Introducing Mike The Serb

Guitars & Bikes

15.10.2014 – Words by Martin Velits

Many of you asked us who is the lean, fit looking guy on most of our catalogue pictures.

Well, If you like going to see the shows of bands like the Cult or more recently Bad Religion Mike will be a familiar face for you.

For the rest, here is little-big Q&A I did some time ago with Michael J. Dimkich, full time guitar player, extreme distance runner, keen cyclist and Isadore apparel ambassador.

We got to know each other in LA some four years ago at Tour of California. Since then, whenever I'm back with my brother Peter in the US, we try to meet up and most importantly do some riding together.

Besides, since the first Isadore collection was born and about to be shoot on the roads of Santa Monica Mountains, we knew Mike will be the perfect fit.

Q: Why cycling?

A: Well, I started out running back in 1990 to get fit as I'd hit the metabolic wall around 22 yrs old and couldn't eat and drink like a pirate and still fit into my favorite rock accoutrement back then which was a pair of leather jeans! So I actually didn't start cycling until about 2002 after a number of years of running marathons and a couple years of really intense focus on Ultramarathons (50km to 100 miles).

Q: When and how?

A: The "when/how" of cycling is sort of an extension of "Why Cycling" as I'd always found bike racing super exciting to watch and while touring I'd always watch the TdF on satellite TV and it looked very similar to running in terms of suffering but had far more style and panache! After a couple years of being pretty obsessed with ultras and racing quite a few 50-100km, 50mi and even a 100-miler (and all of the training that required) I was a little injured and a LOT burned out so i bought myself a Team Kelme Look bike (awesome ride it was!) and jumped in head first!

Q: Cycling and playing guitar, do you see any parallels?

A: For sure cycling and guitar playing have parallels... I picked up guitar around age 12 which is probably when many pro cyclists began riding seriously or fell under the sway of then bicycle. I played that thing from the moment I awoke before school and til the minute I went to bed in the evenjng - every spare moment I could carve out was used playing the guitar and when I couldn't have a guitar in hand I'd be daydreaming about the guitar. One must have a total obsession with the guitar just as one must with the bicycle if one wants to perhaps pursue that passion as a real job - unfortunately this is often to the detriment of such things as school and relationships! I did, however, quickly realize that if I performed well at school as grades were concerned it gave me free rein to play the guitar as much as I wanted - and to stay out til the wee hours going to gigs and, eventually, playing my own gigs as a teenager.

Q: Best road to ride in LA area?

A: Los Angeles has some of the best riding I've ever experienced (and I've ridden in a lot of EU countries) and I'd say the best solo ride here is, well, anything in the Santa Monica Mountains EXCEPT The Rock Store on a weekend as that's an invitation for major motorist/moto hate at best and a trip on an helicopter to the Emergency Room at worst! Yerba Buena is the best climb: long, rough road surface, incredible views and almost zero traffic. One can forget what city or country one is even in at times as it's so peaceful and remote.

Q: If you have to choose, what is more important human invention in your opinion, bicycle or guitar?

A: I'm biased that the guitar is the more important invention of the two (guitar/bicycle) as I make my living playing the guitar and surely couldn't do so riding a bike!!! However, the bicycle as a mode of transport is certainly pretty major in many countries and, hopefully, will see an increase in that aspect in our supposedly "developed" nations like the USA and EU! Also, bike racing as sport is certainly important to a society as is guitar and music in general as an Art - we couldn't just ride our bike to and from mindless jobs! A culture needs Sport and Art. So, there's my totally vague take on that topic!!!

Q: Favorite country / place to ride?

A: I am most comfortable on the roads of the Santa Monica Mountains as I noted earlier but in terms of a place I fell in-love with while cycling abroad it's the Basque Country. I did a 150km ride from San Sebastián along the sea and thru the mountains to a festival gig in Vitoria and was blown away by the scenery, the climbs, the incredibly well-maintained road surface and the super respectful drivers! In two days and 300+ km of riding I only had one driver get closer than the required one meter of passing space a driver must give a cyclist. Man, in LA it's almost a daily diet of "near misses" ...

Q: Anything you would like to see / experience from your bike?

A: I might've, at some point in my life, have wanted to drop/crush a local group ride nemesis on a climb as a "thing I'd like to experience on a bike" but now is just like to continue to ride without injury and just enjoy new places from the bike. I'm pretty much done caring how fast I can go so long as I'm not dropped within the first KMs of a ride ha ha.

Q: Lone ranger or group ride?

