It’s my birthday and I’ll cry if I want to
December 25, 2012 § 141 Comments
Christmas Day is a melancholy day for me and I don’t have to apologize for it. It’s my birthday and I’ll cry if I want to.
It was melancholy for my grandfather Jim, who was stone drunk by ten every Christmas morning, and on the blind staggers by evening. His elder sister had died on Christmas when he was a young man, compounding what was a sad holiday anyway. Celebration of the birthday of an innocent man who was nailed to a cross? Day of mourning is more like it…
My brother was born on December 27th.
I spent my life chasing him, and for two days every year we were the same age. What a wonderful feeling, those two days of equality, until he would race by me again, reminding me with a thump on the head that he was still the boss. This year I’ll pass him forever. What I wouldn’t give to be the younger one again.
Death and remembrance
I swung by the PV Bicycle Center yesterday to pick up my ‘cross bike, which had been cleaned and overhauled after the bitter abuse of half a beginner’s race season. As I parked, Dave Lindstedt was pulling out. He rolled down his window. “Did you hear about Steve?”
Now you know and I know, that’s a question that’s never going to end well. I expected the worst, of course, which in my world means that another friend got mowed down by a motorist. I braced for the account of the accident, the extent of the injuries, and finally the location of the hospital.
If it was a bad accident, I’d likely be spending Christmas Eve at UCLA Harbor. If it was only terrible-bad, I’d be visiting him at Torrance Memorial. If he’d gotten pegged on one of his longer rides, it might even be UCLA in Westwood.
“No,” I said, opening my door because the electronic window was still broken and I’d just covered the controls with duct tape to keep from inadvertently hitting the button and causing the window to leap out of the frame.
Dave swallowed hard. “He’s gone.”
“Gone. Yesterday in Malibu, climbing with Marcella. His heart gave out.”
We looked at each other, me in shock, him in pity as the shock coursed across my face. There’s that moment when anything you say is small and inadequate and rent with cliche, when reflexive utterances fill the void.
“I can’t believe it,” I said.
Lost in sound
Steve Bowen owned the PV Bicycle Center. He, like most other bike shop owners, worked all the time. He knew his customers. He was honest. He was beyond fair. He was always willing to help. He cared about people. He was never too busy to listen to your story, no matter how stupid.
There was always one customer who seemed to live at the shop but who I never saw buy anything. He would stand at the counter and brag about his hard rides, about his toughness, about his great skills on the bike. He would ask a thousand questions about products, prices, components, and repair. He was a single-handed drain on Steve’s bottom line in terms of time alone, not to mention annoyance, making other customers wait, and the bad smell that he brought with him into the shop. He was the kind of guy who sucked you dry and then did his shopping online, where he saved five percent.
I never saw Steve show resignation, or boredom, or frustration at this boob. If it had been me, the second time he walked into my shop I’d have told him to buy something or get the hell out. That’s another reason I didn’t get into retail, I suppose.
Steve marched to a different beat, though, and it showed. Steve was originally a concert pianist, and he had the gentleness of an artist as well as the slightly detached third ear of a musician. He always listened intently, and always seemed to be hearing more than you said.
I think that’s what gave him his profound empathy; it was his ability to hear the rhythm and the undertones and the overtones of the subtext that overlay whatever it was you were saying. His gentleness showed itself in his demeanor towards people and even more so towards animals.
His shop dog, Peanut, was proof of Steve’s kindness and easy spirit. The dog was weaned on love and raised on affection, which breeds satisfaction and kindness in animals and people alike.
Firing up the base
Steve did more than sell bikes. He sold people on the importance and enjoyment of biking. His shop sponsored all manner of rides, everything from beginner rides to seminars with local pros. He helped local authors promote their books: Patrick Brady’s bike book sat at the front of the cash register. He sponsored local racing teams. He worked hard to get women into cycling by creating an environment that was safe and fun and not permeated with with the chest-thumping advice sausages who so often intimidate women and ruin their excitement at discovering cycling.
The PV Bike Chicks, a local club that is the largest women’s riding group in the South Bay, was formed in large part due to Steve’s unwavering support. At public hearings like the one in Rolling Hills Estates, when the horse people tried to shout down an extraordinary infrastructure plan that would accommodate more cyclists and make bicycling safer in one of LA’s best riding areas, Steve was always there and always willing to speak.
His demeanor was factual, friendly, reasonable. Shrill, squawking, madman-with-a-kazoo type speeches a la Wankmeister were not his thing. He spoke, he talked business, he talked safety, he talked health, and people listened.
Everyone had a feel-good story about Steve
A couple of years ago, when Michael Marckx was trying to help Blue Bicycles get a foothold in the Southern California market, Steve made the extra effort to carry their bikes. He believed in helping.
When his shop manager, Sean, interviewed for the job he came back home to his girlfriend and said, “I gotta get that job.”
“Why?” she asked.
“Because this guy really cares about people. It’s not just push, push, push and grind the bottom line. You can tell he cares.”
I have my own litany of stories about Steve. Most of them involve last minute needs, after-hours wants, inconvenient demands made at inconvenient times for inconvenient products and inconvenient services. Steve was always there for me, and treated my patronage like it mattered.
Most importantly, he was a cyclist’s cyclist and he maintained a dual-repair track. There was one track for bikes that needed fixing. They got put into the queue. There was another track for cyclists who needed their bike so they could ride it.
Those gonna-get-ridden bikes always, always, always went to the head of the line. Steve knew the difference between someone with three bikes who was looking for a particular upgrade and a racer with one bike and a busted wheel who was racing or doing a big ride the next day. He loved bikes, but he loved people who rode them more.
A bad omen
For several years Steve ran his bike shop in a small, hard to find, harder to reach location adjacent to the vet and across the way from a grocery store, tucked into one of the least desirable spaces on the Hill. He busted his butt. He built a loyal customer base. He toiled the long hours.
Then, three years ago he teamed up with Specialized to make a full-service, modern, beautiful bike shop that combined the best of an integrated Specialized operation with the integrity and friendliness of an LBS. If anything, he worked harder, but never lost the smile.
