In our backyard

Life, the real kind, unfettered and un-faked by the Internet and social media, is a personal thing. It’s encapsulated by these phrases which remind us that it’s not the masses that matter, it’s the person.

“All politics are local.”

“Nothing ever happens until it happens to you.”

And this: “Misery is news but tragedy is personal.”

The closer it is the more you feel it, and even though I was 7,000 miles away yesterday I felt the death of Jonathan Tansavatdi, a cyclist who rides for my club, Big Orange. Jon was killed when he was hit by a truck as he descended Hawthorne Blvd., a road that every cyclist in the South Bay knows intimately.

These words were written by his best friend and riding buddy, Matt Miller:

On March 8, 2016 Jonathan Tansavatdi died doing what he loved. Riding his bicycle.

Jon was a true friend. He was my partner on the bike. We rode together more than we rode alone, and we rode a lot, thousands of miles. Over those miles we became brothers. We shared our dreams, our fears, and our water bottles. My wife took care of his dog Leia when we’d spend entire days on the road, and he would always bring her a bag of Groundworks Coffee as a thank you. 

When he learned we didn’t have a coffee grinder, he bought us one.

Jon was a man of unlimited potential. On the bike he was becoming unstoppable. He was so strong that even after 180 miles he couldn’t keep himself from going off the front of our peloton time and time again at the Camino Real Double Century. On our last ride together, the FDR, we approached a cyclist who had passed us on Crest and was running out of gas. “Let’s come up on him slowly, then step on the gas and drop him,” I said.

“Let’s just go now,” was Jon’s reply. And then he dropped us both.

Jon wasn’t just strong, either. He was kind. After the last bro ride, we sat on our top tubes for 10 minutes outside his apartment while he gently encouraged Bader to ride hard, but also to ride more safely and obey the rules of the peloton.

Off the bike He was a prodigious success. He was a founding member of the Rubicon Project, a tech startup that made it big. He just left to found another start up company that had already secured several million in investments.

Perhaps most impressively, Jon had invented his own photosharing app, nearly at the beta testing stage, that allows users to automatically share photos with friends nearby via bluetooth. We mused how useful an app like that would be on our rides.

More than anything, Jon loved his family. He spoke of his sisters and mother and wife with compassion, understanding, and a clear desire to protect them.

No one was more proud to be Orange. He wore our kit with honor and distinction and guts and a smile. He embodied our club’s only rule: Don’t be a dick.

Jonathan Tansavatdi was a beautiful human being that paid the ultimate price for living his dream every day. He was a hardman of the road, and he was my brother. He leaves this life aged only 29 years, but I will carry him in my heart and on my bike for the rest of my life.

Rest In Peace, brother. May a tailwind carry your soul to eternity.

Matt Miller

45 thoughts on “In our backyard”

  1. I am so sorry, Seth. Didn’t know the man, as I’ve never met any of you, but I’m sitting at my desk with tears falling on my cheeks and hoping that the pain his friends and family are now bearing are softened by how lucky you all were to know him, and ride with him.

    Ride safely, everyone.

  2. No words can do justice here. What heartfelt words Matt Miller. So sad. My condolences to his family, friends and to you Matt. Thanks for this Seth.

    1. That’s a great article. In my opinion, while clubs vary from okay to great at teaching group riding and road racing skills, we’re lacking greatly in this area of how to keep from getting killed by cars and trucks.

      Perhaps you’ve heard about the other cyclist killed this week in SoCal. Here in San Diego, he rode around the barrier after the trolley went by, only to get hit by another one coming the other way.

      Most of us are probably pretty confident we’d never ride around a barrier like that, but would we have the instincts to know to pass a truck like this on the left, and never on the right, as explained in this article?

      I, for one, would like to see a lot more emphasis on traffic survival skills in our clubs. Especially the crucial role that roadway positioning plays, and how dangerous edge riding can be in so many different scenarios.

      1. Our clubs should all have an education component, period, as a requirement for membership.

      2. Yes, they should have an education requirement.

        Seems there is an imbalance between the praise for those who are strong and time spent making sure people can handle the circumstances the strength and confidence brings.

        We need to get back to basics of how to ride your bike.

  3. So sad and tragic. I send condolences to his family and to you Seth for you obviously had a great relationship with Jon. This is gut wrenching news.

    1. Peter, our club is very big and he was a fairly new member. I’m really sorry to say that I never got the chance to know him. His death has affected the entire club.

  4. When I first heard the news, I was shocked and saddened. No one knew the identity of the rider. There would be no solace if it turned out to be a rider I didn’t know, but I was terrified that it would be someone I did.

    When I found out it was Jonathan, there was no relief, just more sadness now that the loss had become even more real. I then saw on Strava that not only had I ridden with him on several occasions, but he had just done his first NPR a couple weeks ago. He had just set goals of 8:30 on the Switchbacks and 8:00 on Crest.

    Though only digital footprints, I could see that he was in the midst of that “innocent climb” on the bike – loving every ride, seeking out new roads, new rides, new teammates at Big Orange.

    So many of us have been where Jonathan was – literally on that stretch of road where he left us and figuratively on his road and journey as a cyclist.

    I didn’t “know” him, but yet I did. And so, I think, did all us us in some way.

  5. Beautiful words for what sounds like a beautiful human being who had his young life ended in an ugly tragedy. I did not know him personally but so am sure that I rode with him & I just have no words…..I along with a few buddies retraced his route Wednesday & wow…..again no words. Sending positive thoughts & love to his family & friends.

  6. Seth, so sorry for you and your team’s loss. Such a tragedy. My thoughts go out to his family and friends.

  7. Seth and Matt,
    It’s so painful to here of such a young and wonderful rider passing on like this. My condolences to you and his family and team members.
    Brian C

  8. It was sad enough when I saw the news article, sadder now that you introduced me to Jon. Sorry for the loss of your friend.

    That intersection scares me every time I descent toward it. And I nearly got sideswiped by an SUV a little ways uphill from there. Jon’s collision brings home just how real the dangers are.

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