And the Winner Is…

Here, read the winning essay from Outside's Seven Cycles contest as well as the four other finalists


Thomas Ryan, Brooklyn Heights, NYOn the morning of 9/11/2001, I got on my old mountain bike and started riding from my Brooklyn Heights apartment over the Brooklyn Bridge to my firehouse on South Street a few blocks over from the World Trade Center. It was a perfect day and so I stopped at the farmers’ market on the Brooklyn side and called my mom with my new cell phone. My mom was recovering from a stroke in a nearby rehab center and it was her hope to leave and return to her apartment and my concern was that I was being told that she had completed my PT and OT assignments and yet she wasn’t interested in “going outside,” so the point of my call was to tell her that it was a great day and if she really wanted to go home, she should get outside and walk around. I finished the call by saying that I was off to work on my bike and that I would stop by later that night after work.

With that, I started over the bridge and off to work arriving just before eightish. Firefighters are trained to come to work an hour before their tour starts at 9 A.M. and the call to my mom delayed me perhaps 5 or 6 minutes at most. Upon my arrival at the firehouse, the engine and ladder company were preparing to respond to a minor call and I offered to take in the run but the captain I was relieving said no, he would take the run and that I could shower instead. Those two units never returned to the firehouse; they responded to the minor alarm and then directly to the WTC at 8:55 and all the men died. I responded with Chief Matty Ryan (no relation) and got there just before the second plane hit. To make a very long story short, that morning I interacted with 54 members of the FDNY; 5 of us are alive . . .

Of course, surviving both collapses didn’t come without issues—as a result of the dust and whatever else was in the air, I lost over 40% of my lung capacity and was forced to retire in 2005.

I’m not complaining too much since I lived but before all this, I was a big biker, having completed many, many week-long tours like Ride the Rockies, the BTC, Cycle Oregon, and even RAGBRAI many time along with a large group of FDNY guys, many of whom were lost that day.

Since my retirement, I’ve been trying to ride and have completed the BTC, Ride the Rockies, a few Adventure Cycling rides, and also quite a few weeks of Cycle America. I also went to the Tour two years ago and even rode in South Africa last year. The problem is that while I’m doing as much as I can, I’m not the same. People like to talk about Lance having an extra quart or two of oil in his motor; well, I have two less than even all the Outside editors reading this and that’s why I can use the best bike out there. If I get this Seven road bike, all I can promise is that I will ride it and ride it a lot and try and do as many tours and as many climbs as I can and I promise to tell everyone why and how I got it. In fact, I’m out on the West Coast now and getting ready to try the Death Ride on 7/14. I’m riding my ten-year old Litespeed and it (or me) is somewhat shaky on the fast downhills but I’m going to try and get all five passes on the Death Ride, even if it means finishing in the dark. I did the Triple Bypass in Colorado last year and finished on my Litespeed and before it got dark but most people are saying that the Death Ride is harder. We’ll see.

My lung doc keeps asking me why I keep trying to do these rides—do I feel guilt in surviving 9/11?—but my answer is not that I feel guilt but rather that when I’m on my bike and pushing hard, it sometimes feels like the days before 9/11 when the world and my world was a better place and when my mom was alive (she passed away in 2002) and I was in the firehouse joking with all the guys we lost that day. In closing, what more can I say? I would love to have a new Seven. My lungs need it and there are many passes I want to get to the top of because it’s there that I’m closest to some really special people.

Kellyann Davis, Frederick, MDI’m sitting here looking at my road bike, it’s there in front of me on the rollers, a Trek 2100 I bought in 1993 when I worked at a little bike shop in Hawaii. Of course it didn’t fit me too well and I made some “modifications,” like turning the stem around backwards, but it wasn’t easy for a girl to find a good fit back then and I loved it despite its faults. About six years later I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I bet half of the entries you read have a line like that. Don’t get me wrong, cancer sucked but I don’t think that surviving it makes me special or more deserving, it’s just part of my story about the bike. Soon after I finished chemo my husband decided to look for someone a little less sick and bald than I was and he split like a banana, taking his income with him. I was left to recover with house payments, four dogs, a broken heart, and of course, my trusty but dusty bicycle. I started riding again a week after he left, mainly because crying was a lame workout and I was tired of acting like I was sick and sad even if that’s how I felt. It didn’t matter then what I was riding, could have been a granny bike with a basket for all I cared, just needed to get the wheels spinning again.

Six years later I’m looking back at a long and bumpy road, but I made it because I never gave up, I kept riding that bike and I started my own company doing custom research. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it. I truly understand what you guys are doing at Seven, what it means to be the little guy doing custom jobs. I understand just how good you have to be, how well you have to know and really think about your customers, how you have to stand in their shoes and ask yourself if the product you’re delivering is the best it can be for them. I know what it’s like to obsess over the details and make adjustments until you’re sure it’s perfect. How much you have to care to succeed and compete with the big companies. Feels good to take that much pride in your work and be rewarded with a genuinely satisfied client who talks about how you exceeded their wildest expectations and delivered just what they needed. You guys know. It’s about doing it better than anyone else and making the end result worth it for your customer.

So I guess I deserve a Seven because I’m a fighter, because I really get what you guys do, and because my budget would never allow a woman like me to spring for something as special as a Seven. Plus, I would send you doughnuts every year until I die on the anniversary of the day I got my bike, the “good kind.”