Earlier this year, while doing one of his 100-mile+ mountain rides, Steve keeled over and was briefly hospitalized. The doctors gave him a clean bill of health, but it was clearly worrisome to him as they’d been unable to pinpoint the cause. He kept riding and working and working and riding until this past Sunday.
He’d ventured out to the Santa Monica Mountains in Malibu with Marcella Piersol. She was ahead of him on the climb when a motorist flagged her down.
“Your friend back there has fallen.”
She whipped around and sped back to him. A passing driver had stopped; as chance would have it he was a doctor who immediately tried to revive Steve, with no success. Despite her career as a cop with the LAPD, the shock to Marcella was indescribable. Steve was one of her best riding buddies, and a good friend besides.
She tried telling herself that he died doing what he loved, but that never takes away from the loss, it only makes us vaguely thankful. Vaguely. “It could have been worse” never lessened anyone’s pain.
The sound of music
Steve was a cyclist’s musician. He listened to the details. He cared about harmony. He was passionate about the larger, orchestrated movement.
He played a song for us, a song that was all too brief, and a song that was more complex than it seemed at first listen. Part of the coda, though, is this, and it’s something that Steve would have agreed with unreservedly: Life is fragile. Life is brief. Enjoy it now, while the band still plays.
RIP, Steve Bowen. My life is better because of knowing you. I’ll add you to my Christmas melancholy, but even so the thought of your goodness and your friendship will make me smile anyway.
Love your blog. Good times and bad bad. Sorry for your loss.
Thanks, John. Steve was a great guy. In the era of Apple and Google, when everything is seemingly run by an evil empire, sole proprietors like him show the wisdom and decency of small businesses.
Thanks for the moving tribute and memorial to Steve Bowen. I truly feel that by reading this piece, I’ve gotten to know what a remarkable, good, decent, caring person he was. May his memory live on to inspire!
Thanks, Rick. Many people who never met him have gotten a sense for what a good guy he was by reading through these comments.
Sent from my HTC Inspire™ 4G on AT&T
What a heart-rending story, Seth. What a tribute to Steve, too. Some of us know a few other LBS owners who do what Steve did, and I’m going to forward this link to them. Thanks.
Thanks, Bill. He was a wonderful guy.
I’ve been reading for a long time, but never commented. This seemed worth speaking up about. Your tribute to Steve is beautiful – I didn’t know him, but I’m in tears and really wish I had. This all sounds so cliche, but I’m really sorry to hear about what happened. He sounds like he was a really cool person to know.
Thanks for reading, thanks for your kind comment, and I understand about feeling like words don’t do justice to the feeling you have inside. Sometimes, though, those words really are enough because that’s all we have. He was a really good person.
What a sad but beautiful story. Please promise to celebrate his life next year and every year.
A huge loss. Thank you Steve for everything you gave me and the cycling community. RIP.
Couldn’t agree more.
A beautiful remembrance and memorial to Steve.
Certainly a terrible tragedy for his family.
They are in my prayers.
I just lost my husband. I understand their grief and disbelief.
So sorry for your loss, Kathryn. Patrick had many good things to say about him.
It’s a time of year when we’re not supposed to have tragedy or feel sadness, but you know, the sadness and the tragedy sometimes don’t get the memo.
Best to you and yours.
Thank you, Seth.
Thank you for the words, Seth. Steve sold me my current bike after watching and waiting (ever so patiently) while I tried to convince myself a needed a new one. Every time I went to the store (often for PV Bike Chicks activities he sponsored), I’d visit “my” bike until one day it wasn’t there anymore. He just gave me that shy smile of his and said “You waited too long.” He then proceeded to sell me even MORE bike than I really needed, along with upgraded pedals and upgraded shoes – all too much for mere hobbyist. But he did it ever so graciously, by somehow convincing me I was worth it. It’s still too much bike for me, and I’m ever so grateful he convinced me to get it because I do love it so. I will miss Steve very much. For such a quiet guy, he really made an impression.
Yes, he sold me my first every carbon bike. And then my second! And he patiently worked on me for over three years to get me off of my old riveted San Marco saddle. I was almost ready to do it, too!
The bike he sold you was obviously the right one, as your comments indicate.
We’re all going to miss him; thanks for sharing.
thank you Seth, well spoken as always!!! Steve rides on forever!!!!!
Yep. And we, with him!
What can I say? It’s just hard to understand.
A lovely tribute to a lovely man ~ beautifully written,
Seth. Thank you
Hey Seth, Thanks for introducing me to a man I never met,
but wish I had. It’s as eloquent an obit as one could hope for.
It’s clear his legacy will live on in every cyclist he
You’re welcome. He had many friends, was respected for his decency and integrity by all.
I read and re-read your intro and still I had to pause. I
identify with your relation to this time of year for similar
reasons, but it was the reference to the passing of Steve that
caused me to cry out in disbelief. The empathy and concern of this
man knew no boundaries. He truly understood the eminent value of
patience. I am fortunate to have met him and experienced his
wisdom. There is a void in the South Bay community with his
Well said. Couldn’t agree more.
You nailed the essence of Steve. He sold me my first carbon
fiber bike and when it was making these annoying squeaks he worked
and worked on that bike to find the source, never charging me a
dime. A few years ago he set up a group to train for our first
century; we never would have done a century without him and his
Nice reminder of Steve’s permanent warranty plan. If you bought a bike from him he would go over and above to make it right, no matter how long you had it or ride it.
Thank you. A very deeply moving and strong tribute to
Steve. All so true. Upon hearing the upsetting news on Monday, I
immediately met Kath, another P.V. Bike Chick at the P.V. Bicycle
Center to share my grief with the great crew. While leaving the
shop, I noticed you pulling into the parking lot and yes, you
indeed had to open your car door in order to chat with Dave. Steve
was one-of-a-kind and unforgettable.
Thanks, Nancy. One day I’m going to fix that window. That will be around the time I stop being so cheap…which is never!
Glad you met with others at the shop. It’s amazing how many people he touched. Thanks so much for commenting. If everyone who had benefited from Steve’s kindness posted a comment here, there would be thousands.
best damn eulogy possible, tough many years too soon
Didn’t know the man, I appreciate the introduction and sincere eulogy. Some consolation to be found in knowing that he died a natural death on the road, with his boots on. Sad experience causes me to feel that it must be preferable to dying slowly in Torrance Memorial during the Holidays. Hope it will be a Happy New Year for you and yours.
