Men and Connection: Shoulder to Shoulder, Spoke to Spoke

It’s been documented through research that when it comes to forming deep human relationships, women more often need to connect face-to-face.  Men, however, form equally meaningful friendships connecting ‘shoulder-to-shoulder.’ Or, in some cases, ‘Spoke-to-Spoke.’

Dr. David Bahm riding in the Seattle to Portland cycling race

Dr. David Bahm riding in the Seattle to Portland cycling race

Longtime greater Seattle resident Dr. David Bahm (David) began cycling nearly two decades ago not as a means of connection, but out of a need to ‘get up and get moving.’  A few years out of college found him happily married with two fantastic sons, but also putting on weight and subsequently diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

“I topped out at 240 lbs. and that just didn’t work for me,” David said. “I got aggressive in the gym and my wife, Ann, helped me out with portion-control.  After I reached my goal weight, I tried getting into running but it just wasn’t really my thing.  I had ridden (a bicycle) a lot as a kid, but stopped once I got to college.”

The Evolution of a Cycling Enthusiast

David thought a second time about cycling and bought a good quality, used road bike on EBay, and began to ride.  “I had a good friend who had been pestering me for years, trying to get me to ride with him,” David said. “So one day I said ‘yes’ and I hooked up with him and a bunch of his cycling buddies.”  From there, David began enjoying cycling more and more, and that group of ‘cycling buddies’ began to evolve to become known as Team Elmer. “My friend had a baseball cap that had Elmer Fudd on it; you could say the name stuck.”

Over the past 15+ years, Team Elmer has enjoyed hundreds of rides and raced together in the STP (Seattle to Portland) as well as the RAMROD and the Solvang Century. “The crown jewel of Northwest riding is the RAMROD (Ride Around Mt. Rainier in One Day),” David said. “It’s got 10,000 feet of elevation over 150 miles.” For several years Team Elmer also traveled each March to California to ride in the Solvang Century 100-mile cycling event.

Team Elmer on their Bikes

Team Elmer

“Six guys packed in a Suburban with bikes and gear, then we crammed into some small motel rooms. It was a little primal and gross, to say the least,” David laughed.  “We turned it into a race, with everyone trying to ‘finish last, second to last or better.’”

The Evolution of Friendship

Over those years, David began encouraging his neighbors to get into cycling and join Team Elmer.  “I started applying pressure to shame them into joining our team,” David quipped. “Several did.  We’ve become, as I describe it, ‘a loose-knit group of occasionally-fit cyclists.’”

Team Elmer has ridden through many hardships together, both on and off the road that have connected their lives in profound ways.  Various falls and spills have resulted in serious injuries, one rider has had a pacemaker implanted and one was in a serious car wreck resulting in a lengthy recovery.

And, in 2007, David lost his wife Ann after her 22-year battle with a rare form of cancer.  Those who knew Ann frequently marveled at her resiliency as she faced her battle with profound faith, maintaining a very active personal, professional and social life. During many of those years she worked as a nurse three to four days a week while finding time to be what David described as ‘Wondermom.’  David and Ann raised two sons, one of whom graduated from Western Washington University a couple of years ago, and the other will graduate from Washington State University next spring.

“We’re all a bit scarred one way or another,” David said of his cycling buddies.  “You learn a lot about people when they’re at their physical limit. You see people for who they really are when all of the layers have been peeled away.”

Pedaling Forward

Over the years David joined both the Cascade Bicycle Club and the Redmond Cycling Club. “I joined with the goal of finding new routes for Team Elmer and found a really good one that started and finished at the Redhook Brewery,” David said. “And, you know, it would be just rude to not stop in for a beer after the ride.”

In his typical spirit of engaging with life, four years ago David found himself ready to be socially active again. He participated in the dating site E-Harmony where he eventually met Jackie. Their third date was a hike up Tiger Mountain, the fastest that either of them had ever done the hike. “Neither one of us likes to come in second,” he laughed.  David and Jackie were married last winter.

David and Jackie Bahm

Cycling is one of the many activities David and Jackie enjoy together.

“My eHarmony adventure was a real eye opener,” David said. “Living in Sammamish, I was under the impression that there were no single people my age on the planet. It turns out that there are plenty of singles, it’s just that hanging out with my married friends and their wives wasn’t the most productive place to look for dates.

“It’s been fantastic getting to know Jackie.  It’s fun to live with your favorite playmate and best friend.”

Now residing in Belltown, the couple recently hosted a rooftop barbecue with Team Elmer and spouses. “We’ve now become a co-ed group with a few of the wives who are active cyclists joining us on rides,” David said.

And, About the Seattle Freeze…

“I’ve never experienced that,” David said of the proverbial Freeze. “When Ann and I first moved to Issaquah years ago, we got involved with Issaquah Salmon Days as a way to get connected to the community and meet people.”  For years, David chaired the event as well as led the ‘Refuse Rangers,’ a group he named and formed to take point on garbage detail.

“You can’t sit in your apartment and wait for life to show up on your front door. In my opinion, people who are passionate about a hobby or an activity want to share that with others. You just need to get out there and do something.”

Do Something, Indeed…

There are two sides of every issue, as there is with the Seattle Freeze.  I think the first and best way to dissipate the power of this argument is to, as David said, “do something.” Each of us shares in the responsibility of being aware of others, being inviting, opening up our friendship circles.  Each of us also shares in the personal responsibility to engage, initiate and not ‘wait’ for life and friendship to just show up.  Imagine if every Seattleite took one step forward on each side of the Freeze?

It’s been my privilege to know David Bahm – or, as I call him, Doctor B – as he has been my chiropractor for the past 10 years.  I have had the sincere pleasure of watching the way he models engaging with life, serving his community and caring for his family.  In so many areas of his life, not just cycling, he has chosen to ‘trade up’ his ING (cycling, volunteering, etc.) to create a ‘BING,’ an opportunity to relationally expand his life.

He is a model to all of us to get out there and Do Something.

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