Long before I began working at Mathieu's, I would often stop by and just hang out with the "bike boys." And one of the reasons for acting like a cycling groupie was mostly because of one individual, namely, Alan Cunningham. Besides being the chief mechanic on all my two-wheeled machines right from the first time I walked through the door, he was always willing to offer helpful tips — often sprinkled around his always-entertaining tales.
I don't really remember why, but we hit it off right from the start. Maybe because we are similar in age.
Even now, whenever I come into the shop with a problem — and after he proclaims it is probably due to "operator error" — he will quickly diagnose the issue, fix it, and I'm on my merry way. And he is usually already up to his neck working on someone else's bike. It doesn't matter. I cannot think of one time where he didn't stop what he was doing and offer his help. And Alan does this with other cyclists, as well. Not just me.
Furthermore, I always enjoy going for a pedal with Alan — for two reasons. Before I became proficient in mending flat tires, it was nice having him there to rescue me, which did happen on one or two occasions. And, secondly, I simply like watching him ride a bike. It's kind of hard to explain, but he is as smooth as silk on two wheels; he is really "one" with his machine.
While I can think of other fine attributes connected to Alan, it's his generous nature that really stands out. As I've already pointed out, he was always lavish with his time. But here are two other examples:
— Many years ago, he, Jon, and I were preparing to ride the 100-mile Cadillac Challenge on Mount Desert Island, here in Maine. As it happened, it was colder than Billy Hell. After moaning about the chilly conditions, Alan went over to his vehicle and pulled out two pairs of booties. Needless to say, Jon and I were able to keep our tootsies warm, thanks to Alan.
— On another occasion, Alan was aware of my upcoming participation in the Northwoods Gravel Grind in Rangeley. Out of the blue, he offered to let me use his fairly new Specialized Crux bike in the 50-mile event. I loved it so much, the week after the race I ended up ordering my own. Maybe it was all a ploy, with Alan drumming up more business for the bike shop.
And I'm not alone when it comes to praising Alan. Here's what Vern, a mutual friend, had to say about him: "Not only is he a strong rider and a real pro bike mechanic, he's one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet. Whenever I've needed bike care, Alan has been able to help and has been generous with sharing his knowledge."
Yes, Alan knows bicycles; he is the most knowledgeable bike mechanic I have ever known. But more than anything else, he is a great friend to many of us who frequent the shop. However, that key attraction that has drawn many people into Mathieu's — including me — has decided to pack up his bike tools and enjoy more of his retirement. Thanks for everything, Alan. You will be missed.
Obviously, I will continue to go to the bike shop, after all I still have bikes to clean. It's just never going to be the same again.
So what happened in June ... cycling wise?
I was on a bicycle 24 out of the month's 30 days. As far as the number of miles, I accumulated 674. And I rode four different bikes: my Trek 920 (the recently converted all purpose/gravel machine), Trek 2.3 and Domane road bikes, and my Specialized Crux.
I reached 3,000 miles for the season on June 11. When I achieved the 1,000-mile mark, I was 12 days behind last year's pace. At 2,000 miles, I was eight days behind. And at 3,000 miles, I was one day ahead of 2021.
So far for the 2022 season, I have been on 126 rides and my total mileage is 3,389. There you have it ... stay safe!
(Editor's note: Good news! I just found out Alan is staying on for one day per week — Mondays — for the time being. Now that he knows how I and others feel about him, he can never leave.)