Life One Two Wheels: ‘Two Wheels is a Win’ with Sam Parker |

Life One Two Wheels: ‘Two Wheels is a Win’ with Sam Parker

Sam Parker’s son, Ian, rides through a flooded section of the Tenmile rec path between Copper and Frisco — pretty typical for early May.
Special to the Daily |

No matter how he looks at it, a bicycle is a good thing for Sam Parker, one of the founders of Podium Sports in Frisco.

He first learned to ride a bike at around 6 or 7 years old, when his family was living in Australia. He tore through the neighborhood on his Schwinn Sting-Ray, delivering the morning paper along the way.

Since then, his bike has taken him a number of places around the United States, Canada and Europe.

“That’s the biggest part of it,” he says. “The physical fitness is the fringe benefit.”

Parker finds psychological benefits as well.

“I’m far more at peace after a bike ride, whether I’m with friends or by myself,” he says. When one of his friends was killed in a hit-and-run accident on her bike, he got on his to work through the pain.

“I was riding angry for two and a half hours,” he says. At the end of the ride, though, he wasn’t mad anymore.

“Certainly I was upset, but I didn’t need to be angry,” he remembers. “I needed to resolve it, pocket it.”

Starting young

Parker took his first big bike ride with his older sister to Nova Scotia, who helped him learn to ride a bike. He was 15 at the time — she was graduating from college and wanted him to see the East Coast. For a kid who grew up on the Front Range of landlocked Colorado, he says, “It was amazing to ride next to the ocean.”

Parker’s brother was also instrumental in fostering his love for bicycles. In 1984, after an incredibly long ski season here in Summit County, Parker went to San Francisco to help his brother with historical façade restoration on Victorian houses.

“That’s where I got serious about riding bikes,” Parker says. “(My brother’s) friend had a bike shop and helped me get a good race road bike. All the hills were like doing intervals. He helped me kind of refine cycling as a lifestyle … My brother said, ‘Let’s take this more seriously as an activity.’”

That same summer, Parker went down to the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles. The year of the Olympics, there was an exhibit called “Games of the X Olympiad: Los Angeles, 1932.” The exhibit juxtaposed modern photos of contemporary events set against the background of the previous Olympic games. He still remembers it today.

“In 100 years the basic concept of a bike hasn’t changed,” he says. “The physics of the bicycle as a human-powered tool really sparked the appeal I found in it.”

A rare disorder

Parker worked at Copper Mountain from 1979 to 2004, when he ended his tenure as director of ski patrol, “the greatest job in the world.”

That experience opened up doors for him in the biking world as well. The Carpenter/Phinney Bike Camp was first based at Copper.

“I was patrolling and thought they might need EMT help, like if someone fell and got road rash,” he remembers. He ended up working year after year at the camp. For “two weeks every summer, we were helping people get more comfortable on their bikes and ride up here.” The camp ran for 15 years, 10 of those in Summit County. After a brief move to Eagle County and a stint in Sun Valley, it eventually took him to Italy.

In addition to his 15-year involvement with the bike camps, Parker has also worked as an announcer, running background music for bike races around the country. He also briefly raced road bikes himself “at a very amateur level.”

As a road cyclist, he has had “a love/hate relationship with mountain bikes — mostly from falling over.” He gave his mountain bike away to his brother, who’d been living overseas, and instead focused his energies on road biking.

Parker feels that Summit County has been an incredible place to raise children.

“(My wife and I) both love to ski and ride bikes, and fortunately our kids like to do the same thing,” he says. “We can ski as a family and bike as a family. There’s nothing more gratifying than that.”

These days, Parker views his bike as a “recovery tool.” Afflicted with Idiopathic Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia, he says that the bike has helped him through the illness, even as doctors have struggled to pin down the exact cause of the blood disorder.

“Being able to get back on the bike was always a goal, mentally and physically,” he says of facing the condition, which can have unexpected impacts on cycling and even day-to-day activities. The recovery process lasts from nine to 12 months after an attack.

“It interrupts your daily life,” Parker says. “Walking up and down your staircase, making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, you’re anaerobic. It takes you out of your normal routine.”

After the first incident, the doctors said that he had a one in 10,000 chance of another attack, but it reappeared.

“Being able to get back on my bike was always a milestone, feeling like I had recovered from these two incidents,” he says, and now enjoys “life on a different perspective with this condition.”

Taking it one day at a time, Parker vows to keep learning and riding more throughout his life.

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