flink will be taking his years of knowledge and experience with him on the Wolf River Greenway project and is looking forward to this undertaking and working with the conservancy to make it happen.

“All credit is due the Wolf River Conservancy, with acknowledgement to Keith Cole and Bob Wenner, and its funding partners, in particular the Hyde Family Foundations, which has been an important supporter of this project.  I believe that the original vision for the greenway dates to the 1980’s so this project has been a work in progress.  That is not unusual for urban greenway projects,” Flink said.

The Wolf River Conservancy was initially founded in 1985 as a grassroots effort by volunteers to prevent the exploitation and destruction of the Wolf River corridor.  It was later made into a 501(c)3 non-profit that continues to offer the land and the waterway for the public to enjoy for generations to come. 
Click here to learn more about the history of the Wolf River Conservancy.

A fundraising campaign for the conservancy’s Wolf River Greenway will begin in early to mid-2016, but those who want to support this endeavor do not have to wait until then to do it.

“People can show their support today by either joining the Wolf River Conservancy or by making a donation specifically earmarking it to go to the Wolf River Greenway,” Cole said.

The Memphis area trails can be enjoyed by men, women, and
people from different walks of life, and those who are alone
or with others.  The trails can also improve the quality of
life of those who use them, it can generate business, tax
revenue, bring in tourists, offer alternative means of
transportation and it can improve air quality.

To become a member, you can go to  To make a donation, go to:

The Wolf River Conservancy, according to Cole, will be creating a unique logo and signage package after the Wolf River Greenway is completed so that those who are on the trail will know it.

When all is said and done in five years from now, the Memphis area will have one long, continuous scenic freeway made exclusively for cyclists and pedestrians to travel on and it will be something that we can all benefit from. 

In the end, it should give each of us an opportunity to improve our health and offer us an alternative means of transportation, and help make us, our quality of life, and our part of the world a whole lot better.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Bill McGann is a man who has lived and loved his life surrounded by bicycles

Bill McGann is a man who has lived and loved his life surrounded by bicycles
By:  Michael Lander

Bill McGann's love of bicycles began as far back
as he can remember.  His introduction to
peddle-powered devices was his trike, which
he spent countless hours riding.  This photo of
him and his mother was taken in 1953 or 1954.

If anyone loves cycling more than Bill McGann, it might be difficult to impossible to ever find them.

McGann's love of bicycles, and his passion for them, could not be any stronger than it is and it began as far back as he can remember.

“Cycling has honestly been a life-long passion, though some of my friends say it borders on an obsession.  Shortly after I could walk, I got a trike and practically lived on it,” McGann said.

McGann was not alone in his fondness for bicycles and it seems to have been something that possessed his entire family.

“Bike-craziness ran in my family.  My father loves bikes and when he found a lightweight English bike in the Pep Boys on State Street in Santa Barbara, where we lived in the 1950’s, he jumped on it.  That was my first bike and on Sunday mornings we would get up early and ride out of our tract neighborhood to a beautiful and affluent area called Hope Ranch.  The palm tree-lined roads were quiet and those were some of my fondest memories,” McGann said.

“A few years later, my brother and I got three-speeds from Sears that were made in Austria by Steyr,” McGann added.

After a few years on a three-speed, McGann was quickly ready to move up in the world to an even better bike.

“My first ten-speed came one Christmas while I was still in grade school.  It was a lugged bike made by Steyr from Sears.  I remember the steel-cottered 42-52 cranks, Huret Allvit derailleurs, Fiamme aluminum clincher rims, AVA bar and stem, Weinmann side-pull brakes and an ideal leather saddle.  I was in business and in heaven,” McGann said.

Having the ten-speed opened a new world to McGann and it was one that he was more than eager to explore.

“With a friend, we would go on day-long trips.  Nothing gives a young person more freedom and a sense of the possible like a bicycle.  When I turned sixteen, however, I was seduced by the dark side of the internal combustion engine.  But after moving out and living on my own in my late teens, I dusted off the old Sears Steyr and used it for nearly all of my transportation.  The more I rode, the more I realized that the passion of my childhood had been rekindled,” McGann said.

