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Remembering Leslie Bohm

Published August 21, 2012

BOULDER, CO (BRAIN)Leslie Bohm, who passed away Monday at 59, had a long history in the bike industry, with many friends among retailers and suppliers.

Many of them have offered their remembrances to BRAIN. Please contact web editor Steve Frothingham at sfrothingham@bicycleretailer.com if you'd like to share your memories and thoughts of Bohm on this site.

Jim Hoyt, Richardson Bike Mart, Richardson, Texas

One of the classic times of meeting up with Leslie was back in 1987. Chad, Rhonda and I came up for the Coors Classic. Leslie said, “I’ll take you all mountain biking! It will be a lot of fun!” Of course this was before shocks. Rhonda had to walk the whole way, Chad was 13 and way in over his head. After the ride, Leslie said, “I’m afraid you’ll never want to do business with me after this.” Of course, despite this ride disaster, we’ve done every Catalyst Cycling Guide since 1987.

Woody and I came to Boulder and saw Leslie in July, when he was just back from having the surgery in Houston. We had a nice time chatting, then when I got that bad-news note from Lynn, “Oh, no!” Our hearts just sank.

Tim Blumenthal, Bikes Belong Coalition, Boulder, Colorado

I can’t exactly remember when I first met Leslie. I think it was when we moved IMBA to Boulder in 1994. He gave me his business card and wrote on it, “For a bike ride, a ski or just a good time give me a call.”

What I’ll always remember about him is that amazing smile. At an industry reception or meeting, I tend to get deep and down into my work. Whatever time of day, I could always count on Leslie’s big, wide-open infectious smile to get my perspective back.

I realized why we’ve always gotten along. We both like four things:

1. Communication by the written word, materials on paper. He’s never thrown away a thing, he could reach into a file drawer and pull out a document from 20 years back. The Catalyst office must weigh 3000 extra pounds.

2. The belief that bicycling can change the world, a shared belief that he got started in a lot of people. 3. Nordic skiing. I was the editor of a cross-country ski magazine, Leslie was the brain power behind the Boulder Nordic Council, and talked the city into making snow and track in two Boulder parks. I’ve skied Leslie’s snow 60 to 70 days some winters. The last thing, Leslie and I shared a love of the mountains of Switzerland.

There’s no doubt, Leslie played an indispensable role in the formation of Bikes Belong, and the creation of America Bikes. He was also the driving force behind bringing 1000 bikes to Denver for the Democratic convention in 2008.

Leslie had great instincts about marketing and positioning, always moving bicycling toward the mainstream. Levels of information was Leslie's mantra. Whenever I handed him a newsletter he’d be screening it for levels of information to make sure it was communicating effectively.

Jay Graves, The Bike Gallery, Portland, Oregon

First time I met Leslie he was driving around showing off the Eclipse product line. There was always the big smile, big ideas and boundless enthusiasm. I still have an Eclipse shaving kit he gave me, the only one I've ever used since the mid-70s

It’s a wonderful reminder of a man who’s leaving a big hole in industry. We were invited to the first Catalyst Summer Conference in Jamaica VT. I think there were eight shops represented, Leslie showed us how to have bike tourism be a part of your local economy. I still have the blue clipboard with the personalized bronze tag in the corner.

Every summer after that for 12 years we attended the Catalyst conferences in Colorado. They were bursting with Leslie’s endless enthusiasm and ideas and forward strategic thinking, always future-oriented.

Greg Hine, former owner of Kirtland Tour Packs, Boulder, Colorado

Kirtland and Eclipse were fierce competitors in the mid to late ‘70’s.  Both Leslie and I were doing a lot of traveling early on, direct-selling to bicycle shops and supporting our reps in the more important shops.  I might have crossed paths and met Leslie in a bicycle shop, but more likely at the International Bicycle & Toy Show in New York City. 

Of course, in those days we were competitors, not friends.  Over the years the “fierce competitor” aspect declined as I think we both came to realize that there was plenty of room for two top-of-the-line pack lines, since our product was very different.  Mutual respect took over.  I came to realize that Leslie was exceptionally professional, and like myself, as much a friend of the bicycle shop owners as much as business associates.
 
