Introducing guest blogger, Denny Yunk

My name is Denny Yunk. I’ve been an active cyclist since 1993 and a Bike Fed member since 2010. I’m honored to have been invited to share my thoughts and experiences on this blog.

I got into cycling during college. Tennis had been my sport from childhood through high school, but UW-Stevens Point dropped its men’s tennis team just before my arrival in 1993. Some of my Hyer Hall dorm-mates were into mountain biking, and they let me borrow a bike and ride with them on the local trails. In the spring of 1994, I bought my own bike – a Trek 850 – and entered my first race – the Mudder’s Day Off-Road Challenge in Rhinelander, WI. I don’t remember how I placed, but I remember exactly what I wore: cut-off fatigue shorts, a Lush concert t-shirt, hiking boots, and a red bandanna under my helmet. I had a freaking blast.

I continued to ride and race mountain bikes through the 90s. After I graduated and moved to Milwaukee, I gravitated toward the road racing scene where my increasing ratio of fitness to coordination wasn’t such a dangerous and expensive liability. In 2000, I joined a newly-formed Cat 3 team called Spring City Velo. We had a lot of success and a lot of fun. Sadly, the team’s founder, Carl Zach, was killed in a terrible accident during a race on July 4. It was a tragic loss for the entire cycling community. It galvanized our team, though, which we renamed CZ Velo in Carl’s honor. We’re still together, and while the team has grown in size, we’re still a uniquely tight-knit group.

From 1998 through about 2010, I competed in WiSport, the Wisconsin Off-Road Series, the Wisconsin Cycling Association’s road and cyclocross series, Superweek, the Tour of Amemrica’s Dairyland, and various out-of-state events. I upgraded to Cat 1 in 2001 and won the overall Wisconsin Cup Pro/1/2 series. In 2007, I was the Masters state champion in the criterium, road race, and time trial. In 2008, I took third in the time trial at Masters Nationals in the 30-34 age group. The winner was later disqualified after he admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs.

Taking a corner in the 2011 Tour of America's Dairyland

In 2007, I was hired as the Marketing Manager for the Hayes Bicycle Group (now Hayes Components). I worked there until 2009 when the recession forced HBG to make a number of lay-offs. Working at HBG was a wonderful experience, and it gave me the opportunity to meet some awesome people from all corners of the cycling community, both in Wisconsin and all over the world. It also gave me the opportunity to serve as a member of the Milwaukee Bicycle Steering Committee – an advisory board convened by Dave Schlabowske back when he was the City of Milwaukee’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator. This gave me a glimpse of all of the work being done to make Wisconsin one of the most bike-friendly places in the country.

(Wind) resistance training

Competitive cycling began to take a more peripheral role in my life in 2004, when I married my wonderful wife, Kelley. Then it really took a back seat in 2010 when our son, Caleb, was born. I ride a lot less than I used to, and I would call very little of it “training”, but I’m enjoying it as much as I ever have, especially since it’s something that Kelley, Caleb, and I can do together. I did a few ToAD races this summer and finished safely but anonymously in them all. I’m certain that Caleb and I put more miles on his Burley trailer than I put on my race bike over the course of the summer. Sometime down the road I’ll probably return to racing, but for this season of my life, I’m more than content to ride non-competitively. I’ll probably make that the subject of a future blog post.

I’ve been fortunate to be able to bike to work at various stages of my career. While I was at HBG, I had a nice 16-mile route from my home in Wauwatosa up to Mequon via the Menomonee River Parkway and various city streets. Later, when I worked at an ad agency downtown, I would take the Hank Aaron trail from Tosa through Lakeshore State Park and to my office on Wisconsin and Jefferson. I currently work at TOTAL Mechanical, a mechanical contractor in Pewaukee. I’d love to be able to ride to work, but I’m responsible for taking Caleb to daycare in the morning and picking him up in the afternoon. If work, home, and daycare were all closer together, I’d gladly tow him around in the trailer. Unfortunately, that’s just not a workable option right now.

That’s enough about me. I’m thankful for this opportunity that the Bike Federation has given me to educate and encourage other cycling enthusiasts in Wisconsin. I’m working on a post titled “The cyclist’s guide to surviving winter in Wisconsin” that should pave the way for a lot of follow-up posts. If there’s anything in particular that you’d like me to write about, please make your suggestions in the comment form below or email them to me at denny dot yunk at gmail dot com.

