Ped­alling is a pas­sion for re­tired doc­tor with 22 bikes

Times Colonist - - Life - PAM KRAGEN

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.”

BILL WECHTER, TRI­BUNE NEWS SER­VICE

Dr. Daniel Marks shows off the col­lec­tion of bi­cy­cles at his Carls­bad, Cal­i­for­nia, home.

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