A: I probably do 80-90% of training solo as that's just the nature of the beast. I have a non-traditional work schedule so when I'm home I have days free (after making breakfasts/lunches/cups of tea and dropping our son at school) so don't often have a training compadre - that is unless Martin and Peter are out for winter training then it's daily suffering just hanging onto their wheels on what amounts to a coffee ride for them!
I do enjoy a few of the group rides here in the weekends but they often require a pretty early roll-out for me so the colder it gets the less likely I am to suit-up at dawn to go meet them. Those days often turn into a solo ride or just bumping into another Lone Ranger type out on the road.
While touring it was almost always solo riding unless I had used Facebook or Twitter (or word of mouth via my International Network of Cycling Friends!) to join up with another rider or group. I've amassed a pretty good cadre of guys with whom to ride over the years of touring. Also, Brian Holm gives my email to all of his boys so when guys line Peter and Martin, Cav and Bernie, Brammeier and (Miss) Harris come to LA I get the call! And those rides hurt!!!

Q: Longest ever ride?

A: I once rode 225 miles in one go... A friend who does crazy ultra rides like RAAM and double/triple/quadruple centuries convinced me to do what was a beautiful and brutal Double Century back when I started riding. Most of the ride was awesome but once it passed about 150 miles I simply got a bit bored being on a bike and it became a question of staying focused and not having a stupid crash - especially as fatigue and nightfall set it. I think I added a good 20 miles to the ride as I overshot a turn while out it the middle of nowhere - much to the chagrin of the jerk who sat on my wheel for hours and wouldn't take a pull because he had a dodgy pedal (and he did because when he did go to the front after much haranguing from me and stood on the pedals his foot would disengage and kick the bike backwards at me! "Never mind, you sit-on and I'll pull..." Of course when a group passed us he dropped me and got on their wheel ha ha. That was a long "lone ranger" ride...)

Q: Training plan or just riding when you feel like?

A: During my Ultramarathon days I was always a glutton for huge training loads as the guys who schooled me all came of age racing in the 70s-80s when Americans ran hard and fast so 150-200 KMs weekly was pretty standard. I transferred that to cycling (which I loved cause one could train 4-6 hours daily without the trashing that kind of load running would inflict!) so often found myself riding 800km weekly or more when I was going full gas. While touring I tend to run more depending on location and weather but still do 100 km rides out there when able and/or mix that with running. I try to get a few hours of one of the disciplines or a combo of the two every day while touring as well as at home. I'm not sure my yearly KMs total but I'm sure it's a lot and surely too much! I don't have any top end speed but can happily train like a diesel endlessly ha ha. I don't have any cool gadgets for my rides other than a dead simple computer to give me distance/time. I use an iPhone for the navigation so I don't get hopelessly lost - man I don't miss the days of folded maps and bar napkins with routes scrawled on them - all of which invariably got wet and were useless and left me asking directions in a non-native tongue! I do use Map My Workout quite a bit for running as well as riding routes though.

Q: Coffee breaks or nonstop?

A: Coffee Breaks or Nonstop? Martin Velits can answer this one and the only thing I will add is The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf!

MV: Ha ha, lets say when Velits brothers are in town it's al about

Q:Bike cleaning - welcomed routine or a bummer?

A: I seem to approach my bikes as I do my guitars in that I love them and am fascinated by their appearance/know what I like in then but in the end treat them as a (costly!) tool. That being said I do almost zero maintenance to my guitars (one of the perks of being a professional musician is that we have guys who do this for us just like pro riders have mechanics) and am the same with bikes. I clean them to keep them running smoothly and quietly (a pet peeve of mine is the guys on group rides who always have a bike that sounds like the "Tin Man" from Wizard of Oz!) but don't find the actual act of cleaning very calming or enjoyable. Some guys find a Zen aspect to it. I'd rather vacuum or wash dishes to feel at peace with the world!

Q: Carbon, aluminium, steel or titanium?

A: Bike materials? Well I have a number of bikes of differing materials:

An older 2001 carbon w/Alu lugs LOOK frame that was my first and is still a great bike.

A 2005 Serotta Otrott which is Carbon/Ti and one of the most comfortable frames ever

A full Ti Seven which was my travel bike as it was fairly indestructible

An Alu Giant TCR (a weird EU/Asia only model) that is my go to ride for touring (indestructible and replaceable) but often a fave while home.

A Carbon Giant TCR SL which is light and stiff but the integrated seat post makes it a pain for any use other than local

My newest ride is a steel Genesis frame which I am going to ride for the first time ever today! If it's anything like the steel I've ridden in the past I'm gonna love it. Maybe I'm old but I find steel to be the best material as far as comfort and appearance is concerned. It's funny cos I started cycling just as Carbon became almost the standard material so came up with it.

Honestly, I'm just happy to ride a bike that fits, handles smoothly and looks good!

Q: Did you manage to turn anyone into cycling?

A: As a matter of fact I have turned someone onto cycling! Brian Baker from Bad Religion! He watched me get all kitted-up for rides with some bemusement when I first started touring with then I suspect but eventually his ambivalence turned to fascination and he took up road riding. He gets out for a couple hours daily at home and on tour - often more often than I do as I ran quite a bit this past summer simply for convenience sake! He owns at least two bikes I can think of and is eyeing a cool steel bike as I write this. He's definitely fully got the cycling bug big time now and I will take full credit for that if I may be so bold!!!


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