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Dan Johnson

By William Johnson

Dan got started biking seriously just after graduating from Frederic High School
(1972) and starting college at UW-River Falls. He and his brother William split the cost
of a real bike, a French Motobecane Grand Prix. After riding that one around, he
bought a Fichelle lugged and brazed frame from Terry Osell at the iconic Island Cycle in
Minneapolis, MN, invested in bike several tools, and learned how to assemble bike
components into a finished bike.

Following the suggestion of a high school classmate, who had ridden a 50 mile
bike race that was held annually in Grandview, WI, Dan started putting in the mileage to
try a bike race the next year. The first race he did was a small event in Balsam Lake,
WI, put on by a local startup bike shop. He finished second overall and the addiction to
racing was started. He rode the Firehouse 50 every year since 1987.
The WiSport Cycling Series had just started and he joined the second year and
was a member ever since. The first team he rode for was the Milwaukee based, Fat
Dog Mendoza. Riding most of the series races, he got to know Bob Barabe, Dag
Selander, and several others who were riding with the Hudson based early version of
the Big Ring Flyers.

Most of the Fat Dogs hung up their bikes, bought golf clubs, and the team
disappeared. The Big Ringers needed riders to help contest the team division of
WiSport, and with an invitation from Bob, he joined the Ringers, who went on to several
WiSport team wins.
Over the years he acquired a bike shop’s collection of tools, and built-up several
bikes from frames. Early on, he earned the Monty Pythonesque nickname of “Bicycle
Repairman”. He did it all, from threading spokes to building wheels.
Over the years, Dan rode hundreds of citizen bike races in Wisconsin, Michigan,
and Minnesota earning a boatload of trophies, and kink in one collarbone from a clumsy
landing in the Firehouse 50.

Dan also could always be counted on to help put on local races, too. From
making award plaques, to sweeping the corners or riding the lead motorcycle (his
Ducati 900SS), he volunteered to make our events happen.
Dan enjoyed sharing the stories of the greats of cycling, Coppi, Hinault, Moser,
Mottet and the others. He also knew “The Rules” of cycling’s etiquette, and was quick
to point out violations, and share a laugh over a poorly assembled kit that violated many
of the “Rules”.

Dan always looked forward to the after-race discussions and friendships that
formed over friendly competition.