American cycling legend Nelson Vails will be screening his documentary, “Cheetah — The Nelson Vails Story” (trailer here), each day during the North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS), February 26 – 28, and he’ll be leading a ride from the show on Sunday.
If you don’t know Vails, the native New Yorker won silver on the track at the 1984 Olympics, making him the first (and still only) African American to win an Olympic medal in cycling. Wearing an iconic helmet festooned with the Manhattan skyline, he was the rare American track cyclist to cross over into popular culture. (A former bike messenger, he played one in the 1986 Kevin Bacon movie “Quicksilver.”)
On a personal note, I’ll say that Vails was the first cyclist I could ever name. I was 13 during the Los Angeles Olympics. I wouldn’t learn the European legends of the sport until I was in high school. So Vails will always be my first cycling superstar. In fact, I met him and Eddy Merckx at the same Interbike trade show several years ago, and Vails left me feeling more starstruck, for the simple reason that my memories of him came directly from my 13-year-old self.
Anyway, if you’re going to be in Sacramento this weekend and have an interest in documentaries, bike rides, or living legends, head over to NAHBS.