You know, I agree. It doesn’t take away the sting, but most of us would prefer going out that way to the tubes and needles and machinery of institutionalized death. I like the way you said it, “with his boots on.” Truly.
Beautiful tribute Seth. Even though I did not know Steve, it clear the world lost a very special man. There are not enough people like him.
Thanks, Peter. You would have really liked him.
So sorry for your loss. I got lucky, and they found a 99% blocked artery in my heart this summer.
Great news for you–to have caught it before it caught you. Much good riding in 2013! One of my riding pals also benefited from early diagnosis and is riding as strong as ever, if not stronger.
Steve fixed my bike, my kids bikes, and my wife’s bike for years. When he took over the shop in the old location it was clearly apparent that he was going to be successful. Finally a shop on the hill to stay. He will be missed by many including me. Thanks for your kind words Seth.
Thanks for the note, Chris. It was such a big deal to finally get a good shop up here. Steve really made it work.
Thank for an incredibly well written tribute to an amazingly deserving man. You managed to portray him perfectly for those who knew him and created a beautiful posthumous introduction to those who did not. Reading your piece and closing your eyes we can all see Steve standing behind the counter with Peanut at his side.
Thanks, Ted. Nice image. Peanut is being well cared for, you’ll be glad to know.
Seven years ago I was told to stop running and take up cycling. I really didn’t want to. I had some issues, let’s say perceptions, of what cycling and cyclists were all about.
Fortunately, as you so eloquently describe, we have a great shop in the area so I decided to check it out. Maybe I’d discover cycling was ok.
That’s when I met Steve. I was such a newbie and he was incredibly patient. I needed to “get” how the equipment works. Steve took the time to explain frames, wheels, drive-trains, etc. He had me ride aluminum and carbon bikes at various price points. It was the most fun I’ve ever had buying anything.
Not too log ago I was on a group ride that Steve was also on. We pace-lined north from PV and I thought it was pretty cool that I was riding with the guy who sold me the bike I was on, of course the cheapest one that I test rode. We were in helmets and glasses and he didn’t recognize me. Later that week I dropped into his store to buy a tube or something and I told him I was the guy on the old aluminum bike that day. He got the biggest smile across his face. I could tell he was genuinely pleased that I was out riding in a group 7 years later.
I now love this hobby and thank Steve for helping me get started. I’m better for knowing him. RIP Steve.
Wow, what a fantastic tribute. That’s Steve to a “T.” He did more than put people on bikes. As you describe, he got people into bikes.
Happy Birthday, by the way.
I was stunned to learn of Steve’s passing when I opened my e-mail a few minutes ago.
I first met Steve in the old shop when I dropped in to buy some tubes. We started talking and I found out that he lived in the Washington DC area in the 70’s, at the same time I did. After asking what he did, I learned he had a band that used to play in the area, often at local schools. It turned out Steve played at my school a number of times including my senior prom. What a small world.
Steve never forgot that conversation and we often chatted about the east coast when I dropped in for a bike fitting or parts.
He did a masterful job helping me through foot pain with his shoe adjustments and recommendations. I just purchased a new pair of road shoes a few weeks ago and we talked about some of the steep local PV hills he loved to climb. As many have said, he always had time to talk and make you feel at home in his shop.
What a nice, kind,generous and thoughtful man. Steve will be greatly missed and both the cycling and PV community has lost a special person. May you rest in peace my friend. I will think of you often.
Kevin, thanks for sharing this.
[…] I never had the privilege of meeting the man; Seth Davidson of Cycling in the South Bay did, and writes far more beautifully than I ever could about the loss of his […]
Steve Bowen was a good friend, BCCClub sponsor, fellow cyclists and he will be missed by everyone that had the pleasure of calling Steve a friend!
Yes, Jim, couldn’t agree more. And losing his advocacy will be felt by those who didn’t even know him.
From the other side of things.
I only worked for Steve for a short time, just over a year.
Steve was not only a super nice guy to customers, but he was a super nice guy to the people who work so hard to help the shop succeed.
He was always fair and always supportive of our needs no matter what they were. He was the only employer that I’ve worked for that really recognized what hard work was, and made our lives easier(in one way or another) if we put in. He more than respected the needs of my family.
Coming from a place were respect is never given(Motorcycle industry) and going to place were respect was given just for being me, was hard for me to handle at first. Sadly not only did I lose a friend but I lost the best employer I have ever worked for.
Dear Steve, May your roads be smooth and dry and travels easy as pie.
Damn, Josh, thank you. He really did respect people for who they were.
What a great, well written tribute. Such sad news. I met Steve many years ago, and though while I wasn’t ‘friends’ with him, he was the type of guy everyone remembers for being such a great guy. He was on a Solvang Century ride years ago when I started doing that ride; and he was so nice and easy going and while I don’t live in the South Bay, I remember when he opened his first shop and thought “good for him”. Coincidently, my husband also remembers him from cycling; before I met him; and has also the nicest things to say about him. We both feel in a state of shock… Yes, he was doing something he loved doing, which is some small comfort. This is such a huge loss for so many people. My condolences to his family and friends.
Thanks for the warm words and kind remembrance!
I appreciated reading your blog and tribute. Thank you very much for sharing your thought and rememberences. I didn’t know Steve well – my primary experience being the bike fitting I treated myself to earlier this year. I did notice his bike knowledge and friendliess towards customers. I was last at the shop for the anniversary sale and Specialized demo rides. I did see Steve talking with some customers, but didn’t say hi. A real shame. RIP.
Thanks, Mike. You’re right about his friendliness, and it was towards everyone. He always went the extra mile.
Steve was a great guy. He did my pro fit and also my brothers. He was always kind and patient. Someone I could trust while in LA on business. I will miss him and so will the community.
“Trust” is exactly right. Thanks for the comment.
I never met Steve, but followed the web site at the advice of a friend. I wish I had met him though, as I am sure I would have benefited from the experience.
I have written several eulogies, but none as eloquent and wonderful as this. If you are his friend, then he must have been surrounded by many wonderful people
May his vision live on in the love and caring of his community of friends. I hope somebody will take his ball and carry it forward.
