It was 13 months (to the day) prior to the Outside Magazine article being published in print (and then yesterday, a month later online) that I got my first e-mail from the author, Andrew Tilin. He had wanted to chat a bit about doing a piece on me and what DC Rainmaker was all about. I was in Australia at the time, and a handful of days later we had our first chat via phone at 12:30AM my time, well over an hour’s worth of discussion covering everything from what high school I went to, to my first job as a paperboy.
Over the course of the next 14 months we’d share 129 e-mails, plenty more phone calls and texts, one transatlantic trip, a run, a few bike rides, and a bowl of ramen. Ultimately as much as he got to know me, I got to know Andrew. And that’s as important a part of this story as any other. But first, a bit more backstory.
As with any piece from a reputable journalist, you never quite know 100% what their specific angle is. Sure, I had a rough idea of the general gist of the piece on me, which was aimed at fitting into their ‘Work issue’, highlighting people in the outdoor industry that made their passions their life. But I had no control over the piece, nor any insight into the words on the paper. I could only continue answering the endless stream of questions and follow-up questions.
Of course, I was hardly the only person being talked to. Andrew called friends, family, past co-workers, industry people I knew…and those I didn’t. He even got contact info for DCR readers that visited the DCR Cave during his week-long job-shadow of me. Most of those conversations lasted upwards of an hour from what I hear. The breadth of detail he had rivaled only the best online stalkers. Though in some ways his job was made easier by one simple fact: I’d spent the last decade documenting it online here.
Last fall he made a trip to visit me and the ‘DCR Empire’ in Paris. In reality, the empire is merely the DCR Cave, which as he notes is the cross between a Radio Shack and a 24 Hour Fitness. An impressively fairly apt description.
For that week he spent all day chasing me around as a job shadow of sorts. Sitting next to me as I wrote reviews, answered questions, and did the generally mundane typical office computer administrivia that most of my days encompass. He also stood by as I shot unboxing photos for products (he was there for this Coros Omni helmet), as well as shooting YouTube videos. And he got to have fun chasing around UPS, FedEx and La Poste around town on Velib bikes.
Plus of course, we went for runs and rides. As an avid cyclist, we headed out to the palace of Versailles, on an astonishingly beautiful fall day. Even cooler was us stumbling onto a newly converted road to bike path along the river on the way back. This is Andrew on the outbound, and then on the return riding along the newly paved path:
As with many visitors, I take them on a bit of a ‘best of’ route with all the major sights around town. You can see our full Strava ride and route here.
As one might expect, when you spend a week with a person looking over your shoulder at every e-mail you write, you end up getting to know them a bit. We chatted about his kids, as well as mine (at the time my second daughter was still a few weeks away). I got to know him as a person and what made him tick. After all, he had written one of the most well known pieces on doping in cycling by taking testosterone supplements to document their impact. As analytical about sports gadgets as I am, he was about understanding the people and subjects he wrote about. He visited our apartment one night, playing on our floor with our 1-year old daughter and chatting with The Girl. To our daughter, he effectively played the part of an uncle – happily handing back and forth whatever toys she gathered for him. Of course, always the journalist he was, all the while grabbing tidbits and quotes.
After he left we had more follow-up calls, and then later in November, Outside hired a local photographer that’s done sports work to get shots of me in a variety of situations. Shot on Thanksgiving morning, this included running, cycling, as well as in the DCR Cave. Like most photo shoots, it was mostly just a lot of back and forth in the same spot. Here’s my Strava track for the combined run and ride photos. You’ll note I went back and forth over and over again on the bridge and quai…for 5 kilometers of these little 100m stretches:
And then we went inside for all assortment of shots. Be it more portrait shots that made the magazine, to many other shots like me shooting an unboxing video or weighing gadgets inside. I think we spent an hour in the DCR Cave getting photos. Keep in mind, the DCR Cave isn’t bigger than most master bedrooms.
Continuing into December I’d get further follow-up questions from Andrew, confirmations of various tidbits, but you could see from the questions that most were minor double-checking type things. Validating the finer points of items. And then shortly thereafter I had a call with an Outside Magazine fact checker where we spent another hour going through countless bits of information for validation.
He wasn’t reading the article to me, but rather asking me questions (non yes or no) and looking for my answers to match whatever was apparently written. In some cases, I sent over proof or screenshots of various things (I.e. site stats, comment number, etc…).