As great as his ten-speed might have been, McGann was ready to move up something just a little bit better, and finally settled for the best thing that he could afford.

McGann has visited many places and made many friends in his
lifetime involvement in the world of cycling.  He is pictured
with Franco Bitossi in the forefront who won 147 pro races
as well as the 1968 Tour green jersey.  Following behind
McGann in the back is Kyle Schmeer of Cycles BiKyle in
Philadelpha.  The three were riding in Tuscany (in central

“Since I wanted something better, but being as cheap as any human on the planet, I bought a crashed and straightened Raleigh Super Course frame (3 tubes 531) and built it with whatever parts I could scrounge.  Finding that a joy, but knowing there was much better out there, I finally bit the bullet and bought a Windsor Professional, a bike made with Columbus SP tubing and assembled with a complete Campy group, except for the brakes, which were Universal center-pull,” McGann said.

With his deep-seated love and passion for cycling, it was really no surprise that McGann was destined to make bikes an even greater part of his life as he grew older.

“I was working at a gas station, saving up for college, when it came to me that this was not what I wanted to do in my life.  What I wanted was a career in bikes.  I had saved $3,000 and decided to open a bike shop in my home town of Camarillo, Calif.,” McGann said.

With a strong will and determination, McGann said out to make his dream come true. 

“I found that the two local shops had tied up the best brands that included Schwinn, Peugeot, Nishiki, Raleigh, etc., so I needed something different and good and I lucked out.  One of the scions of the Maserati car company started a bike business and had several mainstream Italian bike makers,” McGann said.

“The opening order was for 25 bikes for $3,000 and I needed more money so I wrote up my business plan and started at the east end of Ventura, Calif., where I lived.  Every banker was nice, but dismissive.  I made my way west until I literally reached the last bank in town (American Commercial), which was located just before the town met the Pacific Ocean.  Fortunately, the chief loan officer looked at my handwritten plan and decided that I could pull it off,” McGann said.

After getting the much-needed funds to get started, McGann was in business.

“I signed a lease in a derelict shopping center and started painting and fixing the place up.  After buying a supply of spare parts and accessories, I was busted, but I was 22 years old and too stupid to be afraid,” McGann said.

“I opened
Bill’s Bike Shop on June 1, 1974 and made money from the first day on.  I rented a room in the back of an older lady’s house.  The store rent was cheap and I was willing to work from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. seven days a week.  With bike demand plummeting, the other import shop in town was soon out of business,” McGann added.

Aside from his love for cycling, Bill McGann's true love in life is
for his wife, Carol.  The two share a love for one another and
for cycling.  This is a photo that was taken of them in the
country of San Marino.

Years later, he found another love besides cycling and married her.  Marrying his wife, Carol, has been, for McGann, one of the smartest things that he says that he ever did and she also came with a great business acumen.  She came in and straightened everything up and put the shop on a good, business-like footing.

With success, the McGanns found a way to expand into other cycling-related ventures.

“We found there were things our performance-oriented business couldn’t get from the wholesalers so we started importing a few things.  Other shops wanted to buy some of the parts we were getting for the shop and so a wholesale business was born.  We grew it until it was a thriving, healthy enterprise,” McGann said.

Early on, McGann still was able to find time to ride and racing was a big part of it.

“When we owned just the shop, I found I was able to ride more and started racing, eventually earning a Category 1 racing license.  I am, and was, a racing nut and for a few years I could think of nothing else but competing on the bike,” McGann said.

Further growth and expansion was a much-welcomed sight, but it did not come without a price.

“I spent all of my time exhausted after a week of racing and riding four hundred miles.  As the various businesses grew, (we ended up with three shops and a wholesale business at one point), I ultimately had to back off and become a non-competitive performance rider, content with a hard thrashing on club rides,” McGann said.

As with all things in life, all good things must come to an end, but thanks to an outstanding manager, the bike shops that McGann had begun has continued to live on.

“The man managing our shop, Mark Eaton, wanted to do more than manage a shop, which is not an unreasonable thing for a capable man who had done such a great job running the business.  So, we sold Bill’s Bike Shop to him and he still owns and runs the shop.  It’s still thriving and has just had its 41st birthday,” McGann said.

