Mar 17, 2008

Trek Founder Richard Burke Passes Away

Richard Burke, the founder of Trek Bicycles, passed away this week. Trek had a big following, and was a very big deal in my ancesteral homeland of Wisconsin, when I was coming of age. I have never owned (let alone ridden) a Trek (although I do own a LeMond, which is now Trek-owned). I doubt very much that I would buy a new Trek, but I watch Craig's List almost every day for an old steel Trek. I would buy and ride it more for the history than because I need another bike.

Burke was not much of bike rider. Many of the big names in bikes are former racers, but Burke never rode much as far as I can tell, although he ran in several marathons. Some bike lovers object that he was too much about the business and not about the passion, but he hired passionate people and let them do their thing, and it was good.

I particularly like the old school graphics and the look of the bikes, and I am very curious what they ride like. The head badge shot is from a 1978 Trek, and the rear wheel/triangle if from a hot 1983 road bike.

Here is the teaser and a link to an article in Inc. on Burke and the History of Trek:

By: Richard Burke
As told to Leigh Buchanan

The first Trek bikes, manufactured 30 years ago in a barn in Waterloo, Wisconsin, were cult items, appealing to purists who would no more ride their fathers' Schwinns than drive their fathers' Oldsmobiles. But Trek had no brand strategy or money to advertise, and in the early years it wobbled badly. Richard Burke turned things around by positioning the company to ride the rising interest in competitive cycling. Today Trek--still in Waterloo, now employing 1,727 people worldwide and producing annual revenue of $600 million--is the largest bicycle company in the United States and the second largest in the world. The company is famous for its carbon fiber frames and really, really famous for making the bikes Lance Armstrong pedaled to seven victories in the Tour de France. Burke, 71, is chairman of the board and Trek's majority shareholder. His son John became CEO in 1998.

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