Thanks for the kind words, especially about his vision. He really had one, and worked so hard to make it real.
Thanks Seth. That is beautifully written. I echo your feelings about Steve and will miss him a lot.
Thanks, John. He thought the world of you! We would talk before the PV TT and he’d always say the same thing–remarking on what a good rider you are and wondering if anyone would be able to beat you. We always ended up agreeing that no one would!
See you on the road soon, buddy.
A piece of the heart of the Palos Verdes community has been torn away. Steve was an example to all of us. He will be missed.
Yes, truly a piece of the community. Nicely said, couldn’t agree more.
A beautiful tribute to a unique and wonderful man. Thank you for it, and many thanks to Steve and his great team at the shop.
Thanks, Ed. Steve’s staff reflected his values, didn’t they?
I’m one to attest that Steve made sure I made it to the race or the trail in time. His willingness to serve should be a testimony to the rest of us.
I read above all of the reasons that over the last 10 years, I always drove many miles, past other bike shops, for my bicycle purchase, servicing and especially, fitting.
I feel so sad. I know that life is often ‘not fair. But you know – “Life is not Fair!!”
I will always remember you Steve. Rest well.
It’s not fair, but having touched so many people sure gave his life meaning. Thanks for the note.
Thank you for this eloquent tribute to Steve. I am just finding out of his passing via an Email from the shop. I can’t believe it. I had the pleasure of getting to know him during a long fitting session a few years back. He revealed his path from composer to cyclist to cycle shop owner. I knew from that conversation that he was compassionate about cycling, and with it his caring way for all who frequented his shop. Wish I could have
rode with him, taking up his invites to do so. He will be missed.
Thanks, Jeff. He was so into fitting, and spent so much time trying to get it exactly right. We’ll miss that, too.
Thank you for sharing such a beautiful tribute to a humble, patient and great guy. My most memorable moments with Steve were when I purchased my triathalon bike in 2005, and gasped when he told me how much it was going to cost. This was nothing close to the $100 I spent for my bike in high school! I am still in schock that this caring, hard-working business owner is gone. I was trying to tell him that he is the best-kept secret on the hill, and no one in their right mind would purchase bicycles or any cycling equipment if it wasn’t from PV Bikes…that was on 12/12/12 for the PV Bike Chick’s Christmas gathering at his shop. I miss him dearly and will keep his kindness in my heart and in my prayers.
So glad you got to talk with him on the 12th. I was going to go to that, as I’d gotten the email invite, and when I RSVP’d he said, “So, you’re coming in drag?”
That’s when I realized it was girls-only. Wish I’d put on a skirt and gone anyway.
Thanks for posting.
Beautiful tribute. Recovering from my tumble on the switchbacks last spring Steve visited me in the hospital…with a gift…a new helmet. He knew cyclists all too well!
Hospital visits with gifts…that’s Steve through and through. Thanks for posting, buddy, and glad you’re back on the bike. Thanks as well for sharing, even though it was hard for you to be the bearer of such news.
Thank you, Seth (and thank you for saying that Peanut is being well looked after; I’ve been so worried!). I’ve been bottling up my emotions since I heard the news on Monday, and finally, reading your beautiful words, I broke down and let it all out and am still having a good cry, typing this with tears streaming down my face.
I met Steve more than 30 years ago, when he worked at Universal Music, long before his bike shop-owning days, on an L.A. Wheelmen ride. We bonded immediately and did many century rides together (Solvang, the Cool Breeze, Lighthouse, Wildflower, to name just a few), and in 2000 we both did the AIDSRide from San Francisco to L.A., and held a joint fundraising event at his house. I provided the pizzas and Steve provided the entertainment – – playing piano to accompany the vocalist who sang a medley of show-tunes for which Steve had done all the arrangements. In addition to being a strong endurance cyclist, Steve was a very accomplished pianist and musical arranger – – a true Renaissance man.
The last time I rode with Steve was total happenstance. I was doing the metric route of a ride in north San Diego County and he, of course, the full century, and we crossed paths right where the routes merged for the final 20 miles. It was a very hot day, and the metric route was much hillier than I’d anticipated. I had bonked badly, and when I saw Steve, completely unexpectedly, his mere presence gave me a burst of energy, but he knew with one look at me that something was wrong. I told him to go on ahead, because I didn’t want to slow him down, and that I’d look for him at the end of the ride. He wouldn’t hear of it. He was concerned about me, and he soft-pedaled the entire last 20 miles to keep me company and make sure I was o.k. Five minutes after meeting up with him, I had a flat. He fixed it while I rested, snacked, and regained my strength. We rode side-by-side and talked the whole way back, and I was so grateful for his company. And now I’ll never be able to ride with him again. We can hope that he didn’t suffer, and take a tiny bit of comfort in the cliche that it happened while he was doing what he loved, but I’m ANGRY. Angry that I – – that none of us – – had the opportunity to say goodbye and tell Steve how much he meant to us and how he made our lives a little better; angry that he died much too young; angry that his doctors didn’t discover his heart problem (unlike a lot of men, Steve didn’t ignore things – – he had a FULL cardiac and neuro work-up after an earlier incident) and that if they had, he might still be here. But his passing has really made me – – and I’m sure all of us – – more aware than ever that we mustn’t take life or our loved ones for granted, that we must make the effort to stay in touch with our friends and family, and that we should make the most of every day and never fail to take every opportunity to tell our friends and family members how much they mean to us and how much we love them, so we won’t ever have to regret that we didn’t do so while they were still alive to hear it.
RIP and goodbye my dear friend. I hope that you had some inkling of how much you were loved and respected and the difference that you made in the lives of so many people. The SoCal cycling community has lost a gentle giant.
This is so beautiful and moving and written with the love of friendship…thanks so much for sharing it, Susan. These are the kinds of stories and details that the rest of us don’t know, and we can all reflect on his life and on our own thanks to you taking the time to share them.
What’s so awesome about what you’ve written, and what others have written, is that these stories ring with such truth. They describe Steve as he really was–not one way to some people, and a different way to others, but a compassionate, caring, wonderful guy.
