Dave Dunbar – In the Transition Zone

by DanWolgemuth on May 28, 2021

They called it Bikathon, and for me, the event provided a fitting crescendo to the end of another school year. I was a college Sophomore when I rode for the first time in May of 1975.

Each class assembled a team of riders who had been preparing for the months that preceded the big event. Given that the course was on a trafficked section of University sidewalk, this training had to be done early in the morning or very late at night. The loop course was roughly 3/8 of a mile around the uncluttered interior of the Taylor University campus. Each of the four teams had eight riders. Each rider would ride a lap and then transition to the next rider.

Four teams. Eight riders. Eight laps each… and a total of 64 loops to determine the winner. And yes, that meant transitions between every one of those laps.

While physical conditioning, grit, strength and cornering expertise were critical, it was often the transition zone that told the story. 

While I said that there were eight riders, each team consisted of nine members. The nineth was not a rider… but a catcher. This was the team member who would position himself strategically in the transition zone and wait for the critical moment when the incoming rider would dismount off of the back of the bike, one hand on the handlebar, the other on the seat. A flawless exit would allow the bike to stay at speed as the next rider, in full stride positioned his hands on the incoming bars while swinging his leg over the seat into the perfect riding position.

The competence of the catcher made it possible for the dismounting rider to exit at a reckless speed. Legs that felt like rubber, lungs that heaved for air, and the bragging rights of your class on the line made this human exit ramp a necessity.

Enter Dave Dunbar. My roommate. A classmate of mine at Wheaton Central High School as well as Taylor University. A defensive lineman on the Trojan football team. My catcher, no, our catcher.

I trusted Dave. He was big and strong and agile. I also knew that I was his friend. A trusted buddy. But it wasn’t my friendship with Dave that made him a great cyclist catcher, it was his love for our cause. His job was to keep the riders and the bike off of the ground. His job was to make a transition smooth, quick, and fluid.

Bloodied riders and bent bikes don’t function well over 64 laps… and so our catcher did what great catchers do. He protected the mission. He guarded the cause. He enabled others to do what they did at peak performance levels. All out. Legs burning. Body aching… but full speed into the arms of the catcher. Transitions. Often the difference maker. Ballet with a single speed bike and eight sweaty bodies. Dave Dunbar. My catcher… no, our catcher.

Yes, this was the 1970’s… bike helmets weren’t a thing yet!

Transition without a slowdown.

Today, my hand is on the handlebar. My other hand is on the seat. I am in the transition zone… full speed. I see the next rider. He’s in full stride ready to secure the bike as it moves toward him. He’s focused… and as I dismount, I feel the arms of my Board, my team, my partners, my pastor, my church, my family surrounding me. Holding me. Providing the strength I no longer possess. Each, in their own way, helping me… but loving the mission, the calling, the message of Jesus, the vision of lonely and lost young people… loving the Kingdom and the King.

Yes, indeed. I’ve ridden hard… and I’ve been caught well.

Pedal on, Jake Bland… pedal on.

Thank you YFC. I feel your arms of support. I watch the bike move on at full speed. Together we celebrate… Youth For Christ. 77 laps strong. And many more to come.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Bill Cummins May 28, 2021 at 11:30 AM

Well said… great memories from the bikathons and Wheels at TU.
Transitions can definitely be challenging but it’s crucial to have a plan.


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