And then from there it was mostly silence. That was until the middle of February that I saw a picture on a friends Instagram story showing me in Outside Magazine. And thus it was published on magazine stands, ironically it took a few days until I actually was able to read it – given there were no hard-copies available in Australia, where I am currently, and the digital version didn’t hit for a bit longer.
Unfortunately, that’s not where this story ends. Two days later Andrew was out doing what he and his friends loved doing: Riding his bike. It was a foggy Saturday February morning in Austin, TX on a group ride when Andrew got a flat tire. He did as he had done countless times before and pulled off the side of the road to fix the tire. Moments later a truck driver hydroplaned on the slick pavement, hit another vehicle, and then subsequently struck Andrew, killing him and injuring another.
Unknowingly, I replied to a text Andrew had sent me, a mere hour after the incident. I never heard back.
I didn’t find out until the next day when a DCR reader and close friend of Andrew’s sent me a note. My reaction was identical to that of the Bicycling Magazine editors. I just sat stunned and silent. The Girl as well, as she too had gotten to know Andrew during our stay.
I can’t say I knew Andrew as well as his countless friends, and coworkers across the industry. I was lucky enough to spend a week with him running around and riding in one of the most amazing cities in the world. The Girl and I were lucky enough to spend dinner with him and his partner Shellie, talking about our families and sports. And lucky enough to simply get to know a man who advocated for bicycle safety and fairness in our sport.
Thus thank you Andrew, for this incredibly well-written article, the time I got to spend with you, and the impact you’ve had on others. You’ll be missed.
It’s hard to find words for something like this. Thx for sharing your story Ray and prayers to his Family. May he rest in peace.
That must have been a difficult piece to write. The excitement of having a big magazine article about you, overshadowed by the sad news at the end. I thought you balanced it well, and I’ll confess I choked up a little at the end.
Wow. I have no words. Thank you for giving us the story behind the story.
Absolutely heartbreaking Ray. I read this article as if you were introducing a new contributor to DCR but felt like I got kicked in the gut. Nothing I could say would make Andrew’s family and especially his kids feel better. But a stranger in another land is thinking about them and wishing them solace in this extraordinarily tough time.
I wasn’t expecting this article to go in that direction. What a terrible tragedy. Any of us who’s been on a road bike has had a number of near misses, at best.
Holy gut check. 🙁
I was expecting major errors with the story – not the loss of the writer’s life due to something like that.
Life is a gift. Live in the present. You never know when your time will come. So tell those that you love how you feel. You may never get the chance later.
I hope his family and friends can find peace in such a horrible tragedy. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. When I leave this earth I’m hoping that I’m doing what love which it sounds like he was doing.
I read the article a few weeks back and thought it was well done. I clipped it (hardcopy) and put it in my files.
Ray, I wasn’t sure where you were going with the blog post. Maybe the article was a bit too intrusive in spots? I don’t know.
Jeez, so sad. I lost a cousin the same way; his car fubar’d, he pulled into the breakdown lane, and some idiot hit him.
People, please: get WAY off the road if you have to stop.
RIP, Andrew. You did some good work, my man.
Thanks for the excellent article, Ray. For an IT guy with “no formal journalism training”, you seem to be doing a pretty good job here. I was expecting a rebuttal to the prima donna comment at the end but you properly let that be. I’m still a bit choked up at the ending of this piece. I’d seen this news a few weeks ago, but didn’t connect the dots until now.
A beautiful tribute…
I read the article before reading this. Wow. What a punch to the gut. Tragic. RIP Andrew Tilin.
You’re a class act Ray by avoiding any commentary on the “prima donna” label and with your beautifully phrased thoughts on Andrew’s passing. Well done, my friend.
Oh man. I enjoyed reading the Outside article and it was painful to read the end of this post. I’m sorry for your and his family and friends’ loss. So sad 🙁
Well that’s an effing sad story.
I was smiling all through that post, thinking how wonderful and annoying it must be at the same time, and now I am sitting here with my mouth open and saying “oh my god!” Truly heartbreaking.
Wow, I wasn’t expecting this, even when “unfortunately” appeared…thought it might be a “classic” misunderstanding between writer and subject of the article especially since I thought I’d sensed some hints, possibly not just me…anyway, phew this was quite a shock, won’t hide I welled up a bit. So sad, RIP.
dang it I hate these kind of stories!!! Stay safe everyone.
It’s difficult to say anything that doesn’t sound ( just wrong ). Ray you did an excellent job with what had to be a tough post.