I never got to hear him play, but Kim White was telling me about how a few nights ago he got together with his staff and played some Rachmaninoff, and how people were blown away. Two weeks ago a friend sent me a Rachmaninoff CD for my birthday; I’ve never really listened to his work, but for the last two weeks it’s all I’ve been listening to when I drive. What beautiful, powerful music–so happy to know that Steve not only like it, but played, and shared it.
He was a giant, indeed, roadside rescues and all. Thanks again.
I just heard this news, and it’s as if an anvil has been sewn into my heart. The care you have taken with your words is much like the care Steve gave to me, and as you mentioned, to every one of his customers.
And a customer wasn’t someone who bought something, it was anyone who walked through his door.
I’ll miss his enthusiasm, his knowledge, but most of all, his integrity.
Thank you for taking the time to honor him here.
Craig, he thought you were the best, and practically spoke in hushed tones about you! What you just said is best of all: A customer was anyone who walked through his door.
Such true words, and something that so perfectly reflects the kind of person he was.
Thanks for the note…I’ve been blown away by the number of comments and the outpouring of love, sadness, regret, and thankfulness for having known him.
I can’t believe he’s gone! He just sold and fitted me a bike last Friday and was his usual self. I may have the last bike he ever sold and will treasure it forever. I wish I could tell him it works great but of course he knows that….
If he sold it, it does! Thanks for the note.
Beautifully written. You truly captured Steve, and his wonderful nature. As a regular customer of The PV Bike shop I came to know and appreciate Steve, and will miss him very much.
Thanks, Gary. This stream of tributes and comments and anecdotes says it all–what a loved, admired, respected guy. And what a loss.
Sue Gans (‘goose’in deutsch)
Do you remember after the 2004 Solvang Century at dinner with Steve at the Hitching Post? Great times great folks. It was my second official century and my brother-in-law and I met Steve right after the ride for a beer at a local Mexican restaurant. He invited us to join you at the Hitching Post for dimmer. When we arrived, the hostess siad that only 8 were expected and we extra two were out of luck. Ha! I fixedthat and we had a wonderful time with veteran riders.
Anybody remember Fabio Calle?
Yes, Bob, I do remember – – and every year since I would beg Steve to do the Solvang Century (and join the gang for our traditional post-ride dinner at the Hitching Post), but he was usually too busy at the shop to take off the weekend. I also want to thank Seth, who I don’t know but hope to meet someday (perhaps on the memorial ride for Steve that I understand PVBC is planning), for providing this place for people to share their grieving and their fond memories – – and for taking the time to reply to everyone. It has helped me a lot to have this outlet. After hitting the “send” key on my too-long e-mail, I had a further thought I’d like share with folks. In Steve’s honor and memory, I am going to strive to be more patient with, and kinder to, others. I think it’s the best thing we can all do to honor Steve – – to emulate those qualities for which we all loved and admired him. I wish everyone a good new year.
Funny, your earlier note made me think of the same thing. “What can I do to be more like Steve?”
The best memorial of all is to pass on to others what he has passed on to us.
Steve was a great guy and a real supporter of cycling in the South Bay. I remember the first time I met him was when he was in the process of buying the bike shop then located on Deep Valley. We talked abit and he had great plans to bring Pro level bikes to his shop. I remember saying to myself hope this guy succeeds because this is really what we need in the area.
Before he moved to his new location i purchased my Roubaix at his clearance sale and even though the bike was heavily discounted Steve took the time to make sure the bike fit me just right, putting me on his bike fit system twice making sure all was good and that I was happy, not worrying about the time spent making the adjustments without charging me a dime.
As time passed I got involved in a charity ride for Habitat for Humanity. We approached Steve for his support and ideas. He gave so freely of his time and the use of his shop for preregistration and a rest stop. He blasted emailed his entire database numerous times promoting the ride and never hesitated when asked to give a prize for our drawing. He also pitched in snacks for our rest stop and store logo items for our goodie bag. He was such a giver.
The last time I saw Steve was right before the holidays when I approached him for his sponsorship for this years Habitat for Humanity ride. He of course said yes.
Steve you will be missed all who knew you and thank you for being the person who was never too busy to help.
May God be with you now forever.
Another great testimonial to the ways Steve made a difference, great and small. Thanks for sharing.
What a beautiful tribute. Steve was always so friendly and helpful when I visited the store. I always seemed to run into him on the Grand Prix and Grand Prix Lite. From all the wonderful replies it is clear that he was loved and respected by so many. I wish that I had gotten to know him better.
Thanks, Ray. We’re all wishing we’d taken a little more time, slowed down just a bit.
This was a beautiful tribute to a truly deserving man. Thanks Seth for sharing it with us. Here’s my little story about Steve.
Nearly three years ago, I moved to Redondo Beach from Chicago where I had been an occasional cyclist, the kind who gets out a couple of Saturdays a month to ride between 25 and 50 miles with an informal group of like-minded, recreational riders. Our rag-tag group would also do one organized ride, the North Shore Century each year. To give you an idea of my riding skills, the group referred to me as “Bonker Burns.”
Upon moving to Redondo Beach, it became glaringly obvious that I was now living in cycling heaven: year-round perfect weather, magnificent views, nicely paved roads, many having designated bike lanes and, of course: the hills.
I recall my first California bike ride. I had no idea where to go, but, like the kid I was at 8 years old, when I moved to a new neighborhood, I hopped on my bike and decided to get lost. I found myself at the crazy flagpole intersection leading to Malaga Cove. It appeared to me the easiest route was to head east, up Palos Verdes Drive North. As many of you may know, this is a 1.5 mile. gentle stretch of road with an average grade of 2.9%. But for me, a mid-western flatlander, this was the climb of my life. Upon reaching the crest at Via Valmonte, I unclipped, collapsed over my handlebars and prayed my lungs could survive the fervent demands my body was putting on them. Another cyclist happened to ride up to me to see if I was OK. After looking me over, and sizing up my equipment, he recommended that if I planned on riding the “real” hills, I should consider changing over to a compact double. I had no idea what that meant, but he also suggested I get myself up to the PV Bicycle Center, talk to the owner, a guy named Steve and that he would take care of me.
