No doubt in my decades spent as a cycling journo, I have come into the company of many a varied species of human. This is no more true than when I consider the circus of media folk specifically. From the type that throw down at every media launch to showcase their physical prowess, to those technical geniuses who dissect every new component as if they were chasing the molecular structure of a life-saving medicine. And then there was Roy Wallack. The ever irrepressible Roy Wallack.
Bottom line, there has never been anybody I’ve referred to as a “stony bastard” with as much respect and admiration as I’ve done so repeatedly when referring to Roy. And yet, in describing him, I would just as quickly add “100% committed FOB – Friend Of the Bike.” Roy died on December 19 while mountain biking in the Malibu Mountains. So far, not much is known other than a brief news report saying that he crashed. It’s so cliche’ I know, but really, really, for as dedicated to bike riding as Roy was, I really can’t think of a better way to lose him.
As can be gleaned from the comments below, Roy was a unique figure. He didn’t “look” like a cyclist (I can’t recall him ever wearing lycra shorts or riding in anything but SPD sandals), nor did he have any interest in doing so. For Roy, the bicycle was something that flowed through his veins and kept his heart pumping. I was always amazed to hear him regale in his tales of taking on truly difficult and physical challenging rides ranging from the 750-mile Paris-Brest-Paris ride to the Badwater Ultramarathon.
Over the years Wallack had been both a full-time magazine editor and staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, to a published author and his latest book was “Bike for Life: How to Ride to 100-and Beyond.”
In fact, speaking of books, a few years ago I was asked about writing a book on the life and times of GT Bicycle co-founder Richard Long who died in 1996. Owing to my daily duties overseeing three cycling titles already, I politely passed on the offer. Former racer Joe Parkin’s name came up as possible writer, but in the end, the job fell to Roy. For the last two years Roy chased every detail of both Richard’s life and the company he helped become one of the industry’s most successful. Just last week as I was reading the early manuscript I was told that an agent had been secured to start the process of finding a publisher.
That Roy will not be here to see his hard work come to fruition is as painful as it is whenever we consider what was left undone with Richard’s own untimely passing.
ROY & MR. COLNAGO
Of the countless amusing moments I enjoyed with Roy over the years there really was just one that I will never forget. It was on a trip to Italy that included a tour of the Colnago headquarters that was guided by none other than Ernesto Colnago himself. In typical Roy style, he was cracking jokes and asked a few questions whose origins even the English speakers among the group were unsure of.
As the Tour came to close Roy preceded to ask if he could borrow a Colnago for a quasi-planned bike tour he wanted to do. I was aghast! While I wouldn’t even dare ask Mr. Colnago for a piece of note paper, Roy had no problem asking for a loaner bike! Mr. Colnago was a bit confused until our official guide explained the request in Italian. Next thing you know the (Italian) hand gestures began as Roy’s need for a bike was bandied about. In my mind, I was guessing that some Colnago employee had to wonder, “We’re giving one of our bikes to this guy who looks like he just left a Grateful Dead concert?!”
Lo and behold, they roll out a brand new C59 for Roy. Again, I was aghast! Roy asked if we could all go outside and get a photo of the handover which he knew would cement his effort with the editors back at the LA Times. Roy asked me to shoot the photo of he, Mr. Colnago and sparkling new C59 and as I positioned myself a few feet away to get the shot, somehow, someway, the bike was fumbled as Roy was positioning it in front of he and Mr. Colnago…and KABLAMMO…the bike crashed to the ground. And with the impact came what felt like an immediate cessation of life as we knew it. Mr. Colnago seemed stunned. Everyone did. I wanted to run and hide.
Roy on the other hand, didn’t miss a beat and just picked up the bike and said he was ready for the photo.
The bike industry, hell, the world, is worse off with an adventurous, inquisitive, fun loving character like Roy no longer among us. The dude was passion from the break of dawn until late into the night. Thank you friend for the laughs and inspiration – you will be missed.
