Right around the beginning of my time away in in Alaska this month, I received a vaguely frantic phone call from Millionaire Bob asking if I’d recently heard from or had any knowledge of the whereabouts of our friend Leroy. Word was that his girlfriend had come home to find his wallet and keys and he’d been gone for a day or two. Not being able to do anything, I simply put the word out and assumed he’d maybe gone out and crashed in the woods for a couple of days.
Worst-case, he’d been attacked by a mountain lion, had shacked up with some floozy, gone on a bender, or all three, but without any conclusive evidence one way or another, all I could do was wait. Another day passed, and I heard from Bob again saying a search was being organized, and that the outcome wasn’t looking good.
Still, to my mind, he’d be found soon, probably dehydrated, maybe having had some sort of mental break or something, but none the worse for wear.
Then for no reason at all, it randomly occurred to me. “I wonder if they checked the (Golden Gate) Bridge?”
At that point I was on a ferry through Canadian waters for another two days and was out of contact. On the morning of the 22nd, we slowly pulled into the port of Bellingham, when I turned my phone back on and got the call that they’d found him dead of a suicide.
This was a person who for many years, and all intent and purposes was a surrogate big brother to me. A monster, and natural talent on a bike, he was every bit my rival, and when I was on my game, I was his. When we messengered, and would periodically cross paths in the street, I’d catch his gaze, and we’d suddenly be neck and neck in an all out eight block sprint up Sutter street. Over what at this point is the equivalent of millions of gallons of coffee, we’d talk about girls, music, drugs, chaos, the politics of life and everything between. He’d sympathetically lament my struggles, and defeats, and sincerely celebrate my victories. He was wise beyond his years, but was happy to slum it with a simpleton like me.
As the years passed, we drifted apart, and he built a separate life away from those days, but we’d keep in touch through Bob, or the occasional meeting at the coffee shop where we’d reconnect as if no time had passed at all.
As I’ve related to friends in the interim, what breaks my heart the most is not so much that he killed himself, which to that end, I guess I’m not even terribly surprised by. What sits in my stomach like a rock, and has kept me awake every night since I got that call, is that I no longer occupy the world with him, and the memories we shared together, I now only hold onto alone.
In tribute to him, and those who loved him, I’ll repost an anecdote I wrote a couple of years ago. To the best of my recollection, I declare it to be the absolute truth.
The year was 1997 or so, and I was standing in the dusty pit at the bottom of the Sea Otter Power Post ‘extreme’ section- A steep descent with a jump at the top and several two-plus foot drops in a row, before a deep, sandy hard right hand turn. The section was full of bodies, and bikes, and all manner of crashes.
Then comes Leroy on a woefully clapped-out and cobbled together one speed cross bike. He slaloms through the carnage and over all of the drops without never touching his brakes. Finally, at the bottom, he leans hard, roosts through the duffy turn and is gone in a flash, leaving the crush of spectators in absolute pandamonium. Everybody has that one defining moment when they realize just exactly what sort of bike rider they want to be.
Leroy provided me with mine.
He was in every way a king of all dirtbags, and I’m honored to have been counted as his friend.
i loved this story Leroy will always be a star in the DFL firmament !
Sorry for your loss, Steve. Its upsetting to think of someone I knew, if only slightly, choosing to take their own life. It must be hard for you. And a fitting tribute you’ve made to him!
Broken hearted. Does the madness ever end? Keep on keepin on Steve. Xo
Great tribute to a great friendship. Sad for his end. Rise in Power, Leroy. May he live forever in your heart, Steve, and the hearts of them who knew and loved him.
So sorry Steve. Suicide is just such are hard thing to deal with for those of us left behind.
Ugh…..such a bummer. Been a rough few years with our friends leaving this race of life a bit early. RIP……
This hurts so hard… I could write a book detailing the shenanigans LeRoy and I were involved in together. What a tragic loss…may his troubled soul rest peacefully now and I look forward to spending time with him someday in the future. Long live Team Clowns!
Loss is hard and sudden ends like this are not any easier.
It’s been a rough year for suside..
Keep the underground lit .. keep the wheels moving … And always Remember..