McGann held on to the wholesale business, which eventually became
Torelli Imports.

“We had our own Torelli frames made and also imported and distributed Mondonico, Masi, Campagnolo and the other great marques, but what really thrived for us was the products we imported under the Torelli name.  We could have them made to our specs and shop for price, allowing us to offer them at a great value,” McGann said.

McGann has lived much of his life on and around bicycles.  This
photo was taken of him during a trip to Umbria, Italy.

Eventually, because of a series of health problems, McGann relunctantly decided to sell Torelli in 2007, but it wasn’t the end of his love affair with the world of cycling.

“Out of the retail end of business and feeling better, I still wanted to live a cycling life.  When I sold Torelli, I kept the racing data, interviews, etc., that became and that’s what I do now.  I write and publish cycling books and keep filled with results, interviews, technical articles by some of the most knowledgeable people in the sport and cycling industry.  There are more than 3,000 pages of cycling info on the site now,” McGann said.

“Running my website is something that I enjoy.  I get up early in the morning, turn on the computer, get a hot cup of coffee, and sit down and go to work.  I’m often plugging away at four or five in the morning and I love it because it’s about bikes,” McGann added.

McGann still rides as often as he can and he currently owns several different bikes for whatever type of riding or where he wants to go.

“In 2007, I had carbon and aluminum road bikes as well as two steel road bikes.  I rode them all a lot and found that each morning when I went for a ride, I generally took the steel bikes, finding the lighter, higher-performing non-ferrous bikes didn’t have the life and feel I adored in a good bike.  So, I sold them and kept the EL-OS and FOCO Torellis, both built by Antonio Mondonico.  Those are still my road bikes,” McGann said.

“For off-road, Richard Cunningham, of former Mantis fame, built me a lightweight prototype of the steel mountain bike I want to produce and sell for Torelli.  I still ride that work of art and love it,” McGann said.

“Recently, I had Mike Wolfe at South Salem Cycleworks build me a commuter bike with saddlebags, fenders, and a front basket.  The town I live in now, McMinnville, Ore., is well-suited for bike commuting.  There are wide bike lanes and the drivers are courteous to a fault toward riders.  I feel any day I have to drive is a day marked with failure so I try to go everywhere by bike.  I don’t commute to work because my office is in my house, but I do all my in-town traveling by bike, whenever possible,” McGann added.

Even though many years have passed since he got his first bike, McGann’s affection and love for cycling has not waned.

McGann is passionate about cycling and rides purely
for the fun of it, for his health, for commuting, and
because he believes that it is a much better mode
and environmentally-friendly means of

“What I love most about cycling is the freedom and liberation that a bike gives.  It is the same emotion I felt as a boy.  That hasn’t changed one bit,” McGann said.

McGann’s reasons for why he rides might be the same as it is for many cycling enthusiasts.

“Riding is good for one’s health.  You can get in an easy hour of aerobic activity by just doing a few short errands on a bike every day.  And, there is no gym membership to pay plus every errand on a bike, while the car remains parked, is money saved and less pollution sent into our precious atmosphere.  When one does an honest accounting of a car’s true cost, a bike really looks attractive,” McGann said.

“A bike-centered life has also been extraordinarily rewarding to me.  It has brought me travel, friends all over the world, a decent living, and several careers, all of which gave me great joy.  I have been lucky to have spent a life with man’s greatest invention,” McGann added.

If what McGann has done in the world of cycling were not enough, he has, along with his wife, also authored four books on cycling.

“With my wife, I have written four books, two volumes on the history of the Tour de France (
The Story of the Tour de France) and two volumes on the Giro d’Italia (The Story of the Giro d’Italia),” McGann said.

I was simply dissatisfied with the English language books then available on the two Grand Tours.  None had the year-by-year details that explain and color the races as they grew and blossomed.  Our Tour de France books were an instant success, prompting us to write the Giro (Tour of Italy) books.  We knew they would not have the sales of the Tour books, but we wanted people to know the magic of Italy’s national tour,” McGann said.

