Tim Speciale - February 26, 2020
I don't know if any of this happens if I never meet this guy. Even if it would have, I have a hard time believing it would have been as enjoyable. Here's how we met.
It would be a lot to ask to cover this entire relationship in a single blog post. The following is overly brief – this is by intention. The underlying details of much of what is described below is worthy of its own unique attention and I will give those stories their rightful day in the sun.
Without Rob Curtis, I’m not sure I ever race bikes. He’s directly responsible for introducing me to what would become some of my best friends (including himself). In a story I’ll describe soon enough, my relationship with rob ultimately lead to the introduction of my friend and his wife and eventually their two rad little kids.
Life’s coincidences are often lubricated by society’s connectors and Rob has always been that. This is how we first connected.
An asshat on the internet
Anyone that knows Rob and I well enough would not be surprised to learn that we met on the internet. Like many 19 year olds, I was an asshat then and the anonymity of the internet encouraged asshattery. As with many things on the internet, reality is a weird mixture of what you can see and read and what you cannot. The truth is that I did have many distorted and misguided views on things at that time in my life but I also just really had an interest in cycling and was trying to figure out how to make it a part of my life.
Several of my digital relationships from that site have become real-life relationships but Rob was the first to willingly and proactively cross that line.
After years of posting on forums and waffling over whether or not I should race, Rob invited me to an annual ride he put on with a few friends. I had never actually gone on a group ride before this. I don’t remember a whole lot from the ride; lot’s of gravel, a detour, and I’m pretty sure by the end of it I was fried. What I’d like to think came out of it though was that Rob realized I wasn’t a complete asshole. I was encouraged to keep in touch and continue riding with them, and I did. I believe it was all a part of a master plan.
Our first ride was in September of 2008, a few months after my first attempt at racing and while I don’t remember how this topic played out on this particular ride, I do know that for the following several month Rob was nagging me to race.
At the time, he was racing for Bicycle Heaven out of St. Charles (the shop later relocated to Geneva). After encouraging me to come out to their weekly group ride for several weeks, I eventually took Rob’s advice and joined their Cat 5 squad. Early in the Spring of 2009 I would eventually race again. The memories of these races are faint, and there are no records anywhere that I can find but the hook was set and the rest is history.
Rob, an engineer and bike nerd, had been fascinated with wheel building I presume for quite a while. While in between Jobs, he pressed on the idea of starting his own wheel-building business. Thus, PSIMET Wheels was born.
By the end of the 2009 racing season, for a variety of reasons, Rob was no longer on Bicycle Heaven and wanted to start his own team. Sensitive to the awkwardness of leaving one team to join another, he merely left the door open for me to join PSIMET. From my perspective, my loyalty was with the guy that got me into racing in the first place so for 2010 I joined the PSIMET where I would remain associated (much of this time spent on Enzo’s P/B PSIMET) until 2013 when I joined EGO.
Friends, life, family, et al.
I have known Rob for over a decade at this point and there are so many stories that have played out over those years – many of which I intend on telling in the coming months. In the last decade I have seen his oldest grow from a toddler to a young man. I have seen the birth of his youngest. I have attended countless weddings with him, his family, and our friends. Rob has seen me go through two engagements (and yet only one marriage 🤔). The many hours spent in his basement shop are some of my fondest in all of cycling.
The long and the short of it
Cycling has come to define a lot of who I am. It has served metaphor for so many personal improvements. It has served as the foundation to a lifetime of memories and experiences. It has been an excuse to see much of the country. It has become my personal therapy. It has shaped the way I approach everything in my life from love to work. It’s probably too late to try and not over-romanticize it all, but cycling has become the single most positively influential thing I’ve ever allowed into my life. And I really feel that I owe it all to Rob. And the thing is, I’m not alone. Rob’s influence on the racing community in the Chicago area in the last 10 years is undeniable.
Love you brother.