IN THEIR WORDS: FRIENDS & FAMILY
“I am absolutely devastated by the loss of Roy M. Wallack, a brilliant outdoors and fitness writer who many of us knew through his participation in stair walks; or on mountain bike rides￼; or any number of other self-propelled activities￼. Roy also edited and created the short-lived, but visionary, Los Angeles Times full-on “Outdoors” section of the early 2000s, which he explained to me was a manifestation of how sports should be defined in Southern California: not by big teams and big money, but by individual pursuits like biking, hiking, surfing, and skateboarding. Rest in peace, kind and lovely genius.” Dan Koeppel
“I can’t believe he’s gone. He always seemed like a self-generating dynamo. And it was so great to see his continuing success with writing.” Marti Stephen
“I am shocked, I spoke to him months ago. He always stayed true to his heart in all journalism and physical training and his son.” Rhonda Boggess
“Shit! I ran a couple of his pieces back when I was an editor. He was a good writer and always full of vim. What a shame. RIP Roy. You lived a good life.” Aaron Teasdale
“Devastating. Roy was one in a million. An amazing person who will never be forgotten.” Stephen Cuomo
“Heard this early this morning and hoped somehow it wasn’t so. Phew. Add me to the list of those who are stunned and heartbroken to hear Roy M. Wallack died yesterday while mountain bike riding. He was an accomplished cycling and outdoor journalist and author, one I have known for decades. He was currently putting the final touches on the first draft of what will be a book on Richard Long and GT Bicycles. Roy was an original who was quick with a smile and always left an indelible mark. If there is a bright spot in any of it, it’s that he left us doing what he loved. Rest in peace, brother.” Doug Martin
“Oh man this is horrible news, Roy was awesome, I spent a week racing bikes across Cuba with him and my only regret of the whole trip was not pointing the camera at him more, what a character and so many wild stories. I wanted to make a documentary about him too, so sad.” Alan Davis
“Stunned. I’ve known Roy since my days at Bicycle Guide. His zest for life and his affinity for people made him a delight. I’ll never forget the year at PressCamp when he took a wrong turn on a mountain bike ride and ended up practically in Salt Lake City. He found a guy with a truck who drove him back up. He walked into dinner with his helmet on, rain-splattered and wearing a satisfied grin. It was just another adventure. Last year we spent time on The California Coast Classic, which he rode on an elliptical bike.” Patrick Brady
“Met Roy at La Ruta, CR. He walked up to our table, no shoes, no shirt, introduced himself, and by last call made fast friends with all of us. Such a pure soul. Godspeed to Roy.” Jason McCormick
“Very sad news. Roy reached and inspired a large audience as a book author, and as the author of countless articles for newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times, a number of magazines, including Recumbent & Tandem Rider Magazine. One of my favorites, and one of the best features ever written for RTR Magazine was a feature on a tandem bike trip Roy took with his son. It was about much more than a simple tandem bike tour. Roy will be missed by so many people all around the world, may the memories of his happiness linger with us all.” Chuck Coyne
“Truly one of a kind. I never knew where the conversation would end up with Roy M. Wallack, but was always genuine and compassionate about whatever it was. Great guy, pure passion.” Mike Geraci
“Roy was a passionate cyclist, and constant promoter of all things cycling. He was one of the first to embrace eBikes, back when they were so “uncool”. I will never forget him doing the eBike race at press camp, doing 30 pushups before the starting bell, then jumping up and getting on his bike to race! He will be missed! RIP. ” Rob Kaplan
“One heck of a guy, real bad news, last I spoke with him was for a book about Richard Long.” Rishi Grewal
“So sad and so sorry to hear this. Roy (Tarzan) was a fellow Poet. My sincere condolences go out to his family and friends. He was one of a kind!” Rick Lerner
“When I heard the name I was like, I think I knew him, after looking up his picture, I now remember who he was. wow.. so sad.. he so cool and a great cycling advocate.. Ride the eternal single track with that smile.” Robert Sandoval
“Roy was my roommate for the Trafalgar Square to Red Square bike trip. He made friends every step of the way without knowing each other’s language. I am so sorry. He made this world a better place.” Kent Kzeski
“I am so sad to read this. He was one of the nicest people I have ever known.” Margo Stanley Treweek
“So very sad, I went to school with Roy. He always had a ton of energy and was so fun!” Diane Black
“Dang he had such style. What a bummer” Doug Dalton
A ONCE IN A LIFETIME TRIP WITH ROY
Before our trip to Taiwan in 2019 I had never met Roy. My first memory of him is before I had ever met him when his name was on my travel Itinerary and LAX security asked where my travel companion was? I told them I had no idea who he was or where he was at. This expedited me straight through the security line and to a side room where I got a special security pat-down, thanks Roy.
On our week-long trip, I realized that Roy was a genuine person and a true adventurer. He told stories of his great adventures and you could tell he was just an honest guy. Our tour was full of tough days on the bike with endless climbing and Roy had a smile from ear to ear the whole way. It was clear that he was a seasoned rider that knew what it would take to finish each day.
The only moment he wasn’t smiling on our trip was the morning that he had lost his room key. The attendant told him it would be 500 dollars. He was in utter shock. As his mind was racing we all laughed. You see Roy had forgotten that 500 Taiwan dollars was equal to $15 us dollars. After some frantic running around and panic we finally got through to him and the relief on his face was priceless.
From the few days I spent with Roy I can tell you without a doubt that he lived by the beat of his own drum. He didn’t worry what people would think or say, he just lived in the moment. Below are some images from our trip to Taiwan together, I’ll never forget them or Roy.