And “take care of me” hardly begins to describe how important Steve became to me over the next 2 years. There was something mesmerizing about Steve, his shop and his incessantly cheerful staff that would keep my looking for excuses to take a ride up the hill and stop in for a visit. I’d need a new tail light – so I’d hop on the bike, ride up the hill and spend about an hour in the shop talking with Steve and gang before picking out a new light and heading out for another 20 miles. Sure, there are 5 other bike shops that are blocks from my house, but Steve Bowen didn’t work at these shops.
After about a year of cycling daily, and having a few organized California century rides under my jersey, I finally felt fit enough to ask Steve if he wanted to ride with me. We did a few rides locally and since he had completed many double centuries over the years and talked about them, we decided I would attempt my first double with him in October 2011 in Solvang.
Over the past 14 months, Steve and I spent a lot of time driving in his truck from ride to ride. He would usually pick me up at my house (since I don’t own a car), and always be between 10 and 20 minutes late (Bowen time). It was usually still dark outside and we would quietly load up the truck like thieves in the night. I putting my gear in the back seat while he would load the bike onto the flat-bed and secure it. For our multi-day trips, he would often bring along his fancy coffee machine which would take up too much space in the back of his crammed truck. He really took his coffee seriously.
He used his Garmin GPS device to get us to every destination and never seemed to tire of the ridiculous way it would pronounce the word “boulevard”. Every time the navigator would speak out, something like “in 500 feet, take a left on Hawthorne Boulvargh” he would crack up laughing. We even spent time playing with all the various voices on the device hoping to find one that would properly pronounce “boulevard” but none of them could do it.
Some of our car rides would take hours and he would regale me with stories about his days in musical theater, his childhood, his “love-life” and his early days after moving to Los Angeles. But most of our talk would always come back to cycling. It was something that we both fell in love with later in life. Not many people actually take a passion and turn it into their livelihood. That’s another reason I respected Steve so much. He really did follow his passion.
Steve and I made natural riding partners. We were not fast, but we would always finish the ride. We rode 7 centuries and three double centuries together. All in all we logged 1,994 miles together in just over a year. His sense of humor was subtle. After I remarked that the only reason I rode with him was so I could have my own personal bike mechanic with me, he stopped helping me change my flat tires and would just stand back patiently and smile as I struggled alone.
In late October, we rode the Death Valley Double Century together. This was a redemption ride for Steve since Death Valley had been the one ride that he could just not finish in the past. I’m so glad I was there to share his triumph this year as we rolled across the finish line with more than an hour to spare. Though he was quiet, I could see the smile on his face as we enjoyed cold pizza while watching the remaining riders roll into the Furnace Creek Ranch. He was really proud of the fact that we beat the Adobo Velo gang to the finish.
As so many other people have mentioned, Steve was generous, honest and caring. I was an honored recipient of all of this and glad to have had my brief time with him. So while I’m selfishly going to miss his company as I continue to ride into the future, I’m certain that his spirit will always be riding along side me, encouraging me to go on, keep my rhythm constant, my butt in the saddle and relax my shoulders.
RIP Steve. You touched so many lives in wonderful ways.
What a moving remembrance! I can see it so vividly. Thanks SO MUCH for sharing this. Many have told about the coffee maker! Classic Steve!
I’m just a random reader from almost halfway around the world. This piece you wrote made me wish I knew the guy. Truly sorry for your loss. He’s remembered well.
Thanks, Miguel! We’re all pretty random, so you will fit right in!
I am so sad to learn if this, I met and rode with Steve many years ago on some awesome centuries. He was truly such a kind and softhearted person. It is a sad day.
Thanks, Stacey. As these comments show, his passing has affected a lot of people. He was a gifted and kind guy.
For the friends and colleagues of Mr. Steve Bowen, I offer my condolences. During my work year in Los Angeles, I looked around for a new road bike and eventually purchased from PV Bicycle Center. The best part of the buying experience was Steve’s willingness to let me take the bike on a proper test ride. No short ride around the parking lot, rather he mapped out a nice route with some descents and climbs so I could get a feel for the bike. Great service and shop.
May his passion for cycling and promotion of cycling continue through the shop and his companions.
Thanks, Anne. So true. The test ride that got me from steel onto carbon was a three-hour ride including tons of PV climbs, San Pedro, and more.
He knew if you got a chance to put the bike through its paces, you’d be more likely to buy, and happier with your purchase.
And it showed he trusted you.
You may not remember me, but we talked after my door incident while riding with Esteban. I wasn’t very nice to you (nor professional). Hope you can forgive me.
Your words about Seth were perfect! Steve became my friend. He established a “bike shop culture” that included – solve every riding problem with the customer, help the spouse pick out the right gift, get the customer back on the road quickly …. and man – did he ever listen to every complaint. He personally helped me extend the rear cog ratios on my BIL’s road bike the day before…. even though my BIL bought a bike at another shop against my advice.
I already miss Steve. Maybe we should find a way to honor him forever. An annual memorial ride?
Dennis, thanks so much for the comment. I don’t remember the encounter but if you were a jackass I’m certain that it was a two-way street! You’re spot on about Steve and the care he took with each person. He was that way on the bike and off. A memorial ride is in the works, tentatively slated for Saturday, Jan. 5, leaving the Riviera Village at 8:00 AM in lieu of Donut Ride. Roll along the Donut course and up to the Switchbacks.
Please get the word out on the Steve Bowen Memorial Ride on Jan 5! Please have the bike shop post it via email. I am sure the whole bike community would like to do it!
Memorial ride for Steve Bowen, recently deceased owner of Palos Verdes Bicycle Center and friend to countless cyclists in the South Bay, will be held on Saturday, January 5, 2013, leaving the Riviera Village in Redondo Beach promptly at 8:00 AM in lieu of the normal Donut Ride. The memorial ride will take the usual Donut course at a conversational pace and terminate atop the Switchbacks. Please share this as a status on your Facebook page.
I met Steve at one of the World Track events at the LA Velodrome several years ago. He was advertising his shop and his bike fitting services. We talked for a long time, mainly about things other than cycling. I remember him being very thoughtful and considered. I ended up going in for the fitting shortly after. Although it was more about the process, what a difference that made! Those were the only times I interacted with him, but he left a lasting impression. What a loss. One of the good guys.
