We want to introduce you to our recent employee, and longtime friend, Doug "Shark" Balvanz. In March of 2018, he retired from his career in financial services, and in April began working at Kyle's Bikes. Although he's new to this job, he has decades of experience in cycling and triathlon … and a ton of stories. Stop by to meet him. He wants find out about you, what you like, and what you want to do, so that he can make recommendations based on your feedback.
Ten plus years in manufacturing sales and management, and most recently 28 years in financial services Hobbies Bicycles, motorcycles, traveling by bicycle or motorcycle, and zombie hunting
What do you like best about working at Kyle's Bikes?
What's not to like?!?! It doesn't feel like work. Riding my bicycle or motorcycle to work, wearing shorts and a shop shirt, talking, and meeting people. Finding out what products and services we have that meet their needs and wants or solutions to their cycling problems. It's actually FUN!!!
So, you were retired for, like, four days, before you started at Kyle's Bikes. Why such a short retirement?
It was in the plan. Kyle and I had been talking for a couple years. Bicycling is one of my passions. I have a lifetime of experience with bicycling both riding and wrenching. I've ridden, raced, toured, repaired, and built bicycles. Couple that with my years of experience in sales and it feels like the perfect fit. And to have the opportunity to use my experiences to help someone discover this great pastime we enjoy, at whatever age, is an opportunity I just couldn't pass up. Every time someone comes into the shop and says something like, "I'd like to get back into cycling" or "We're looking for a bike for our kid," I get a little excited, knowing that the next few minutes spent together could positivly impact their lives, their future, forever. Working part time, just a few days a week, I still have the opportunity to do the traveling (by motorcycle or bicycle) that I'd planned on doing more of in retirement.
Do you consider yourself a triathlete, a cyclist, a runner, a swimmer…?
Probably cyclist. I was a miler and distance swimmer in high school. Started running 10Ks and marathons in the late 70s early 80s. Used to do triathlons in the 80s & 90s. Raced road bicycles in the 9os. I picked up a flyer for a triathlon and decided to give it a try. I was hooked. With the running and swimming background, those came pretty easy to me. I started training bicycles with a local race team and learned how to properly ride a bike competitively. I was finally in a sport that I could truly excel at by combining three sports that I was maybe above average at individually. Most of my racing career was at the international or Olympic distance (1.5 km/40 km/10 km). I once did a 1/2 Ironman and was immediately convinced that I never wanted to do that again, let alone a full Ironman. Shorter distances were my friend. I qualified for and competed in about 4–5 national championships in the 1980s. My best finish at these was 5th in my age group at the 1987 Sprint Distance National Championships in Boca Raton, Florida. I made a tongue-in-cheek video application for the 2014 Kyle's Bike Triathlon Team with some of my race photos:
Do you still race? What is your favorite kind of riding?
Now do a little gravel racing, but mainly riding and touring. I have a two Specialized AWOLs. One set up with 2.1 × 29 Nanos for gravel (Zombie Killer) and another I built from the frame up for touring (Zombie Killer II). If I am heading out the door for a solo ride, I grab the Zombie Killer and hit the gravel.
Of all the products we carry which one do you most recommend?
One of the best services we have is the Bike Fit. The better the bike fits someone, the more likely they will be to ride it. And ultimately, that's what it's all about, getting people riding and enjoying bicycling.
Is there anything else that people might want to know about you?
Mary and I met on RAGBRAI. It's a pastime and passion that we share and enjoy together. Whether it's an evening ride, RAGBRAI, or self-supported week-long tour. It's not just what we do, it's a part of who we are.
As often as we can. I'd say probably 3-4 times a week. We obviously do RAGBRAI together, have done the Katy Trail a couple times, Natchez Trace last fall, and local rides like the Mayor's Ride. We'll do the cruiser century in June. We ride fat bikes in the snow (although I usually do more), touring bikes, camping overnights, go-fast rides… We do our own thing occasionally. She's not a big fan of gravel, although she's good at it. And I may be off on my motorcycle on any given weekend, so she'll ride with other friends or by herself. But if we can do rides together, it's always better. We share our passion and enjoyment of riding. And when we can have the same experiences together, it just brings us even closer. You know people whose spouse doesn't ride. And so it's always a struggle balancing between time on the bike and quality time with your spouse/family. With us, there is no struggle. Riding is our quality time. And we're usually pretty evenly match in ability, so one really isn't waiting up for the other. Depending on what time of year it is, one of us may be a little stronger than the other, but for all practical purposes, we can ride all day together at about the same pace.
Don't worry, we won't let him go without asking one more question… So, tell us more about this zombie hunting; have you actually caught any?
Sit down and hang on; this one's gonna take a while… In 2012 when I rode my motorcycle to Alaska, I completed my quest to ride a motorcycle in all 50 states. Then in 2013 I completed riding in all provinces and territories of Canada. Later that same year, when we were visiting my daughter in Hawaii, we went to a gun range and I thought to myself, "What about shooting a firearm in all 50 states?" Since I already had the toughest one, Hawaii, I thought I'd give it a try. And rather than just go shoot boring silhouette or bullseye targets, most ranges have some kind of zombie target. So for the last 5 years as I travel the country, mostly by motorcycle, I find a gun range in a state I haven't fired a weapon in, get a zombie target and declare: "Charleston, South Carolina in now a Zombie Free Zone," and post the photo. Just something to have some fun with. To date I've cleared 30 states of zombies. And I hear there may be a zombie outbreak in Idaho this summer!
Of course this zombie thing has taken on a life of its own. I now own zombie survival books and large knives and machetes. I even built my garage zombie proof and it can be used as a long term bunker, complete with chips and beer, just in case. I'm part of the Zombie Outbreak Response Team, and it says so on my motorcycles and my truck. My dad couldn't wrap his head around all this zombie stuff, and once said to me… "Son, you know that zombies aren't real?!?" I winked at him and said… "You wanna bet your life on it?"