My friend and colleague Mike Deme has gone west. He was 51.
Mike devoted nearly a quarter-century to the Adventure Cycling Association, winding up his tour of duty as director of design and media.
We may have first connected when he was editor of The Cyclists’ Yellow Pages — Lord, that would have been a very long time ago — but we had our first real professional how-d’ye-dos in 2009, when he emailed in his capacity as editor of Adventure Cyclist to ask:
“Ever do any touring? It’d be great to get an O’Grady story in Adventure Cyclist. Any interest?”
I confessed that I had never toured, so Mike wangled me a slot in the ACA’s 2010 Southern Arizona Road Adventure as something of a test drive. I wrote that up, and nobody threatened legal action, so next Mike shanghaied me into writing reviews of touring bikes despite another protestation of blithering and disqualifying ignorance. The rest you mostly know, because I’m still at it.
Listen you, enjoy your time,
you really don’t have very long.
You were born just a moment ago,
in another moment you’ll be gone.
—Wang Fan-chih, the Buddhist Layman, in “Cold Mountain Poems: Zen Poems of Han Shan, Shih Te, and Wang Fan-chih,” edited and translated by J.P. Seaton
Working with Mike and the rest of the Adventure Cyclist crew proved a welcome change from pretending to care about bicycle racing for VeloNews and pretending to write about the industry for Bicycle Retailer and Industry News. Basically, Mike yanked my cycling head out of my racing ass, reminded me that it’s not all about counting grams, going fast and cutting corners.
We tackled a bunch of Interbikes together, along with a couple of North American Handmade Bicycle Shows, and keeping pace with Mike was always a tough hustle. Short and stout, he never meandered, but always marched, to the beat of his own running commentary. There was work to be done, and a booth to staff, and liquor to drink come quitting time.
And the man was funny. On our separate ways home from NAHBS in North Carolina we texted briefly about the joys of airport travel. When I noted that I’d dodged a cavity search at the Charlotte airport Mike replied: “That place was easy. I’m in Detroit drinking a Miller Fortune. All I can say is we really needed High Life in another package with a bit of Malt Liquor Bull added to it.”
This was his professional opinion, mind you. When Mike wasn’t overseeing the magazine, golfing, or touring, he tended bar in Missoula.
He was gruff and abrupt, liked all the right music and disliked all the right people, and I never had to pester him about money. Ask any freelancer how rare a bird that is. Practically extinct, is what.
I’m sad that he’s gone, and that I never got to ride with him. All the wrong people are shoving off lately.
• Late addendum: The ACA bids farewell to Mike.