So sorry to hear about the loss of your friend. Cherish those memories.
sorry for your loss, my friend.
You wrote that beautifully, Steve; you have honored him well.- dez
That’s a good post to have read. Leroy was a natural talent and could be highly analytical too. Setting up an optimal climbing rack or bike for $200 or less was the sort pf exercise he could take on with style and flourish- almost as much style as when he’d then go use them.
The sea otter bit reminded me of that. He was really focused and quick to learn a lot about He was wonderfully supportive too.
One time racing a Santa Cruz series race We all rolled out for the day and I remember being very hung over. The kind where you are dizzy and sweating a bit. This was up at a logging site, up in the mountains and as the fog cut out it got Sunny hotter. I remember the blood draining from my face. “What do think Jason?” It was about 15 min to the b race now, easier than his by a long shot, but not for me… “I dunno. I’m concerned. Okay I’ll race but it’s got to be on flat pedals with hiking boots (?)”
Leroy was like “okay you heard him let’s swap out these pedals”- Austin and Leroy swapped the pedals (if it were up to me I would have dawdled probably…)
5 minutes later I was in yet another epic batted for 23rd with Scotty P.
Leroy could be both silly and cool., and he made silly really cool that way.
I think one thing that’s hard for me and for others I know too is how he could just turn all that off and walk away for long periods.
Even before this one last time- man that sucks. Always did.
I worked with Leroy when I worked at Bianchi.
He worked in the warehouse when things were slow he’d open the back roll away, bring out a chair, take his shirt off, light up a ciggy and sit there with his shades and tanning shield.
Sometimes we’d talk about music. He’d talk about doing roadie work for Primus and Blue Oyster Cult. Leroy told me about the time that Primus was going to play a big show at the Warfield he got Larry LaLonde so stoned he couldn’t plug his guitar into his amp.
I can’t say we were close but he was always the life of the party.
I just found this. I don’t know what prompted me to google Leroy, but I did. I had lost touch with him, but we had been on again off again lovers for twelve years. Sometimes a couple years would go by but when we’d meet we always had this amazing chemistry. I had an old steel frame Bianchi, and I still have the Bianchi bib shorts and jersey and water bottle he gave me seventeen years ago. I can’t believe he’s gone; I’m completely shaken.
Like Krista who posted above in May of 2020, I was thinking about Leroy one day recently and decided to see what he was up to. Such is the modern might of two dozen key strokes. Leroy and I were workmates at Clif Bar and housemates for a year or two in Oakland at the turn of the millenium. I was stunned to hear that he ended his life, but especially, that his life had evolved to a point where that became a viable choice. Leroy could be moody, but I never would have guessed at that outcome. A newbie to the word of bikes and bike culture, I soaked up a lot of his enthusiasm. We shared a joint or fifty here and there and I added ‘hoopty’ to my vocabulary. Our paths were different and life took us in different directions, but there’s one consequential thread between us that will never be severed:
Leroy built up my first mountain bike at our house one day, a bright yellow 1999 Voodoo Hoodoo. You can see him riding it in one of the Bellwether ad photos included among his photos on this website (https://www.flickr.com/photos/allhailtheblackmarket/37504143862/in/photostream/lightbox/). I would go on to ride that bike on the singletracks, trails, dirt and rock of the East Bay, Marin, Santa Cruz hills and Moab, race in the Sea Otter X-Country a handful of times and eventually tighten the forks, put skinny tires on and commute and roll around San Francisco full-time after my car died. I rode that bike so much I wore out the Mavic rims, one of which eventually failed rounding a hard corner at speed on the pavement below Hwys 280/101 in SF, gifting me a multiple-fracture femur. People asked me if I’d ride again. One titanium rod, four screws and fifteen years later, the answer is still yes, though I’ve since turned into a roadie. I’ve come to love bikes. I always thought that if Leroy and I crossed paths again, I’d tell him how much that bike would end up influencing my life and then show him my road bike! Vive Le Roi et Le Cyclisme!
Steve, good on you for posting this remembrance and to those who added their thoughts and feelings. If that’s you in the photo above with Leroy, I remember seeing you around. Peace.