“One of the good guys.” Indeed he was. Thanks, Matt.
I was at the PV bike center at least once a week and Steve was always kind and patient with me. He helped me buy my bike and always asked how I was doing and how my races went. My kids loved coming to the Bike Shop to visit the dogs and check out the pink bikes Steve had on stock. I will miss Steve’s kindness and patience. We will miss you Steve!
I had the pleasure to ride with Steve on a number of occasions. Mostly ran into him on LA Wheelmen rides. I often have trouble remembering people, especially when I have only met them wearing a bike helmet. Steve on the other hand never had trouble remembering me or that we had ridden together in the past and where. We recently rode together on an LA Wheelmen ride that we were the only two to show up for. It was supposed to have about 2,200 feet of climbing across 60 miles (Steve had ridden about 30 miles to get to the start). We hit 2,200 feet less than half way through the ride. I assumed the rest would be pretty flat. Yet the course kept climbing. We had close to 5,000 feet in before we were done. I spent the second half of the ride commenting on each new climb and how I hoped it was the last. Steve just smiled and waited for me at the top of each climb. When we got to the end, I offered to give him a ride back to Long Beach as we had discussed along the route, instead he just smiled again and rode the 30 miles home. As many others have said, I will miss Steve, but will always remember what a pleasure it was to ride with him.
Wow…nice story! Thank you for sharing.
I arrived in PV 2 years ago as a runner (whose running days were numbered), on a 15-year-old Trek 5000 (whose days were definitely numbered) for cross training. I discovered the PV Bike Chicks, and after holding up a ride with bike failures, they introduced me to Steve and the PV Bike Center. Because of all the support that came with the new bike, all the encouragement and advice that I could trust without question, the endless and cheerful and patient support thru all my questions and issues, I morphed into a cyclist with a passion for hills. Steve and I commiserated about Via la Cuesta and Crownview; I sent him to Browndeer. We talked about rides we did, we talked about animals – and like others who have commented, I’d find a way to have to go by the shop just to talk about something I was trying or wanted to try. I think I’ll feel lost without Steve. He was just such a special and kind and patient and caring man, and his way with customers showed in the entire staff. I also hope that someone with his vision and his passion for getting everyone to love cycling will continue what Steve had to leave far too soon.
Thanks, Wendy. He was renowned for helping, for listening, and not just for pushing off whatever he thought he could sell. Thanks for sharing.
The memorial ride will be held on Saturday, January 5, 2013, leaving the Riviera Village in Redondo Beach promptly at 8:00 AM in lieu of the normal Donut Ride. The memorial ride will take the usual Donut course at a conversational pace and terminate atop the Switchbacks.
The last time we were with Steve he played the piano. His left hand would strike a chord then would rise in the air while his right hand descended. Both hands rising and falling but opposite in time, moving about the keyboard of his 100 year old German piano. He played Rachmaninoff.
This is the same guy who patiently spent twenty minutes putting a PV Bicycle Center sticker on my bike.
I went to the bike shop today to introduce my three grandkids. There was nothing but a note on the door. “ We are sorry, but…”
Fortunately my wife recorded the Rachmaninoff piano event. And just last night we watched it and laughed because after Steve played he wanted me to play. I don’t know what my wife said to him but he really wanted to hear me play. When he was finished he just looked at me, asking with his eyes. So I had no choice. And that is the memory I have of him, a look, a silent request, no words.
Had I a brain I would have practiced something. Not that it would matter much.
Patiently he fit me on my bikes. Over and over, looking for “the solution” but I just wanted to hear Steve talk about music.
Thank you so much. Could you upload the video, or put it in a zip file and email it to me?
Hi. Can you help me with this? Sorry. Where do I find your email address? Thanks, Beth
Please email me the video and I’ll post it. Thanks!
It would be wonderful if those of us that never knew the man could see him expressing himself on the piano. It would help connect memories of his friends voiced here to a person that we could see.
Agreed! I never heard him play, either.
We are reeling from this news of Steve’s sudden passing.
Just this past Thursday evening we were invited to his home to join his staff Christmas party. We can’t tell you how flattered we were to be invited. So flattered that we left our out-of-state visiting children and grandchildren at home to attend. We wouldn’t have missed it for the world because Steve was not only our ‘go to‘ bike person and our ‘go to‘ bike shop, but an incredibly special person and new friend.
I knew that Steve was a soft soul. He brought his two Boston Terriers to the bike shop with him everyday. When his dog, Peanut, died he had to fight back his emotions when I asked where she was. His love for his remaining old dog, Irving, was apparent. What I did not know was that he was an accomplished musician, a pianist. We were awestruck by his playing at his party. He passed out booklets and we sang Christmas carols. He ended by playing the most incredible piece by Rachmaninoff, a piece he was revisiting after not playing for twenty years. We were speechless. I would love to share the short video I took. Is there a way?
Steve was an unpretentious man. Steve will be sorely missed by us and all that knew him.
He was amazing. I just heard him play the piano a couple of weeks ago at a friend’s house. All our bikes were purchased from his store. What a loss Michele Ayers and family
We all feel it…
It’s New Years Eve and there is a big hole in the hearts of artists and athletes on the Peninsula. Steve our friend is I am sure playing the piano with the angels who were called to fetch him from his bike so suddenly.
After the November social at the shop, like two kids in a candy shop we started planning for him to play his piano pieces for our Salon Christmas gathering. Steve was in top form that Friday evening in early December and he put a smile in everyone’s heart and he was warmly received by our group with a big rush of animated applause by the audience. We were making plans to work up a couple of songs together and we’d set a rehearsal schedule for the next Salon in January. Who could ever have guessed that evening at Annette’s grand piano would be his last performance of Rockmonanoff and Dreaming of a White Christmas?
On the 12th, the Christmas Social at the shop, I invited Steve down to Terranea for a friendly chat by the fire. Being the humble person that Steve was, he shared his delight as it was his first time ever at our lovely coastal destination. I was struck by the fact that he’d begun bike events from the Terranea location, yet had never as yet been able to break away from the shop to enjoy the experience of our coastal beauty. So this made it all a special night for all of us. I was really happy that he joined me that evening and two of our Chicks. It was a cold blustery night, so the fire and friends were a welcome end to a fun social night at the shop.
