Cycling community remembers Robert Perry

  • Mark Newton, a longtime friend of Bicycles & Skis Unlimited owner and cyclist Robert Perry, spoke to a group of about 70 people on a memorial ride Monday. Staff photo/Melina Bourdeau

  • More than 70 cyclists rode to 5J Creamee and Pasiecnik Farmstand from Bicycles & Skis Unlimited on Monday in honor of late Greenfield resident Robert Perry, owner of the bike shop and an avid cyclist. Staff photo/Melina Bourdeau

  • More than 70 cyclists rode to 5J Creamee and Pasiecnik Farmstand from Bicycles & Skis Unlimited on Monday in honor of late Greenfield resident Robert Perry, owner of the bike shop and an avid cyclist. Staff photo/Melina Bourdeau

Staff Writer
Published: 6/24/2019 9:48:18 PM

GREENFIELD — To those who knew him, Robert Perry had a nickname of “Bike Bob” for good reason. His friends and family say he had an encyclopedic knowledge of routes in Franklin County, he would help people learn how to ride a bike regardless of their age or ability, and he never forgot a person’s name.

So when Perry died of cancer on Saturday, the cyclist community he was part of came together to honor him with a memorial ice cream social. The ride was a tradition he started, beginning in Greenfield at his bicycle shop, Bicycles & Skis Unlimited, and ending at 5J Creamee and Pasiecnik Farmstand for strawberry shortcake.

The ride drew a crowd of about 70 people on Monday evening.

Perry’s sister, Patty Perry, went along for the ride. She said her brother “fell in love with cycling” in his early 30s.

“When he was in his 30s into his 40s, he got a job at Judd Wire. Mostly it amounted to working from 7 to 3, so from 3 on he could bike,” Patty Perry said. “Then there were some changes and he thought he needed to have a better plan. He always wanted a bike shop and in 1993, he opened Bicycles Unlimited.”

She said the environment her brother created was one that welcomed people of all levels from professionals to beginners.

“He would teach you how to ride because of his love for cycling,” Perry said. “If you were a beginner in flip flops on an old Schwinn to experienced riders, he just liked to help people.”

She said Bob not only had the nickname of “Bicycle Bob,” but he would give nicknames to everyone.

“I was talking with a customer earlier today and when I put his name in the system, it was under his nickname Bob gave him,” Perry said.

Bruce Mainville, a nuclear medicine technologist at Baystate Franklin Medical Center, together with Dr. Howard Natenshon, spearheaded the first Wheeling for Healing event in 2008. The fundraiser helps to raise money for Baystate Franklin’s oncology patients. This year’s Wheeling for Healing is dedicated to Bob, which was determined prior to his death.

Mainville said Bob was his advisor.

“He knows the routes of Franklin County so well, if you asked him for a 15-mile route, he could draw it on a map for memory,” Mainville said. “He always knew about road conditions and safety. We would joke that he was our musher at the back of the group and we were his dogs.”

He said Bob would donate a new bike annually for the raffle for Wheeling for Healing, and this year he donated an electric hybrid to allow for comfortable recliners to be purchased by the hospital.

“When he first got sick, he was getting treatment in Springfield and he told me about how comfortable the chairs were,” Mainville said. “He told me he thought everyone should have one of those chairs, so he donated an additional bike to raffle off.”

Mainville said Bob constantly tried to help others and “there is a hole now in the biking community.”

Mark Newton, a longtime friend of Bob’s, said there were many qualities about his friend he referred to as “Bob-isms.”

“He would be at the back with the beginners and I would hear him talking, so I would increase the pace, because if you’re talking you’re not pushing yourself,” Newton said. “But he was a very fit cyclist and I could still hear him talking. If you rode at the level he did, you were in pain, but he would keep pushing through it to get better.”

Newton said Bob was more than a friend in his life.

“He was a father, brother, friend, biking guru — but it wasn’t just me that he treated like this, it was everyone,” Newton added.

Reach Melina Bourdeau at 413-772-0261, ext. 263 or mbourdeau@recorder.com.




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