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I wrote this around 1992. It originally ran in Dirt Rag.
Me an' Bobby, uh, Weir
I got the call from my deep-cover mole in the Cannondale bicycle factory. "The Grateful Dead just bought ten new mountain bikes. This might be a story; do you think you can check it out?"
Since I live in Marin County, California, which is also where the Dead have their headquarters, it wasn't too difficult to get the unlisted number of the Dead office. When you call this number, a woman picks up the phone and says, "Hello," and after some interrogation, admits that this might be the Dead office, who wants to know? "I just heard that you people bought ten mountain bikes. Is that true?"
"Gee, I don't know anything about that. Let me put you in touch with the publicist."
She gave me the number. "Hi. I'm working on an article for a cycling magazine, and I heard that some of the Dead bought mountain bikes. Can you tell me anything about that?"
"I don't know anything about bikes. Look; I've got a new album coming out, and a video, and I'm working full time on those. I can't help you with bicycles."
Having exhausted the official channels, I went for what the Reagan administration referred to as a "second channel." I called my friend Howard Danchik, who works for UltraSound, the Dead's sound company. "Howard. I just got word that you guys ordered ten mountain bikes. What's the story?"
"Are the Grateful Dead really mountain bikers?"
"Not really. Most of the bikes are for the sound crew, but one of them is for Bob Weir."
"Bob's a mountain biker?"
"Yeah, he's pretty far into it. In fact, he broke his shoulder riding his mountain bike."
Now we're getting somewhere. A little further questioning revealed that the reason for the ten-bike purchase (the order was increased to fifteen later) was so UltraSound could take out a dealership and get the bikes wholesale. Howard also told me that most of the sound crew and Bob already owned fancy Fisher mountain bikes and wanted the Cannondales as number two bikes for taking on the road or for distribution among wives and offspring.
The fact that Bob Weir was a mountain biker seemed like a good story idea, and I decided to see if he wanted to do an interview about his mountain biking. Once again, this meant getting past the bureaucracy surrounding the Dead. Bob is well-protected, so I sent the message to him through several channels: his personal management, Howard from the UltraSound crew, and mountain bike mogul Gary Fisher, who was my roommate for four years before he was who he is.
Progress. I called Gary, and he said, "I talked to Bob yesterday, and he said some guy wants to interview him about bikes. He wanted to go on a ride with me and talk bikes so he didn't embarrass himself."
A couple more calls to Bob's personal management, and I was told that Bob had agreed to do the interview. After swearing me to secrecy, they gave me his home phone number. Bob lives in a semi-remote location near a network of mountain bike trails. The best way to conduct the interview seemed to be taking a ride together, so we made arrangements to meet at his house. Bob said, "Let's go in the afternoon. I want time to go out and get a helmet before I get my picture taken on a bike."
Bob met me on his deck, shirtless, wearing gym shorts and high-tops, and looking remarkably fit for a musician. Three mountain bikes waited patiently on the deck, where Bob was giving instruction on their use to a pretty blonde woman. I did my best to present a non-intimidating image of a regular guy who didn't want to bug him about the band or blow him away with my riding; as part of this attempt I showed up wearing jeans and a t-shirt rather than full-on cycling togs.
Bob allowed as to how he didn't really understand why bike riders would care for his thoughts on cycling, but he was game to talk. "I'm no expert on bikes, but I have some pretty firm opinions on them." In return, I admitted that the deeper I got into this the less of an idea I had as to what direction this interview was headed, that I didn't come prepared with a single question, and that all I brought was my camera and tape recorder.
"Great. Let's ride and talk."