I remember in ’85 of ’86 seeing Leslie driving, I believe a Saab, in Boulder. He pulled over and I discovered he’d moved to Boulder to start a bicycle retailer marketing company.  We had a good talk at that time; soon after both Kirtland and Eclipse were behind us.  Later, in my years between selling Kirtland (’86) and starting my sourcing company (HSI in ’90) I was honored when Leslie asked me to do a research project for Catalyst. 

John Burke, Trek Bicycle, Waterloo, Wisconsin

My first encounter with Leslie was not with him, but with his company Eclipse.  When I was a kid I wanted to go on a long bike trip and I always read Bicycling Magazine.  There was always an advertisement for Eclipse and I think Leslie's name was in the ad.  I finally saved enough money to buy a set of Eclipse Panniers.  I thought that was pretty cool.

The first time I remember meeting Leslie was in 1997 at the first National Bike Summit.   The first federal Transportation bill had just passed that included cycling in it and everyone was happy.  At the end of the Summit there was a group of us in the basement.  I think it was Chris Kegel, Mike Greehan, Leslie and I.  The conversation was about what comes next.  It was at that moment that we decided to start Bikes Belong.

Leslie stories, we all have a couple at least.  I remember a Bikes Belong Board Meeting where Leslie gave one of his monologues on how we needed to get more organized.  He launches into this speech about the NRA and how well-organized they are and how much better of a job they do then Bikes Belong. "They do such a good job that I joined the NRA to see what we can learn from them."  Now Leslie is the last person that you could see joining the NRA, but he is such a lover of ideas, and always wanted to improve everything.  I just got the biggest kick out of Leslie joining the NRA.

My next story is the last time I saw Leslie.  I said, “Leslie, how are you doing?” "Great.  Rode my bike 50 miles the other day, I feel great." JB: "How’s the cancer?"  "Well, they just really don't know what's going on with that and the doctors haven't decided if we should keep going with chemo or if they should do surgery.  I just hope they crack my head open, take the damn tumor out and I could get on with my life." You have to understand that as he told the story he had a Big Leslie Smile on.

Leslie is a small man with a big heart.  He runs a small company and has made a BIG difference in the bicycle industry.

Gregg Thayer, Catalyst Communication, Boulder, Colorado

I first met Leslie in 1979 in Ann Arbor MI. He walked into my outdoor store Wilderness Outfitters and asked to look at my selection of RayBan sunglasses. I gave him my best sales pitch explaining the quality and value of the lenses and frames. At the end of my pitch, Leslie gave me that big smile, introduced himself and told me I had a solid future in sales. He then proceeded to tell me how I should rearrange my entire store, explaining my cash register was in the wrong place. I asked, "Who are you?"

I have worked with Leslie at Catalyst for 19 years so the stories and memories are endless. Just a couple… The things that stick out in my mind is his love and devotion to the bike industry and its people. He would always say how lucky we were to have such great clients. When we had hard decisions to make concerning our clients, Leslie would say, "Imagine yourself in an elevator, with a few retailers and manufacturers and you’re explaining how you came to your decision. While everyone might not agree, you want them to see your decision as fair.”

When Leslie was going through his radiation, I volunteered to take him to one of his treatments. We entered the building and Leslie approached it like he did everything. He announced to the guy at the desk he was here for graduation day...his last treatment. He introduced me and said, "Come on back, I want to introduce you to the technicians, wait ‘til you see this machine!" Leslie was on a first-name basis with everyone and they had already started playing Leslie's favorite Motown music. Leslie went through this illness with the same grace that he approached his business and personal life.

Ray Keener, Growth Cycle, Boulder, Colorado

I met Leslie in 1976, when I was running Vitesse Cycle in Normal, Illinois. Our store was on the freeway back to Leslie’s home in Ann Arbor. When he’d come back from a road trip to California setting up Eclipse dealers, he’d always stop in and say hi. Which was highly unusual, we were a pretty small shop, and didn’t see many industry people. Needless to say, we used and sold nothing but Eclipse gear.

I was getting restless in 1979, wanted to explore new horizons, and was afraid to make a big move. Leslie was my #1 cheerleader. He’d tell me, “Ray, they put their cycling shorts on one leg at a time in California, just like you do here!” So I made the leap.

