Riding With The Den Daddy

Roger and Derek brunching

Like the Energizer Bunny the ‘Den Daddy’ Derek Liecty just keeps on running and running. We had the pleasure of his company on our most recent Social Ride where we sauntered up the Ohlone Greenway in Berkeley all the way to Richmond and then motored down to Lafayette for a fabulous lunch at the Creekside Grill in Rossmoor. (Dining in Rossmoor?? Yes people, there is excellent fab food in the retirement center of the universe!)

Derek is amazing. When others his age are rockin’ a rocking chair rather than a road bike, he just keeps churning out the miles. Approaching his 86th birthday he now relishes riding his Felt e-bike rather than the Mikkelson or the bizarrely painted Vitus 979 he used to sport. But he still puts down the miles and shames many a Spoker with his prolific riding. Of course with his new e-bike he’s still able to put you to the sword if you choose to challenge him just like he did when he was much younger. But he’s more intent on enjoying the ride and your company, chatting away, than he is on getting up (or especially down) the hill in first position.

On the recent Morgan Territory ride, which Derek and I both attended, some much younger (well, much younger than I) Spokers asked, “Who was that old guy?” That old guy happens to be the oldest member of Different Spokes. Not only is he the oldest in years and still riding strong but he’s also the longest extant member of our club, having joined immediately after we formed in the fall of 1982. Not only was he a prolific ride leader and creator of an inordinate number of rides particularly over here in the East Bay but he’s been actively involved in Different Spokes for decades. I don’t think I can recall all the roles he’s taken on but I do know he was the Men’s Outreach Coordinator for eons and he was the AIDS Bike-A-Thon Coordinator (a hellish job) in the later years of the fundraiser. He’s also been a multiple medal winner in the Gay Games over the years. Promoting the Gay Games has been one of Derek’s other avocations. He was involved with the very first one in 1982 when he volunteered to officiate the soccer games. Prior to diving into cycling he was involved in soccer officiating and FIFA—all that running certainly helped make him a fast cyclist! He’s planning to go to Paris for this year’s Gay Games although not as a competitor this time.

But I digress—it’s easy because Derek’s history is long, deep, and interesting, and goes well beyond just Different Spokes. Among other things Derek has always been a peripatetic world traveler, usually lugging his Bike Friday along whether it be in the hinterlands or the megalopolises. Years ago he recounted traveling solo in some Southeast Asian realm where he was on his bike, teased some monkeys on the roadside who were following him and eyeing him (probably for a handout), and suddenly they becoming irate and chasing him tooth and fang bared—one of many of his adventures! This winter he and his friend Denise did a month-long trip through Chile and Argentina through the Lakes District and up into the Andes (mostly by car this time, not bike; although he has done that same route twice before by bike). When Derek isn’t riding his bikes fast, he likes to drive his cars very fast. Derek has two hopped up hotrods in his garage and if you’re (un)lucky he’ll show you exactly how fast they can go.

Derek and I go way back. Although since I joined Different Spokes “much later” (I think it was in 1983) I’m always going to be the Johnny-come-lately to the club, the “youngster”. I recall he, I, and bunch of other Spokers were riding the Tierra Bella one year; we were riding together and he casually mentioned to me that he had an 11-tooth cog on his cassette. In those days the standard small cog was a 13. An 11? No one had an 11—It was unheard of. I couldn’t imagine anyone needing an 11-tooth cog! As we approached a downhill he proceeded to show me how he used that 11—he vanished downhill at bobsled speed.

On our Social Ride we weren’t breaking speed records and wisdom has come to Derek: he has finally tamped down on his hellbent descending, which is good because at his/our age Humpty Dumpty is very hard to put back together again. When we got to Lafayette the plan was to get brunch at Hideout Kitchen, a gem that is apparently no longer a hidden secret. When we were told the wait was 45 minutes, Derek suggested we instead get lunch at Rossmoor, where he presently abides. Rossmoor, seriously? Seriously! What the hell, why not? So off we go to Rossmoor, which was just minutes away. And then we were at the fabulous Creekside Grill—among our peeps, i.e. oldish farts—in a serene island away from suburban bustle. Any skepticism or disparaging thoughts I wisely kept to myself. When our lunch arrived I was very happy to eat not only my unspoken words but every bit of the delicious cream of broccoli soup and grilled chicken breast sandwich. Alas, you have to be either a resident of Rossmoor or an invitee in order to eat there!

Over lunch at Rossmoor after our Social Ride in half-jest I asked him what his future travel plans might be. He pronounced he was working on a “four year plan” of adventures at which point he would be 90. I told him I hoped his four year plan would be more successful than Mao’s second Five Year Plan (FYI: millions starved to death miserably). Derek’s already traveled through over half the countries in the world, usually by bike, and in his golden years (which he claims “suck”) I’m not sure he’s up for roughing it anymore. If he plans to haul his e-bike along he won’t be able to take the battery—carriers won’t allow lithium batteries on planes—so he’ll have to rent an e-bike at his destination or just do with the Bike Friday. But don’t underestimate the Den Daddy: he always finds a way.