Someone upstairs had just dropped an opportunity into this chicks lap, An opportunity to laugh with Steve, (and that we did) tell him how much we appreciated his contributions to all of us, and give him a big warm Holiday Hug…that will last him to eternity… we hope. Once past Steve’s mild demeanor he was very real and he lead with his heart. Sitting and snuggling by the fire, we plotted and schemed as to how we might collaborate and do more for the community, cancer (prostate cancer awareness) and the arts (piano accompaniment to song) and of course cycling. Sipping cocktails, (my usual San Pellegrino) like two kids mesmerized by the flames from the fire, we dove in discussing a couple events for the Spring and Fall of 2013. We were finally going to bring it all together…and it would be a resounding win-win for everyone.
He saw us out to our cars in the dark rainy night.
I cried a long good cry Christmas Eve Day after getting the call. Exhausted by the loss and tears, I fell asleep early that night knowing that heaven got a really good hearted guy the day before and that there is a big hole down the street. Haven’t been able to bring myself to go back into the shop as yet…
Gosh darn it. I’d like to be able to make those elements come alive for Steve in his honor in the Spring. But who can or would ever take his place. We can name the event/race after Steve…If we can collaborate in his honor I’d be happy to lead this one. It would mean the world to my grieving the loss of a great friend who found his way into my heart more than I would have admitted. And so I’m sure he did with each one of you with his passion for cycling, gracious piano concerts, and his ever evolving kind soul for everyone who was lucky enough to engage in his compassion.
This friends heart misses you Steve and there is will stay, and your legacy will grow from it. Please Steve send me guidance so that I may finish the work. God’s work.
Libby, thanks so much for the warm and loving tribute.
That was a beautiful posting. I’m sure Steve is blushing somewhere right now.
[…] am today starting at the Riviera Village in Redondo Beach; the owner of Palos Verdes Bicycle Center collapsed while riding in the Malibu Hills just before […]
[…] Just before Christmas last month, Steve Bowen, late owner of the Palos Verdes Bicycle Center, passed due to a heart attack suffered while on a ride. I didn’t know Steve, just knew of him, and how well respected he was in the local cycling community. I’ll defer to the Wankmeister to provide a description of what happened to Steve, as well as a personal tribute. […]
I just now have found out about the passing of Steve after nearly a month of trying to reach him. We worked together this past few years – our two companies intermingled to help offer Steve’s customers even better service and a unique buying experience. I am totally shocked by the news and echo everything said on this blog. What a nice man and such a professional to work with. He was always quick to respond to our business dealings and so It was so unlike Steve to not respond to our recent inquiries that I have been getting increasingly concerned. I am sure there are others out there that feel the same way that have not heard the news. If someone can possibly check PV Bikes email and let others know, it might relieve some concerns among Steve’s other business partners. Does anyone have any way to contact anyone that has access to the store as we have products that belong to our company in the shop and we have no way to reach anyone other then the PV Bike voicemail (which is full). God bless Steve and his family. May he rest in peace… he will be missed. Eric Charnholm – Trade Up Bike – email@example.com
Thanks for the kind words.
I’m also in a similar problem. I’ve been trying to reach anyone from the shop (including Shawn via Facebook), but I get no response. My road bike is in there where it was undergoing repairs which were needed after my last ride with Steve the week before he died. It’s been 3 weeks now and I’m surprised that it’s having problems opening. I wish Steve had left some sort of succession plan.
Steven, hopefully someone will see this and will respond to us at some point. There are more than just us that have our belongings in the shop. Still, feeling so sad today over the loss that I don’t much care. Libby… what a nice Memorial of Steve. Being a business partner, I never knew about his fabulous musical skills. I’m really enjoying the videos of him playing! Gosh, what a loss. Eric Charnholm – 858.775.7878
The memorial bike ride was amazing. The shock is still there. Those who knew Steve, his many friends, acquaintences, etc; it’s still hard to get it out of our minds. We all miss him.
My husband Rob, who also knew Steve, is a CPA, and he has run into this sort of thing many times. A estate or succession is important for many of us to think about.. Most people don’t want to; but whether you are young, old, single, married, kids or no kids; it is something that every adult should think about. It is not that difficult to do; and there are even some basic forms on line. One of my husband’s clients, was in the entertainment business; a successful screenplay writer, and he died suddenly, with no succession or estate plan, and now family members that the guy had absolutely no relationship with are fighting over the estate. Most people don’t take the time to think. Maybe this will be a reminder for people to set a goal for themselves, and we can all learn from this.
And Trudi Schindler is a fine local attorney who can help with that type of planning.
If anybody is still following this thread…
I knew Steve at the University of MD and afterwards. He got me in the cover band “Medulla” which was mega-popular at the time in the D.C. area. (I played trumpet, and still do). Steve indeed was a super talented musician. He was our keyboard player but also sang and doubled on flute and saxes as well as wrote many of our arrangements.
I think I have a hilarious version somewhere of Steve singing “Disco Duck” in full Donald Duck voice, which we morphed into “Disco Sucks”. The crowds always loved it.
This link goes to promo photos of “Medulla” on Facebook. See if you can pick out Steve.
Thanks very much for the note and the link!
I knew Steve as a teenager. We were neighbors in Rockville, Maryland, and students at the same high school. Our common love was music. Steve often accompanied me and another singing friend on the piano. I fondly remember his talent and his gentle humor.
Unfortunately, I tailed to keep in touch with Steve when we both headed off to college. (We can be so self-absorbed at that stage of our lives.) So I was excited to stumble across Steve’s Facebook profile just after Christmas – then horrified to read the news.
Thank you, Seth, for what you wrote. It makes me proud to have known Steve during his formative years.
Steve, I would have enjoyed reconnecting. God speed.
Thanks for the kind note, Laurel. He’s missed among his cycling buddies every single day.
Any word yet on the shop reopening? We really need access to our merchandise and nobody is responding to any of our communication attempts… If somebody from the shop reads this, please call Trade Up at 858.775.7878. Thanks, Eric Charnholm
I know zip.