Six years later, my wife had grown weary of the California lifestyle, and told me she wanted to move to the mountains. Two weeks later, Leslie called. “Hey, I’m starting this company, want to come to Boulder and work together?” Not work FOR him, work TOGETHER.

It still amazes me that when Leslie, Mark Graff and I were running Catalyst, he would let himself be outvoted. We’d have impassioned debates. He could be pretty stubborn sometimes, and if Mark and I agreed on something, Leslie would follow our lead

I’ve run into two or three people of the literally thousands that knew Leslie who didn’t like him or couldn’t get along with him. I always thought to myself, “I wonder what the heck is wrong with them?”

Seeing him since he came home from the hospital has been challenging. He couldn’t really say much, just a few words in a whisper, but he’d always have a smile when I told him stories about my kids or our friends in the industry.

Pat Hus, Managing Director of Interbike

I’ve known Leslie for over 30 years now and have always enjoyed working with him. From the first time I met him as the owner of Eclipse bags, to his days at Catalyst, and as recently as helping me put together the curriculum for the IBD Summit, his understanding of bike dealers was uncanny. He just understood what makes them tick better than anybody I’ve ever met in the bike industry. His insight and his passion for the cycling was infectious and will be missed. Thanks Leslie.

Steve Flagg, co-owner, Quality Bicycle Products, Bloomington, Minnesota

I first met Leslie at the CABDA show in the 70’s.  Leslie was an owner of  Eclipse, a premium touring bag manufacturer. Leslie would perch on a tall stool and look cool selling the highest priced touring bikes I had ever seen. You could whine about the prices to Leslie, but he knew early on that quality pays. He would smile and go over the amazing features.  And then we would go ahead and buy the bags and sell them to people who wanted the best.
 
By the time I met Leslie again, we were on the Bikes Belong board together.  Leslie was the guy who carried the same vision of excellence for what we all can do for bicycling that he had way back when he ran Eclipse.    He cares about purpose over self.  He has done as much for advocacy as anyone and has been abundantly generous with his time for this cause. Leslie is one of the most inspiring people with whom  I have had the opportunity to share a board seat with.

Steve Meineke, President of Raleigh America

Leslie is an inspiration to me with a great spirit, passion, and ability to articulate vision and guidance to all of us. Leslie helped me "get it" from my "rookie year" in 1993, to my re-entry in 2004 joining Bikes Belong. Leslie was always focused on building next steps for cycling in America.

Blair Clark, Senior Vice President, Smith Optics

I admire and love Leslie Bohm like a brother, father and friend all wrapped up into one. I met Les in about 1980 when I was working in a bike shop in Santa Barbara and then really got to know him as I moved to the Bay Area to run a shop shortly out of college. I left the bike industry for a few years because I felt I could not develop a career in it although it was my passion. When I came back to the industry, Les not only taught me great lessons in marketing communication through the effectiveness of Catalyst's work, but he became a trusted advisor who I relied on for every strategic career move I ever made.

It's no wonder Leslie's business is called Catalyst because he single handedly built consensus between suppliers and retailers who competed with one another and along the way helped the entire bike industry grow to it's present level of marketing sophistication. When Les started Eclipse bags there were three types of bikes kids adult ten speeds and three speeds. The industry owes Les a great deal of gratitude and I have a career because of many of the lessons I learned from him most important of which was to follow my passion and be to be fair in business.

Scott Montgomery, President of Club Ride Apparel

Leslie always gave back more than he took.

He helped our industry grow via his innovative direct marketing products long before most retailers and suppliers understood or could afford the medium on their own. His contribution to the founding and development of Bikes Belong will effect many future generations of cyclists in America.

I remember Leslie taking the time to tell me about a great cycling trip he took with his family to Moab, he was the real deal, and he was always passionate in all aspects of cycling. He will be greatly missed.

Fred Clements, President of National Bicycle Dealers Association

I was very saddened to hear of Leslie Bohm’s passing. My sincere sympathies go to his family at this time. He was an exceptional man who will be missed by all who knew him.

Leslie was a visionary who consistently urged us to think big, be bold, and not undersell ourselves. His contributions to the cycling world were monumental and foundational, both in advocacy and the work he did on behalf of independent retailers. Leslie was also a kind and genuine man with a big heart. The world was better with Leslie Bohm in it. He will be greatly missed.

Topics associated with this article: People

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