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Wheel Power

From Olympic cyclists and world-class mountain bikers to those who defy gravity on skateboards and dirt bikes, Idaho is full of wheel pioneers.

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2. Don Wiseman first took up serious cycling nearly four decades ago. He said the sport was so far off the radar that he felt like he was part of a cult.

“Cycling just wasn’t the same back then,” the 57-year-old Wiseman recalls of his college days in Bozeman, Montana. “The sport was very immature, and cyclists were sort of in this subculture. To us, bikes weren’t toys. They represented so much more than a ride down the sidewalk. They were art.”

He recalls how the Tour de France, which wasn’t widely covered in the U.S., awed him and fellow cyclists at Montana State.

“We’d find a French newspaper or magazine, weeks or months after the race, and try to dissect it and understand French,” he says. “We’d take it to a French professor at the university to get him to translate the race story for us.”

Wiseman says he and other cyclists started putting on their own races, Bozeman style. “They were organized, but they were on back roads or in in back alleys or the middle of nowhere. Spectators were friends and girlfriends, not like the crowds today.

“We just always lived cycling. Still do,” he says.

In 1982, Wiseman moved to the Sun Valley area and opened Sun Summit Ski & Cycle on Warm Springs Road, which became a true center for everything cycling.

“We put on events, we promoted races. We did one thing in the summer—we were bikes. There were no fishing rods. No running shoes. Just bikes. People liked that one simple focus, he explains. “We never advertised, but people always found us.”

He sold the shop 11 years ago, but his influence over the growth of local cycling is undeniable, from inspiring kids to ride, mentoring others to go into the sport, and continuing to promote and support the culture of cycling.

In fact, he’s the guy you see riding his bike year-round, no matter what the weather. “I guess it’s how people started recognizing me as a cyclist, like, ‘Oh, he’s the one that rides in the winter, through a snowstorm, late at night,’” he says laughing. “People have called me after seeing me riding in the dark and say, ‘Hey I saw you out tonight and you need to get another blinker.’ Somehow they know it’s me.

“People would feel better if they just rode bikes. A bike is way more interactive than a car. Cars are from Mars,” he says.

On his rides, Wiseman has struck up conversations with cyclists on the trail and ended up offering his house as a place for them to stay. Once, when riding through Australia, a stranger at a public market started talking with him about cycling and ended up inviting Wiseman and his wife to dine with her at her winery.

"When you ride, you can’t help but meet all sorts of people with interesting stories,” he says.

Wiseman says his own racing career was a bit inconsistent. “I put myself through college, worked full time and then started working a career as soon as I graduated. Unfortunately, work interferes with athletic development,” he says.

His biggest and last athletic achievement was the 1990 UCI Mountain Bike Worlds in Durango, Colorado, where he qualified to race as a master and placed 9th in the downhill and 19th in the cross country race. “After the Worlds, I realized I could not continue to race full time and also make a living, so I focused on work and jumped into promoting and supporting races locally and statewide.”

That’s when he began organizing and promoting the Stanley/Sun Valley stages of the Women’s Challenge ladies professional cycling race. “To be involved in a race for 17 years and never get paid, you just do it because it’s what you believed in,” he says.

“In the end I had dreams, but limited access and knowledge,” he said of his early desire to race. “This most likely is one of the reasons I enjoy being the executive director of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation. It provides support and a path for young athletes to succeed as winter athletes. A vehicle like that didn’t exist for cycling when I was young,” he says.

Though he’s pushing 60, Wiseman owns a pump bike and gets out on the track with kids young enough to be his grandchildren. “Here I’m 57 and there’s a little kid next to me who’s eight and he’s going to show me something— I love it,” he says, laughing.

“I gotta say, the kids are taking the sport into a direction that I could have never imagined when I was younger,” he explains. “It’s amazing and exciting today where we are.” -Patti Murphy

 

 

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