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Throw Back Thursday with Mike Kluge

Its Throw back Thursday and today we are going across the pond to Germany and the 1980's. Noticed that this time I didn't give a specific year but a decade. Well, actually this issue stared about a particular day and rider and then we had the opportunity to just interview this classic influential German figure of cyclocross. Mike Kluge was gracious enough to email us back a response of "Just give me a call" to the 4 questions that we sent him. So I emailed him back "Are you in Germany right now?" Then I quickly checked the time zones and yep it was only 430 pm there and luckily I was up at 6 am here on the west coast. I grabbed my phone and dialed him up. But first...

So what was going on in the 80's. The 80's were my favorite decade.. The 80's is filled with pop culture moves. It all started off big with a new Stars Wars V movie "The Empire Strikes back". The rest of the decades were filled with movie hits like "Fast times at Ridgemont High, The Breakfast Club, Back to the Future, Top Gun, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Shining, Footloose and many more. The Berlin wall was coming down and the cold war was coming to an end. With that said lets get to the phone call with Mike.

When was your first CX race and how old were you and how did you do? "I was 16 year old and it was in 1978, I was playing hand ball and volleyball and my father said that I needed endurance. I saw the Tour De France and was every excited. I got into some entry level races and I was winning them. It was easy for me and from there got into a cycling club. I started racing club races and then in the races they left me twice and I had the taste of blood in my lungs. So when winter came the coach of the club said that we don't ride on the road so much and we did cyclocross riding and that was more fun. It was fun to me because I had to control the bike more and choose the best line. Was more fun than a boring road race. It was a learning experience and was suffering and had a great time learning and developing. And every time I was improving more.. and more.. become national team and then become Professional. One of the things that I liked about cyclocross is that you had to concentrate and focus on what you were doing."

Mike told me about a race in Frankfurt Germany 1989 in that he lost his focus.

"I was at the start of the race and there were a lot of media. I was giving interviews to them. this race was a selection race for worlds and I was one of the favorites and I was really confident. So relaxed and confident that I lost my focus on the race itself. The beginning of the race had 2 laps in a stadium track and was so confident that he forgot that I had to do both laps and I only did one. I got out on to the course and I was alone and I said to my self "Man I'm really doing good very quickly" I realize I had only done one lap, turned around and rode backwards on the course and then came back into the stadium. when I entered the stadium the field was just leaving and so I was a lap down! I was at the back of the filed and by the end finished 9th. I went to get my prize at the end and they passed me over. I had been disqualified for that mistake even though I had gone back and done the 2nd lap. My coach was very angry at me. Because of that I missed making the world team. Then the day got even worse I had a accident with my car and had really learned to focus. The day was just a nightmare."

So was this how "FOCUS" Bikes got its name? Mike starts laughing...

"No but maybe in the back of my mind. I had a partner and he wanted me to have my name on the bike but I didn't want that. It happened I was taking pictures of my family and I noticed that the camera always focused on the center of the picture and the frame is the center of the bike and that is how I came up with the name of the bike because the frame is the center of the bike. That was the way the name was born.

I have a picture of you running with your bike what year was that race and what was the race?

"That was 1993, I was the first one to ride and race with hydraulic brakes."

Tell me about your bike? "Was a titanium frame own fork and was made in Germany. The frame was built in America by Moots! the problem at the time was the rear stays was not enough clearance for the large tires at the time. the only option I had was to make more clearance and to mark the stay with a pen and put bike on table and pressed the stays with a screwdriver to flatten them out to give more tire clearance on the bike. I did it on both sides so I got good clearance and it looked very nice like it was done from the beginning. But actually the frames broke after 2 months and then had to be fixed. But after that they were perfect. I really enjoyed the titanium at the time because there was no carbon fiber available. the good thing about my bike at the time I was the only one to brake and stop on the point. No one could stop on a point. I was the first one to use Hydraulic brakes at the time. Raining weather I was the last one to brake and that means the first out of the turn. I started using them in 1992. For hydraulic brakes I usedMagura HS 22. I could change the pads out and it was easy. I could use any brakes pads at the time and they would snap in and out. The use on the rims was hard, I Didn’t crush any rims. I Get new wheels every year so it was not a issue for me about rim wear. I Came up with the idea while was car racing at the time.. The breaking was so precise and it was not so in cyclocrosswith canti brakes. The brakes on the race car is totally different than a regular car."

What was a typical week of training like for you? "Every day train and some times 2-3 times a day. Trained 4Xa day when I became professional and world champion. Run and ride in the am Technique in afternoon PM would do badminton, underwater rugby. Soccer, squash would use different sports to keep body fresh and prevent from getting injured. if you only train in a specific way then you only have specific muscles. Training in other ways help me."

Did you lift weights?

"No it was too boring and I didn't like the smell of the gym.

"Another thing I did that was first In was 1991 I found these cheap shifters from the brake lever. Then in 1992 became world champion. I saw a touring lever shifter was seen on a friends moms touring bike. Put on race handle bar made by Suntour. Indexed at the time. Later Shimano came out with their design. So I was the first one to use a integrated system in cyclocross."

"Cyclocross family closest connection with all of the riders. Everyone appreciate the friendliness with each other and had a really good feeling about the other guys because we suffered so much in the weather conditions. We all had great respect with each other. In Cyclocross its pretty obvious if you have power or not.. No faking it you either have it or you, no way you are in the front. There is no way of hiding from the wind."

"My come back in 1992 was for me very very important 1988. I carry bike in the mud on shoulder. Haddendoffin,Switzerland I was the only one that did a boycott of the race. You had to run almost 1 mile because was so muddy. I told them that we would be sinking in the mud. I told them½ year in advance about this issue. they said no mike it will be winter and it will be frozen. Well, it didn't freeze. We had rain and there was so much mud the bike was handicap. If you were a Kenyan runner you would have become world champion.I am riding a bike to go fast not to carry it. I got in a lot of trouble with my federation and I was left off the 88 Olympic team. Then UCI changed the rules to restrict the amount of running that is allowed. So you can only run a maximum of 300m. It was so muddy at that race that they can not identify you as a individual. it was really bad."


Thank you for taking some time to visit with me and share your stories and experience of cyclocross.