Who is The Deadhead Cyclist?


I have been riding bikes since I raced up and down a dirt road in my neighborhood as a 4-year-old boy in rural Minnesota. I took to being on two wheels instantly, and can still recall the feeling of the cool, crisp Upper Midwestern air in my face as I braved even the harshest conditions to fulfill my desire to ride.

Unbelievably, that was more than six decades ago. As a lifelong avid cyclist I still love the feeling of freedom that I experience as I fly down one of the stunningly beautiful canyons in the foothills adjacent to my home in Boulder, Colorado. Each time I set out on a ride, I can count on the emergence of that 4-year-old boy, still alive and well inside me, and rest assured that the ensuing minutes and hours of my life will feel as carefree as those childhood adventures on that dirt road. No matter what else is going on in my life, my inner child has come out to play, and there is a money back guarantee that I will feel better, more alive, more myself than when I pushed the play button and began listening to the Grateful Dead concert I carefully selected just for that ride.

Having spent my junior high and high school years in Anaheim, California, and my first two years of college at UCLA, I was not exposed to the San Francisco music scene – nor the Hippie movement that accompanied it – until a high school friend returned from Berkeley during the summer of ’74, completely steeped in the music and the culture of the Bay Area. It was the NFA>GDTR (Not Fade Away into Going Down the Road) on the “Skull and Roses” album (A.K.A. “Skull Fuck,” the name the band originally chose that was rejected by Warner Brothers Records) that first awakened me to the power and beauty of the Grateful Dead. And after seeing the band live for the first time on October 19, 1974 at Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, I was officially a Deadhead. The Grateful Dead has been the primary soundtrack to my life ever since.

Now, some 200 Grateful Dead concerts and thousands of bike rides later, I find myself facing the greatest challenge of my life: aging. But aging as a chronological fact requires no special talent, ability or character. It just happens. And in the vast majority of cases, the aging process, left to its own devices, is accompanied by diminishing health, decreased vitality, loss of strength, declining ambitions, increased weight, and a steady stream of “I remember when I used to be able to” statements.

As I approached the age of 60, I began thinking about the aging process more seriously, and I became increasingly determined to enter the next decade of my life in a way that would enable me to continue doing the things I love. I began to steel myself to the aging process and redoubled my efforts to eat well, exercise daily, and maintain a youthful attitude. My lifelong musical and athletic pursuits have proved to be great allies in this endeavor.

During 2014, the last year of my 50s, I had the most active cycling year of my life, with 188 rides, covering 2757 miles and 338,818 feet of elevation gain. As I entered into my 60s I wondered: “Might it be possible not only to continue cycling at the high level I had established during my 50s, but to increase my performance at the age of 60?” And thus began what I call my “59 Forever” experiment. At the end of 2015 I had, indeed, increased my performance to 200 rides, 3396 miles and 354,856 feet of elevation gain.

Having reached the 200-ride level, I set a new goal: to average 200 rides during the next four years and get to 1000 rides by the time I turned 65. During this four-year period, riding my bikes and listening to the Grateful Dead became a lifestyle that I grew to love more and more with each passing ride. I reached my zenith in 2017 at the age of 63 with 252 rides, and went on to accomplish my goal of 1000 rides in the first half of my 60s during August of the following year.  Also during 2017, in the desert outside of Las Vegas, Nevada, where I travel each year to play in the MSBL (Men’s Senior Baseball League) Kickoff Classic, The Deadhead Cyclist was born. I had been yearning to share the experience of, as I like to say, holding up a middle finger to the aging process, but was struggling to find the right avenue to do so. 

As is so often the case when I am out on two wheels in the wilderness, a moment of inspiration arrived, while I was listening to the March 13, 1985 concert from the Berkeley Community Theater – a show I happened to have attended 32 years earlier – when the words, “Deadhead Cyclist,” came to me, seemingly out of nowhere. I couldn’t wait to reach the lookout point on my ride to dial up GoDaddy on my iPhone and see if the URL, DeadheadCyclist.com, was available. To my amazement, this is what I discovered::

And so, later that afternoon, I officially became The Deadhead Cyclist. But The Deadhead Cyclist is not merely someone who is passionate about the Grateful Dead; and The Deadhead Cyclist is not just an insanely fanatic cyclist. The Deadhead Cyclist is someone who has been inspired by his passions – any passions will do – to love life and living so much that he is willing to do whatever it takes to stay healthy, fit and youthful, and to live under a guiding set of principles that help to turn the “upside out” and “inside down” nature of the human experience into the most joyful journey possible. My highest hope in this endeavor is to bring out the “Deadhead Cyclist” in others by sharing the principles I have learned from the poetry of the Grateful Dead, and from exploring the world on two wheels.

For 52 weeks, I carefully selected my pick for T.W.I.G.D.H. (This Week In Grateful Dead History), and extracted an inspirational lyric from that concert that suggested a “life lesson” to embrace and live by. The result is a book that takes you, the reader, on an adventure through an entire calendar year of concerts, and on a deep dive into the lyrics that have made the Grateful Dead a cultural phenomenon that has endured through three generations, and more than a quarter-century after their final concert.

“I may be going to hell in a bucket, but at least I’m enjoying the ride!”

Deadhead Cyclist