ZWIFT, I will miss the road but to many crazies out there.
Ray, I have a hard copy of the issue with the article about you. If you would like it, please send me an email where I should mail it to. I will get it out next week.
Thanks for sharing. His death was unexpected and tragic, but it sounds like he made the most of his time on earth. Rest well, Andrew.
Mors certa, hora incerta…
Ride In Peace over there, Andrew.
…and do not forget the Prof, also…
Wow. Thanks for sharing. I was “stunned” by your account; you did a lovely job of telling a very sad story. This is a such a nice tribute to him. RIP, Andrew.
Wow! Just can’t pull my jaw up off the floor and completely lost for words. My heart goes out to Andrew’s family. What a nice tribute.
The human side of the tech and sport world – when I saw the writer’s name in the first few lines I thought I recognised it from recent news. Such a tragedy for Andrew’s family, friends and the wider community 🙁
Pretty rough when you know your mates are spread out around the global cycling and the odds can be against you and them. Still, the love and passion is what drives us to endure the close calls and value life even more when a tragic event like the one which took Andrew.
Peace be with you, and Be Safe within your own story.
Wow! Thank you for sharing this. I had not put this together and so sad. My deepest condolences to his family.
I had to stop reading midway through the “Unfortunately…” sentence. I was thinking, there is no way he’s going to say what I think he’s going to say. And then I reread it 2 more times to make sure I saw it correctly. It’s truly sad to think that’s how he went. Props to you for being able to share your experience with him with as much detail as you are known for.
Thank you for sharing this snippet of life Ray. My condolences to Andrew’s family and friends.
Thank you for the story. RIP Andrew.
so sad… Life can change everything in a minute…
All my sentiments to the family…
Thanks for sharing this with us.
What a tragedy. Wasnt expecting that at all, thanks for sharing Ray. RIP Andrew
A good tribute, thnx for sharing! Condolences with the loss…
I was smiling away reading this post, wondering what the catch might be. Always something funny or off beat. I thought ‘this is a bit of a bromance here!’ Then I suddenly remembered who Andrew is; I’d read his tributes in Outside.
This must have been a very difficult and challenging experience Ray. But you have excelled yourself with what you’ve written here.
Yikes. So sad. I started your post and then went and read his article on you and then the one on doping and decided I found a new writer whose work I’d like to follow. I read a few more of of his pieces. I felt like I had an impression of the man. I then got back to finishing your post… so, so sad. My heartfelt condolences to his friends and family.
I was so excited to see the article about you in Outside Magazine and read it with relish. It was well written and I was exhausted just reading about all you do to keep us athletic types updated on the most current gadgets.
I knew about Andrew and the accident in Texas. It was huge news in the bicycling community in the USA. Somehow I just did not connect it to the author of the article. I am still stunned, but thank you for the back story and the tribute.
Sometimes it just doesn’t take long to know and value a quality individual. You knew you had a friend – from all I have read about him he touched so many.
Prayers and blessings to his family from a fellow cyclist. Thank you for this article.
The best blog post on this website, hands down. After having read it when it first came out, I’m reading this again for the second time, after having had some single malt with some friends, and while listening to Purple Rain. You’re a class act, Ray, and this is a very very classy article and I say that without any hint or suggestion of sarcasm. As a gadget freak, I sometimes wonder whether I’m too self-absorbed into getting the latest, lightest and fastest, and this article reminds me that there are things that are perhaps more important than some latest gadget.
What I do say is that your reviews and testing of gadgets lets me quickly pick and choose the equipment I need and not spend an inordinate amount of time reading internet reviews of questionable objectiveness. So ultimately, your website helps me to spend more time on things that matter – the relationships with family and friends. Keep up the great work Ray.
Ray – it took me three days to read the article. I started and had to do something, continued, had to something, then sat down this evening to finish reading and the ending took my breadth away.
So sad. May all he touched remember the difference he made in their lives.
Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for this, Ray. I’m Andrew’s co-editor at The Masters Athlete and worked with him for 30 years. He was truly a special guy, and I miss him like crazy. I know he enjoyed his time with you a lot.
Heady stuff. Thanks for sharing, and condolences to all those affected.
Thank you for sharing this story . Could not have been easy to write
Oh wow. I’m so sorry for your loss. I wasn’t expecting that at all. It was a great article; I caught it in hard copy right after it came out. 🙁
Great story. Very powerful.
Thank you for sharing this powerful story with all of us, DCR. It deeply moved me.