Pedal up: a conversation with Dean “Bareback” Mathias

Dean Mathias and the Mathias Bareback made by Calfee.

Dean Mathias and the Mathias Bareback made by Calfee.

If you ride a bicycle in and around the Quad Cities, which comprises Davenport and Bettendorf in Iowa, and Rock Island, Moline and East Moline in Illinois, you may know Dean Mathias for his helpful ways.

I live about 85 miles east of the Quad Cities, so I didn’t meet Dean until April 15 at the Illinois Bike Summit in Champaign.

I turned on my recorder during a rest stop on the morning ride. A rider was praising Dean’s support of people who ride bicycles, talking about how during invitational rides the Quad Cities Bicycle Club member carries a full-sized floor pump on his bike and spare inner tubes around his neck.

(In 2013, Dean received one of the first RAGBRAI special recognition awards for helping and encouraging other riders.)

The fact that Dean pedals a machine with a 60/11 top gear, a two-wheeler made without even provision for a seat post, is a sure-fire conversation starter. He’s been pedaling around standing up since 1994.

“So this is a…?”

“It’s a Calfee; it’s carbon fiber.”

“And what kind of bike do they call it?”

matthias bareback3“It’s a—I just call it the Mathias Bareback. That’s my last name, Mathias, Sam. And it’s just seatless. Different people, they call it standing only, assless, you know, but it’s a good training bike, but I just go by the Mathias Bareback.”

“So do you, is this your main bike?”

“Yeah it is. During the winter I had my other bike I got studded tires on. I used that. I’ve ridden every day this year. That was my goal.”

“Why did you get interested in this kind of bike?”

“I guess I was somewhere between being a runner and a biker, and I couldn’t make up my mind, so I’m stuck; I’m in vapor lock. I do one marathon a year. And I’ve done the Boston and that kind of stuff. But it keeps you training. Right now I get about 8,000 miles a year.”matthias bareback2

“On this primarily?”

“Standing. Standing, yeah. My other bike doesn’t have a seat either.”

“Do you ever run into someone else who has such a thing?”

“Not purposely. But now I know they’ve got these Stair, not StairMasters, but they’ve got these other bikes–ElliptiGOs–they’re out there, too, Sam. But no, not really, and I just, I wouldn’t feel comfortable sitting down all that much. It’s just more animated because you’re moving your upper body, your lower body and everything.”

“So the big advantage is, for you, the transition to running easier?”

“Yeah, just that. One year I thought I’m going to try running the marathon, local marathon. I only had seven and half miles running that year. And that’s what I did. Think I finished 3:30 that year or something.”

“For me, it’s the way to go. And the legs have held up, too.”

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About 16incheswestofpeoria

Former bicycle mechanic, current peruser of books, feeder of birds.
This entry was posted in Other bicycles, Report from the road and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Pedal up: a conversation with Dean “Bareback” Mathias

  1. MG says:

    Dang! Hard to imagine riding sans saddle for a short distance, let alone 8,000 miles per year! Thanks for the post.

  2. Bareback is the original superhero!

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