One of the unexpected rewards of writing a blog is coming into contact with people I would never otherwise get to know. One of these was Kevin Underhill. I was stunned upon returning from Hawaii yesterday to learn that Kevin died Sunday of injuries sustained in a crash during the Thursday night Driveway race in Austin. The Austin American-Statesman ran the story this morning.
It turns out he was a reader of Bike Noob, although not a noob himself. As far back as 1985, Kevin took a monthlong bike tour through Germany and Austria. Last year, he did a three-month tour around Japan. But he described himself as a “recreational/fitness rider.”
He emailed me back in June after he thought he saw me while riding in the country south of Austin. “I did my first group ride in Austin yesterday and was between Buda and Kyle on Jack C Hays Trail when a saw a man coming the other way wearing a red shirt with a big ’50’ on it and it finally clicked that that might have been you. Sorry for not waving, I was using all my energy to try and stay with a paceline.”
Others have commented elsewhere about how nice a guy Kevin was. He checked the blog that day to see if I mentioned the ride, and when he found that I had fallen, offered detailed directions for an alternate route.
He also told me that he lived in the Cedar Park area, northwest of Austin, and commuted between there and South Austin not far from my house twice a week. That “commute” for him is an extension of the Dam Loop, one of Austin’s classic bike rides, and roughly 35 miles one way.
Kevin wasn’t concerned with his image. “I ride a black touring bike with a pink rear luggage rack, usually with panniers on when I commute. A somewhat less than normal recreational rider. :)” He wore plain bike jerseys, and unless in an organized ride that required it, he preferred to ride without a helmet. It’s ironic that he was wearing one in the race when he crashed.
In his Bike Journal profile, Kevin said he was “having delusions about trying a bike race.” He noted that in my post on my time trial back in May, he’s partly visible wearing red shorts in the picture of the check-in table. It was his first attempt at a time trial, too.
I never met Kevin, but because of our contact through the blog, I know I’ll miss him.
Wow, that’s a terrible, sad story. It was his first race there. From what I could tell in the article he lived a full life and looks to have passed on doing something he loved.
Hi Ray. This is Lisa (Kevin’s girlfriend) – the reason he was commuting twice a week from his house to South Austin and back. He got a lot of pleasure out of seeing just how much he could get by without using his car. Part of the “short” route (28 miles) from his house to mine took 2222 from 620 to 360. He loved flying down that 2222 hill, sometimes hitting speeds of 46+ mph, which always scared me to death, considering his feelings about helmets.
He and I used to take long (well, 35-45 miles – not long for him) rides together on the weekends. A few weeks ago, instead of just riding by ourselves, we went out with the Austin Flyers on their Sunday ride. One of the other guys on the ride crossed wheels with the bike in front of him and took an ugly fall, resulting in some bad road rash. Kevin was one of the people who stopped to help him, since he was carrying a first-aid kit in one of his panniers.
Not long ago, Kevin said to me that riding near 18-wheelers scared him a lot less than riding in close proximity to other cyclists. It was just the skill set he had – riding solo for so many years made him excellent at following the rules of the road and being situationally aware and comfortable when it came to traffic. There’s a tendency to think riding in groups makes us safe, but that’s not always true – sometimes it just presents another hazard that we need to be aware of. And a whole different riding skillset.
Thanks for posting about Kevin. He’ll definitely be missed.
Lisa, Thanks for adding the details about Kevin. I’m sorry for your loss.
That is a truly heartbreaking post. I can understand why Kevin will be missed by many.
Heartbreaking! – and a stark reminder to never take anything or anyone for granted! My heart goes out to those who knew and loved him. May he rest in peace!