Today, McGann and his wife enjoy living in the bicycle-friendly town of McMinnville, Ore., which is north of Camarillo, Calif. where he grew up. The two have continued to keep cycling a big part of their lives, and, because of it, they will always feel like they’re in heaven no matter where their bikes take them.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

How to get started in bicycling, find motivation, and feel safe while doing it

How to get started in bicycling, find motivation, and feel safe while doing it
By:  Michael Lander

Some things may be as easy as riding a bicycle, but learning
how to ride often takes time, a helping hand, and a set of
training wheels before a child is able to master the
necessary skills in order to ride.

At one time or another we’ve all probably heard something being described as being “as easy as riding a bicycle.”

Riding a bike may be one of the easiest things that any of us could ever do, but it never comes about without first mastering the skills of balancing and steering the bike and getting it to move in the direction in which we want it to go.

Once we do finally learn how to ride a bike, we never seem to forget how to do it and it can be the beginning of a lifetime of fun with friends and family or a quiet and peaceful activity we do alone.  It can also be a great workout and way to stay healthy and it can provide one of the best ways to take in the scenery and it is an inexpensive way to travel in and around town and beyond.

As easy and enjoyable as riding a bike might be, we can sometimes become distracted by other interests and demands in our lives, we can lose the motivation to ride, or we can become apprehensive about riding because of any perceived dangers, especially when riding around on our Memphis city streets.

None of these things, however, need to stop any of us from riding unless we let them. 

For those who are thinking about returning to cycling, and rekindling all that they may have once loved about it, the biggest roadblocks may come from not knowing what bike to get, how to get started back into cycling, or how to avoid and reduce the risk of injuries as a result of an accident.

There are a multitude of bicycles on the market to choose
from including low-riding recumbent trikes, which some
cyclists prefer for their comfort, but because they are
low to the ground, they are best suited for paved bike

These roadblocks should not ever be enough to deter anyone from riding and there are things that can be done that could get you out riding and enjoying it with the thousands of others who regularly ride in and around

The first step for anyone who wants to start back into riding is to make sure that you get the right bike for whatever type of riding it is that you want to do. 

There are many different types of bikes to choose from that are available today and some can be used for multiple purposes.  Here is a
detailed list of bikes that you will find and the local area bike shops where you can buy one.

If riding through fields and woods on dirt or gravel trails appeals to you, then it is a mountain bike that you’ll want to get.  If you’d rather ride on paved roads or trails, then you have a choice of many different bikes like road bikes or hybrids and more.  If you’re looking for a bike to
commute or to run errands, then you might want to consider a touring or a utility bike.

There are other bikes that are made for racing and/or for triathlons, but these are not usually the ones that most people get when they are just getting into cycling.  They are often very expensive and are typically a bike that a more seasoned and experienced cyclist will get after they decide to take their cycling to a more competitive level.

Bicycles can serve different purposes for different people
with numerous options to meet the specific needs of

Whatever type of bike that you wish to get, be sure to shop around and take several bikes out for a spin before you purchase one.

To learn more about how to choose the right bike, visit the
Memphis Cyclist website or click on this link to an article for additional suggestions and advice.

After picking out the right bike for you, it is important that the bike that you get is the right size and properly fitted and adjusted for your comfort.  A bike that is not comfortable for you will only ensure that your bike-riding experience will be short-lived.

Additional comfort can come from wearing clothing specifically made for cycling with
cycling shorts that can provide some additional padding and cushioning and can make for a more comfortable ride, especially for longer distances.

After addressing the issue of comfort, the next step is knowing how to actually get started in riding. 

Any time that you can spend
reading, watching videos, and learning from those who have some experience in cycling can be an enormous help to you.  After that, the best way to find things out is to learn by experience, yourself.

Once you do start riding, it is best if you take it slowly and not expect too much all at once.  This should help to reduce pain and discomfort from sore muscles and it will allow your body to better adjust to riding.

Avid cyclists typically participate in long-distance or
competitive cycling events and will invest substantially
more than the average cyclist for lighter weight,
more aerodynamic, and more expensive bikes.

Unless you are already in shape, it takes time to acclimate yourself to riding, but it will come in time if you stick with it.

