Bush on bike...and off. The truth isn't what you've read

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Anonymous's picture

"Copy of letter sent to NY Times editor, June 1:

Paul Krugman writes (Tues., June 1) of Pres. Bush's ""routine mendacity."" Surely, if one (or his spokesperson) will prevaricate and dissemble about small, unimportant stuff, you have to wonder how truthful he is in larger, more important matters.

Accounting for Bush's tumble from his mountain bike on May 22, White House spokesman Trent Duffy stated, ""It's been raining a lot and the topsoil is loose."" Well, no it wasn't. TV weather station KWTX, close to Crawford, reported there was NO rain on May 22, May 21, May 20, May 19, May 18, May 17, May 16, or May 15. It did, however, rain on May 14: 0.03""

Elisabeth Bumiller states in her May 31 article, ""Taking the High Road, the Low Road and Maybe a Boulder or Two,"" [Bush press secretary Scott] ""McClellan said that Mr. Bush typically mountain bikes 15 to 20 miles for an hour or an hour and a half at a time."" Champion professional mountain bike racers, on courses with streams, logs, tree stumps, winding, technical turns, and grinding uphills, generally go 12-15MPH. Competent recreational riders go c. 8 MPH.

Richard Rosenthal


Corrobration of Duffy's quotation, via e-mail: Georgia Godfrey of the White House Press Office, May 27, 2004

Corroboration of rainfall: ""Rusty"" of Channel 10 (weather station) KWTX in Waco, May 27, 2004 in a phone call.

Corroboration of speed of MTB racers: USA Cycling (the official sanctioning arm of Olympic cycling in the U.S. and the parent of NORBA (National Off-Road Bicycle Association) in Colorado Springs), in phone conversation with T. Vinson, June 1, 2004.

Anonymous's picture
banana guy (not verified)
from the Times

Taking the High Road, the Low Road and Maybe a Boulder or Two

Published: May 31, 2004


When George W. Bush fell off his mountain bike and banged up his face the week before last, the world took modest note of the president's new hobby.

What it did not know was that over the past three months the 57-year-old chief executive, sidelined from the fast track with runner's knee, has become so consumed by mountain biking that he now rides at least an hour a day on most weekends, and monitors his heart rate with a wrist strap during workouts. (Mr. Bush reported through his press secretary, Scott McClellan, that he sometimes gets above a chest-thumping 160 beats per minute.)

As it happens, a certain 60-year-old Democratic presidential candidate is a serious biker, too, although Senator John Kerry more often road bikes. Mr. Kerry sometimes takes his bike on his campaign plane, and during days off takes two-hour jaunts along the Charles River in Boston.

At first glance, this is nothing more than the story of two middle-aged jocks cycling themselves away from the advances of time. At second glance, this is an election year, and the situation is more complex.

First, look at the candidates' choice of bikes.

Mr. Bush keeps a Trek Fuel 90 at his Texas ranch, the site of his tumble on May 22. The Fuel 90, one of the snazzier of Trek's mountain bikes, retails for more than $1,500. At Camp David, Mr. Bush also rides a Trek, but picks it out from the fleet of more ordinary $250 models available to guests.

Mr. Bush's choice of Trek is hardly surprising, given that the company is one of the world's biggest manufacturers of quality bikes and its president, John Burke, is a member of the President's Council on Physical Fitness. Trek's sponsored athlete is Lance Armstrong, the five-time Tour de France winner from Austin, Tex., who presented his friend the president with a Trek bike at the White House in 2001.

It was difficult to determine if Mr. Burke is a Republican, since he declined repeated requests for an interview. But it could be determined that Ben Serotta, the maker of John Kerry's road bikes, is politically compatible with one of his most famous customers.

""I come from a fairly long line of Democrats,"" Mr. Serotta said in a telephone interview from the headquarters of Serotta Competition Bicycles in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. If Mr. Kerry won the election, he said, ""we certainly would not be disappointed.""

Mr. Kerry owns two road bikes from Serotta, a niche manufacturer that serves a high-end market. The senator has an Ottrott, which retails with custom-added parts for an average of $8,000, and an older Colorado III. Mr. Kerry also has mountain bikes for the trails near his home in Ketchum, Idaho.

Moving on, let's take a look at Mr. Bush's and Mr. Kerry's bike sportsmanship.

When Mr. Bush had his spill, Mr. Kerry's reaction rapidly coursed through political cyberspace. According to The Drudge Report, Mr. Kerry said to reporters in what he believed was an off-the-record remark, ""Did the training wheels fall off?""

The Chicago Sun-Times then reported that Chicago's Democratic mayor, Richard M. Daley - who ripped the skin off his kneecap in a bicycle accident a few years ago - had scolded Mr. Kerry for the wisecrack. ""You should not wish ill upon anyone,"" Mr. Daley said.

The Republican National Committee then seized on Mr. Daley's remarks and sent them out as an attack e-mail under the headline ""They said it!""

Mr. Kerry took his own fall from a bike on May 2 after he hit a patch of sand on a two-lane road in Concord, Mass. Mr. Kerry had no injuries and Mr. Bush had no reaction, at least none that we know of.

Finally, let's look at bike-riding performance.

Mr. McClellan said that Mr. Bush typically mountain-bikes 15 to 20 miles for an hour or an hour an"

Anonymous's picture
Paul Spraos (not verified)

As Kerry aluded to in his comment, Bush fell off his bike a few days after using the simile that it was time for Iraq to take its training wheels off.

Anonymous's picture
Isaac Brumer (not verified)

On a simple dirt or gravel path, W could conceivably cover 15-20 miles in 1.5-2 hours. Anyone know the complexity of his trails?

Anonymous's picture
Richard Rosenthal (not verified)
Simple goes with the man, but WH says it was a full bore trail

The claim was Bush was trail riding. Since the White House alleges the fall was due to top soil made loose by rain (notwithstanding it hadn't rained in a week), it surely wasn't gravel.

Also, the WH puts forward the length of his MTB/trail rides of 20 miles is one hour to an hour and a half, not two hours.

Anonymous's picture
marion (not verified)
The Prez Has Spokes...

And he still hasn't figured what the hub is for.

cycling trips