Pedalling is a passion for retired doctor with 22 bikes
Not long ago, Dr. Daniel Marks rented a garage at the retirement community where he has lived for the past two years with his wife, Judy.
The garage isn’t for his lime-green Fiat, which he parks on the street. It’s for his nearly two dozen bicycles, a collection he downsized from a high of 50 several years ago.
The retired general practitioner has been an avid cyclist for more than 40 years, so these bikes aren’t for show. At age 78, he still pedals more than 160 kilometres a week and he enjoys riding them all.
For each ride, Marks chooses a different bike, depending on whether he’s planning to climb hills, speed on a flat course or take a leisurely touring trip with weighted packs.
He keeps a calendar of which bike he rides when and for how far so that each one sets rubber to road every month or so. “For me, cycling down the road is like being in a low-flying airplane where everything’s speeding by,” he said. “There’s so much to see and it’s a great feeling to do something under your own power.”
Marks got his first bicycle at age seven in his native Detroit, where he said the cycling season is sharply limited by harsh weather, so riding days were all the more precious.
“I loved the freedom of just getting out and riding a great distance around the block to go buy candy,” he said.
He gave up biking to play baseball in high school and college. And in his 20s, he gave up sports entirely to focus on medical school, studying radiology and nuclear medicine. After college, he went to Vietnam, where he served as an army combat surgeon.
It wasn’t until after he and Judy married 56 years ago and the oldest of their three children was ready for his first bicycle that Marks rediscovered his love for cycling. He started out by buying himself a $25 US model from Kmart. A few years later, he graduated to a $99 bike.
When a colleague bet Marks he couldn’t lose 10 pounds in a month, he accepted the wager. Although he lost the bet, he felt like a winner because through active fitness riding that month, he dropped eight pounds and ignited a lifelong passion for fitness cycling.
While living in Detroit, he regularly logged 40-kilometre bike rides. Then, when the Markses moved to Fresno, California, in 1983, he began cycling year-round and taking longer rides.
It was in Fresno that he began collecting bikes in earnest. Some bikes he purchased for their different uses and materials. Some were souvenirs from trips. Some were collectibles.
In 1980, he bought a rare Masi bike built for the Russian Olympic cycling team. Another year he spent $100 on a 1938-era English three-speed bicycle. He loved looking for bargains and sometimes just bought bike frames and swapped out parts from older models.
Judy Marks said she has always supported her husband’s hobby because it was fun, affordable and it kept him in good shape and spirits.
“I feel anything anyone has a passion for is wonderful,” she said. “It’s emotionally healthy to love something as much as he does. We all need to find a passion in life.”
The Markses moved to the Aviara area of Carlsbad in 2006, bringing along much of the bike collection, which occupied two bays of their three-car garage. Eventually, he sold about half of the collection before they moving to the retirement home.
Inside his new garage, Marks has a workbench area with extra wheels, seats, pedals and tools. The bikes are suspended from ceiling and wall racks. He says picking a favourite is like choosing a favourite child: impossible.
There’s a red-and-black Time bike from France made from lugged carbon fibre. With its light weight and 30 gears, it’s ideal for climbing steep hills. Nearby is an aluminum Cinelli bike from Italy, which Marks said he likes riding on Twin Oaks Valley Road.
There’s a Montague bike that folds in half for travel; a titanium Airborne bike that’s ideal for all-around riding; and a neon-orange 24-pound Voodoo touring bike with fatter tires, which makes it good for carrying bags.
There’s also an 11-speed compositefibre Campagnolo Focus from Italy that weighs just 16 pounds. He likes to ride this one on Camp Pendleton because it’s light and very fast.
He also has a soft spot for a Lapierre bike he bought in France when he and Judy travelled there in 2003 to watch the Tour de France.
Although he can’t calculate how far he’s cycled over the years, he admits it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. In 1994, he was seriously injured when he missed a turn in the road and crashed into a ditch. He broke seven ribs and a finger, punctured a lung and injured his shoulder. Two months later, he was riding again.
“I worry about him all the time,” Judy said. “But I know there’s no stopping him. I know every cyclist has these sorts of accidents and I know it’s his passion.”
For safety, he always rides in bright-coloured clothing and a helmet, with a rear-view mirror and flashing front and rear lights on his bike. He has no plans to give up his hobby and he recommends the sport to everyone he meets.
“You don’t stop cycling because you’re old, you get old because you stop cycling.”
Dr. Daniel Marks shows off the collection of bicycles at his Carlsbad, California, home.