7 thoughts on “Introducing guest blogger, Denny Yunk

  1. Denny – Welcome to the conversation.

    It may not be intentional, but in your post, you make casual, slow, non-competitive bicycle riding seem like a consolation prize compared to racing. I feel this is an unfortunate expression.

    Instead of being “more than content to ride non-competitively”, I would hope you find such bicycle experiences extremely fulfillng, despite the lack of adrenaline rush. Even mundane tasks like bicycling to the grocery store often create a sense of aliveness and connectedness.

    Please understand that I make these comments in a constructive way. Racing has done much to promote the use of bicycles, but this also has a downside. Your average person cannot picture themselves as a Lance Armstrong, and as a result they often cannot picture themselves on a bicycle. And we MUST reach the average person if we’re going to get our bicycle mode share to levels sufficient to get and retain the attention of civic leaders.

    So keep on racing as long as you find it fun. But I hope you learn to consider this activity secondary to “real bicycling” – the act of pedaling from A to B that is the realm of the majority of people that can be seen on a bicycle on a daily basis.

  2. Thanks for the comments, Bob and Mark.

    Bob – you’re picking up on some of my residual bias. Truth be told, there was a time when I felt 100% confident that I couldn’t enjoy cycling if I wasn’t doing it competitively. The only bikes I owned were race bikes, and the only way I wanted to ride was fast.

    My view started to change about seven or eight years ago, and it’s still evolving. Personal and professional responsibilities required me to cut back on my racing and training volume, so I began to look to bike commuting to get my “fix”. At that time, non-competitive riding was a sort of consolation prize for me. However, I discovered how enjoyable, fulfilling, and convenient it can be to use a bike for transportation and recreation. I also learned that I didn’t have to be in a particular heart rate zone to have fun. Without a doubt, my most enjoyable rides in recent years have been those that did not require an entry fee.

    I agree that the bike racer archetype can discourage “average people” from getting on bikes. It makes it difficult for non-cyclists to see a bike as anything but a toy or a piece of exercise equipment. That’s a shame, because cycling is so much more than a competitive sport, and there are so many people who would really enjoy and benefit from riding a bike.

    The Bike Fed’s mission is “to inspire, motivate and unite a strong community of civic, business and political leaders, motorists and bicyclists to move bicycling forward.” A key part of that mission is for cyclists of all kinds to be united. My future posts on this blog will probably connect more with the “enthusiast” segment of the cycling community, simply because that’s where I come from and what I’m most familiar with. Please understand, though, that my intent is to encourage all cyclists (and people who aren’t yet cyclists) to enjoy riding a bike. Some of my posts may inspire people to try a race for the first time, and others may inspire racers to commute or to enjoy other non-competitive types of riding. In all cases, I’ll be careful to write in a way that does not imply or encourage any sort of judgment or division among cyclists.


    • I’m happy to have you in the enthusiast category Denny. Our guest Racer X posts have the competitive cyclists covered. I will carry the lantern rouge and represent the old slow guys who ride their heavy upright bicycles to the tavern 😉

  3. I am SO excited that Denny is doing this blog…. BFW *really* nailed it in their pick for someone to inspire others! Many years ago, while working behind a desk in a dark & dank basement of an old campus building in Madison, I was inspired by Denny to get out there and ride. At the time – truth be told, I also weighed over 300 pounds. No one else on earth would have taken the time to inspire me… I mean come on – be real! A fat lady asking about riding? Yeah… right! Well… inspire me he did. My first 5 mile ride ended with stinging hands, a sore rump, jiggly legs — but a cyclist for life. Since then, I’m nearly 100# lighter, and have collected not just one – but two medals for time trials in the Badger State Games. This self-described wall-flower competes – albeit just once a year – to keep my fire going. But it’s done more than I can say for my self-esteem. Me. The fat chic in the basement. Got inspired. And got on a bike. She went on to bike the switchbacks in the Badlands – as a vacation. And then she inspired her Mom to get on a bike, who spent her 60th birthday riding her first century. Folks — Don’t ever think that someone can’t be inspired, and don’t underestimate the impact that can have on them, and the ripple effect it can have to reach others. THANKS DENNY.

    • Dannielle, Thanks for the vote of support for Denny. We are pleased as punch to have him contributing on the Bike Fed’s blog. Watch for another post from Denny in the next day or so!

    • Wow, Danielle. You made my day! I’m so glad that cycling has become such a fun and rewarding part of your life, and I’m glad that I was able to help you get started. I always enjoyed our bike talks, and I’m glad we’ve been able to stay in touch over the years. Keep riding, and keep inspiring others with your awesome story!

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