Click here to share your own story about Michael R. Rabe.

Michael R. Rabe's first love was cycling and cyclists. He always put the needs of other cyclists before his own. Rabe was a USA Cycling licensed Official, Rider, and Coach. He was an accomplished race announcer and cyclocross racer. He designed and co-ordinated the acquisition of uniforms for the Wolverine Sports Club and served as Vice President of Racing for the club. He also sat on the Walden Velodrome Board and was an instructor and ride leader at the Walden School of Cycling. Michael R. is 6th from the right with the dark sleeves and beaming smile he wore when surrounded by his many cycling friends.
Michael R. Rabe's devotion to cycling was known around the U.S. and Europe. This photo, taken at the Walden School of Cycling near Orlando, Florida several years ago, shows Rabe with a cycling associate named Klaus from Germany. Rabe received frequent invitations to visit Europe for six-day track races or to see the Tour de France. His own dedication to local cycling and an unusual disdain for air travel caused him to put off the trips. He would drive to the Walden School each spring, staying with his close friend and associate Paul Jaqua before the School began.
Other than his father, whom he respected greatly, Michael R. Rabe's greatest role model and mentor was the late Mike Theron Walden. Rabe had enormous respect for Walden, his techniques and his teaching style. He continued Walden's devotion to developing junior cyclists and introducing them to the sport. Rabe could recount Walden's training doctrine verbatim, and adopted his "program" completely. This photo shows Rabe years ago, after a long personal absence from cycling during which Rabe gained a lot of weight. Walden scolded Rabe for allowing himself to put on weight and in typical Rabe fashion, he adopted a rigorous summer-long program of disciplined diet, long rides and evening walks to loose the weight. He lost 60 pounds in 7 months and kept all the weight off while becoming a better racer than ever. Shortly after Michael R. Rabe won his first bicycle race, a Paul Bunyan mountain bike race.
Rabe's gruff exterior concealed a character with enormous capacity for kindness. He took in an abandoned cat and named it "Pico" after a fictional character from "The Jerky Boys". Rabe is shown here playing with a cat named "Number 2" that was rescued by Bikesport customers Jim and Pam Gentner. Rabe said he refused to adopt any of the rescued cats because it would upset his cat, but spent hours playing with them and talking to them as if they were his own. He would often sit on the floor of the store after hours wrestling with the cats until they all found homes.
Rabe was known for his fanatical attention to mechanical detail. He would spend hours, especially during cyclocross season, adjusting and perfecting the performance of bikes used by juniors, new riders, and lastly, himself. It was common for Rabe to stay in the store until 2-3 A.M. working on projects and perfecting equipment- usually for other people. He insisted that handlebar tape be applied in a "mirror-image" orientation. Installing a chain was done with a level of precision seldom seen at NASA. When I tried to do him a favor by taping the handlebars on his road bike several years ago, he told me "It was his own personal property" and that I couldn't possibly do it right because I had "only been doing this for about 20 years". Rabe never accepted anything less than perfection for his riders. Here he adjusts the position on a new bike for Colin McMahon with help from Nate Griffith.
Michael R. Rabe (seated) leads an autumn training ride and chats with Dave Koesel, elite racer and industry insider. Rabe posted bulletin boards for training ride schedules and hosted a weekly cyclocross practice free for all racers. He encouraged new cyclists to attend and took extra time to demonstrate techniques and devise a structured training program. At his practices Rabe would arrive an hour early and place over 200 flags in the frozen ground to mark the practice cyclocross course, then host the workout while training himself, then enlist the help of the racers to retrieve the flags and do it all over again the following week, all without being asked.
Rabe was a traditionalist, skeptic, critic and student of the sport. He always entertained new ideas but demanded empirical support before he would adopt them. He believed in maintaining high cadences, practicing pedaling technique, using low gears for training and racing and in Mike Walden's philosophy about juniors: "Rule #1, Do No Harm". Rabe was always ready to help others with cycling. His life was entirely devoted to his job at UNISYS as a programmer, his sport and his friends. At UNISYS, Rabe was frequently called upon to solve difficult problems under impossible deadlines. He would disappear for 48 hours, not taking phone calls or being seen, to complete difficult assignments to perfection on deadline regardless of the demands. He was held in the highest regard at UNISYS and was known as a "Fireman", or person to call in case of trouble. His performance reviews were always outstanding but in typical Rabe fashion he took no credit for his exemplary work.
Rabe was an eccentric with an unusual, vigorous sense of humor. He developed a highly codified vernacular used to communicate in the bike shop fraught with novel mispronunciations, acronyms and strange spellings. It became a dialect known only to the inner circle of Rabe's friends. Acronyms such as "JCC" where used to communicate indifference to a given circumstance, and in typical Rabe style, the term came from the nursery rhyme"Jimmy Crack Corn" (and I don't care). entire conversation could be conducted in front of unsuspecting outsiders with the entire message remaining coded. He could complete an entire phone conversation in under 10 seconds but was also ready to listen to hours of personal problems at 3:00 A.M. and offer frank, candid, unflinching advice. In his personal life he was a solitary man who loved his friends and did not like being photographed.
Rabe instituted a strict regimen of off-season training during the winter using Computrainers. Here he rides a computer-simulated course with his protégé and friend Colin McMahon. Many people would visit the store to ride Rabe's Computrainer programs. When Colin McMahon first came to the store Rabe put him on a borrowed bike and shifted the gears for him as the terrain changed. Two years later Rabe drove to the US National Junior Cycling Championships with Colin McMahon, his most promising understudy. Despite their age difference McMahon and Rabe had an exceptional connection and uncommon friendship- both of them brilliant, eccentric and frequently misunderstood by outsiders. They shared a love of cycling and a love of their friendship.
While Rabe's most noteworthy contributions to cycling were through his selfless philanthropy, he was a different man on a cyclocross bike: A vicious competitor. He trained relentlessly for cyclocross season and lead his age group series in 2002 for several weeks, only to finish second overall in a dramatic upset in the final few races. Rabe loved cyclocross for its unusual techniques and quarky mechanical requirements. Although his road cycling was skilled but athletically unremarkable, his cyclocross skills were impressive. I rode behind him during a cyclocross race in central Michigan on a cold day in late 2002. It was nearly impossible to stay on his wheel and he commanded the entire race, winning easily with me coming a tortured second place. It was one of my most memorable days in cycling.
Before his involvement with cycling and working at UNISYS Michael R. Rabe was a US Navy Submariner and served aboard the USS William H. Bates, SSN-680, a Sturgeon Class nuclear powered fast-attack submarine. He was an electrician and serviced and operated, among other systems, the ships inertial navigation system. Rabe spoke little of his military career, but when I visited his house I noticed letters of commendation on his wall from Admirals and fleet commanders. His performance in technical school was so outstanding he was quickly recruited as an instructor even while he was still a student. During one cruise he remained submerged an incredible 60 days. His submarine was active during the height of the Cold War, and participated in numerous covert intelligence gathering missions as described in the book Blind Man's Bluff. Rabe never revealed the details of his operations, guarding this sacred trust for his entire life.

Click here to share your own story about Michael R. Rabe.

Continue to bikesportmichigan.com