2007 Gift Guide
(Photos by Nigel Cox)

Michael Getter, Arlington, VAWhy do I and I alone deserve this bike? Because I will probably be the only contestant distinguished exclusively by my own pathetic mediocrity. I can’t claim that I’ve overcame tremendous physical difficulties in order to ride a bicycle. I haven’t lost a leg in a horrific bike accident involving a squirrel and an 18-wheeler but overcame the odds and am now riding again with an artificial limb. I have not finished second in a major international race only due to the fact that my bike was not as light or ergonomically advanced as the winner’s. . . . I am not a rising star destined to bring gold back home from the Tour de France.

I am not any of those special people who stand out from the crowd distinguished by their physical or inner strength, determination and perseverance. I AM the crowd! I embody the very essence of an average American guy who is trying to make it to the next day. We have no special gifts or talents and everything we do we achieve by working or studying really hard, since nothing comes easy to us. We are schlepping through life, doing the best we can in an endless circle of days and nights, working, sitting in traffic, raising kids, taking out the garbage and enjoying an occasional bike ride with friends. Oh! . . . The Bike Ride! That is probably one of the few highlights of our lives, when speeding down the hill we finally pass that blue-haired old woman with a Chihuahua attached to her wrist and arrive to the finish line with an aching back and sore shoulders thinking for the first time in weeks, “Damn! That felt good!”

By giving this bike to me, you are not just recognizing one guy’s achievements as being more worthy than those of the other contestants. Instead, you are giving hope to millions of invisible, undistinguished, mediocre worker bees. You acknowledge our presence here on earth and that our silent existence and toiling away in the trenches of daily American life, moving this society forward, inch by inch, deserves a recognition we never get from anyone. . . . Except, maybe, in an occasional presidential speech during an election period, which we unfortunately cannot take out for a ride. But this bike is a work of art! It is real and we can admire its beauty, and when I ride it, it will be with pride for all of us who are incapable of ever approaching the heights reached by genetically superior individuals like Lance Armstrong or Miguel Indurain.

I thank you for reading this cry of a truly “invisible” man. I shall not bore you any longer.

2007 Gift Guide
(Photos by Nigel Cox)

Danielle Henson, Palatine, ILI’m not sure any one person is totally “worthy” of a custom-fit, precision-crafted bike that looks like a “MoMa sculpture and rides like a Maserati.” However, I do know one person who would have a sincere appreciation and awe for such a bike, my husband Christopher. My name is Danielle. Chris and I met in high school in ’85, married in ’95, moved to Palatine, IL, and had two kids. Things have changed since ’85 with more responsibility and less time to spend on the things which we really enjoy doing. Early morning bike rides is the one thing that my husband has tried to hold onto in his spare time. After all these years, he continues to have a passion for bike riding, viewing local bike races, and purchasing quality bikes for our kids. Most recently, he has been challenging himself with longer road bike rides around town.

The article by Andrew Tilin brought back memories of dating Chris in high school. Chris spent almost all of his waking hours working at the Cycle Scene bike shop. I found the description of the bike shop workers in the article especially humorous and accurate; a bunch of unique perfectionists who value a tasty “sticky-sweet” doughnut breakfast. I think that perfectionism and eating doughnuts go hand in hand at every good bike shop. Eating doughnuts in the morning was part of the routine. Chris and his buddies were busy in the back room building and repairing bikes all of kinds, while the day’s planned bike ride was on the forefront of their minds. Chris acquired almost all of his bike knowledge and appreciation for well-built bikes at the shop. While working at the bike shop, Chris was afforded the opportunity to purchase a Cannondale bike at a price that a high school kid could barely afford. After 20 plus years, he still owns that mountain bike. It’s been well used and has visited the Moab surroundings several times while residing in Utah. A couple years back, we purchased him a road bike for Father’s Day to replace his beloved road bike that he had to sell for rent money while living in Utah. To this day, he comments that he should have never sold that bike. I think that he likes the road bike that we bought him, but I don’t think it compares to the one he used to have.

I’ve decided to submit this entry for Chris because he is not a guy that would ever say that “he deserves and/or needs” a custom-built bike. Chris is a very dedicate husband and father; and has always put his family first before his own needs and desires. Most recently, Chris has been taking longer bikes which have resulted in chronic knee pain. I’m hoping that his new custom-fit, custom-built bike would prove to be the best prescription for his knee pain; and afford him the opportunity to stay on his bike for longer periods of time and do what he loves to do, ride. As his wife, I will tell you this dedicated and hard-working guy deserves the “Maserati” ride each time he goes out on the road.

2007 Gift Guide
(Photos by Nigel Cox)

Brian Leverenz, Palatine, ILI am a unique and esoteric individual, a man of style and substance. I crack blocks of ice with my forehead and paint pottery with my toes. I propel my bicycle up extreme inclines and navigate my hang-glider through urban environments. I am the CIA’s only triple agent, have memorized the quadratic formula, can recite pi to 10,574 digits, and peel oranges with one hand while skiing down double black diamond runs playing frisbee with the Kennedys. I conduct seminars on combating international terrorism, and recently returned from sabbatical in Antarctica studying the effects of the Mt. Erebus volcano on the ozone layer. I dabble in the occult, can play the minute waltz in 51 seconds on 5 different instruments, and recently disproved the validity of Say’s Law, and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, am the defending Kumite champion, and food critic for The New York Times. I soon plan to vacation by rowing around the world while writing the definitive textbook on Constitutional Law and a biography of Ferdinand Magellan. Despite these modest accomplishments, my one regret is that I have never owned or ridden a Seven. I deserve one. Until I have this opportunity, my life will be incomplete.