You can incrementally increase your time, distance, and speed at a pace that you are comfortable with.  Just don’t expect quick results overnight. 

Working out in a gym can help you to further develop the muscles that you need for riding and
spinning or stationary bikes are good if you can’t get outside, but if you have a choice, riding outside is almost always best. 

Click here for an article on how to improve your performance in cycling, both on and off of your bike.

Being outdoors is one of the best parts of cycling and doing all of your riding inside doesn’t prepare you as well for cycling events and competitions that almost always take place outside.  Even though it may help with strengthening your muscles, it doesn’t simulate all of the conditions that you will encounter out on the roads with having to ride around others and getting used to dealing with the various environmental, meteorological, and geographical factors.

If you want to do long-distance or competitive riding, you will need to ride and to train under the various conditions that you are likely to face in those circumstances.  This might mean having to ride in less-than-ideal conditions, acclimating yourself to extremely warm or cold temperatures as well.  The bottom line to be successful at this, you need to ride long, ride hard, and ride often.

Cyclists can turn to spinning and/or stationary bikes to
get into shape and strengthen muscles, but riding
outside can better prepare them for long distance
and competitive events.  For most people, being
outdoors is more enjoyable and fun and there is no
substitute for that.
Click here for an article on the keys to doing long distance cycling events.

Like so many other things in life, getting better at cycling requires staying motivated.  It can help if you set goals for yourself and to have friends and family who you can ride with and who can support and encourage you along the way.

Click here for an article on finding ability, a positive attitude, and a greater motivation for cycling.

Other than knowing how to get started with riding, it is always important to know and do what it takes to be safe.

Safety is a legitimate concern, as it should be, for anyone who rides on any of the Memphis area roads, but cyclists can take a lot of precautions that will help minimize some of the risks that come with doing that.

This includes always being aware of what is going on around you, following the rules of the road, wearing a bicycle helmet, being visible with bright and/or reflective clothing, having lights and reflectors on their bikes, and always being predictable.

Even though the laws may vary from state to state, cyclists are allowed to ride on all roadways, except for interstate highways, and Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas are among the
states that require motorists to give 3-feet minimum passing distances of cyclists.

Safety is something that cyclists should always think about
when they ride, especially when they have children riding
with them or when they have them in an attached child
trailer.  Areas with little or no vehicular traffic and bike
trails are often the best options in these circumstances.

Since not all vehicle operators know about the 3-foot law, and some may simply not adhere to the required minimum clearance between them and a cyclist, you will occasionally have some drivers who will come closer to you than they should.

If you don’t have a shoulder or bike lane to ride on, it may help to reduce this from occurring by riding slightly away from the edge of the road to force motorists to move further over and having a rear-view mirror on your helmet or bike can help you see them coming up on you.

Click here for more laws concerning cyclists in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas.

In spite of all the talk of bad drivers in and around Memphis, the number of serious accidents where police reports have been filed, involving cyclists and motorists in our area, is extremely low, in comparison to many other large metropolitan cities in the U.S.

To read an article about Memphis area drivers, click here.

Click on this link for information on accident data involving cyclists in the Memphis area, and what you should do when you encounter bad drivers.

Memphis and surrounding communities have an ever-increasing network of bike lanes and more of these are expected in the years ahead.  If cyclists still feel uncomfortable with riding on the city streets, they also have the option of riding on Memphis area bike trails, (most notably the Shelby Farms Greenline and the Wolf River Greenway), which are still being expanded and will connect to other trails in Memphis and in other nearby communities.

Cycling can be a family-fun activity that is often best
enjoyed on some of the Memphis area bike trails
and in some of our area parks like Shelby Farms.
With all that cyclists currently have, and will have in the future, they should have options available to them that should make them feel safer within their own comfort zone while riding.

For more safety tips and advice, you can go to the
Memphis Cyclist website or you can read more on this topic with an article on questions and answers on bicycle safety and what cyclists should think about when it comes to safety.

With just a little time and effort, and a little motivation, anyone who wants to get started back into riding should be able to do it and feel safe whether it is on the roads, the trails, or both.