My name is Jay Rawlins. I live in Chico, California. I’m a retired English professor. I rode bikes as a child, as every kid did then, as transportation. I had a Schwinn that had a fake gas tank between the top tubes, like a motorcycle. I stopped riding when I got my driver’s license. In college I wanted to bike to classes, so I bought a cheap “10-speed,” as they were called. It was quickly stolen, so, in complete ignorance, to replace it I bought a Masi—the queen of Italian hand-made bicycles–for $195 retail. I still have it, up in the attic. Anybody want to buy it? Make me an offer (higher than $195).
I knew the Masi was a sweet piece of metal and I liked having it, but I never rode a bike for pleasure until about 20 years ago, when I bought a cheap mountain bike (elastomers in the fork were state of the art suspension then) and started riding the bunny-hill trails in our local city park. That led to an upgrade when I discovered full suspension, and I spent several years being a passionate mountain biker, traveling to the mtb meccas of the west—Moab, Bend, Fruita, and the like.
One fateful day I bought a road bike as a trainer, because riding pavement in the winter on a mountain bike was a drag. It was a used Lemond Tete de Course I got a good deal on, and it’s still the bike that has my heart, long after it cracked its downtube and had to be put down. I spend most of my time now on a Trek Madone 6.2, which the company magnanimously gave me when the Lemond died.
I can’t say I loved road riding out of the gate. But it grew on me, and after a while I didn’t mountain bike any more. I did some years where I rode 6000+ miles a year, but after I had done it I decided it really wasn’t the way I wanted to do the sport. Now I ride fewer miles, ride harder when I ride, and travel a lot more. A bike for me is primarily a tool for getting me out on the road and exploring new country. I do the local rides solely to stay in shape for my rides elsewhere. I’ve always preferred driving for three hours to get to a great/new ride to just climbing one of our local hills one more time. Carbon footprint be damned. Hence this website.
I’ve ridden in Tuscany, Southern Spain, the Veneto, and Provence. In my experience, there is no riding in those places better than the riding we have in California and Oregon. Again, hence this website.
I admit to two bike-related sillinesses: I collect jerseys, and I collect pro rider autographs. My jersey collection was actually written up in Bicycling Magazine. I’m up to about 135 jerseys, but I’m discriminating—I own only jerseys that are beautiful and significant to me personally. My autographs, which I gather on cheap, solid-color jerseys bought for the purpose, cover one wall in my bedroom. I take absurd pleasure in meeting pro riders. I can recount for you my meeting with every rider who has signed my jersey. I have a treasured photo of Paolo Bettini, in his World Champion kit, writing his name on my chest. My delight in the collection has been dealt a kidney punch by the knowledge that most of the names on my wall are cheaters, but there’s still a glow there. I’m especially interested in women cyclists, because they don’t dope (I think) and when I meet them a second time they typically say, “I know you—I signed your jersey!” The men don’t do that. Once I ran into Allison Starnes. She said, “I know you—I signed your jersey!” And I ripped open my top shirt and showed her her autograph over my heart, on the jersey I was wearing underneath. Now that’s a sweet moment.
If you’re in the Chico area and aren’t interested in riding at 25 mph, I love to show out-of-towners the local rides—contact me via the comments box in the blog or email me at email@example.com and we’ll set something up. Of course, now that you have this website you already know where I’d be taking you.