Most cyclists know Bob Roll is a man of many pursuits: former Tour de France racer and mountain bike competitor; training partner of Lance Armstrong during his comeback from cancer; columnist in VeloNews; television commentator, interviewer, and writer for the Outdoor Life Network; and a sometime coach, TV-commercial star, bit part movie actor, storyteller, and inspirational speaker. In fact, a Google search on the Web revealed no less than 1,200,000 references to the infamous cycling scribe. But—Bob would like this—only a dozen of the items were about him. Most of the other 1,199,988 were about “BOB Dylan, rock and ROLL” or similar “Bob” and “Roll” combinations.
Born in 1960, in Oakland, California, where he had a, shall we say, unusual childhood, he somehow gravitated to racing bikes and was living in a tent in Switzerland when he was picked up by the 7-Eleven cycling team in 1985 to ride the Giro d’Italia (he finished a remarkable 78th). He later lived and raced in Belgium, where he adopted his Flemish moniker, Bobke (pronounced “boob-ka”), and enjoyed a better-than-mediocre racing career.
His writing was “discovered” before the start of a Belgian classic race by a VeloNews editor, who spotted a poem Roll had written on the sidewalls of his racing tires. There followed the zany Roll Diaries—a sort of cycling Dead Sea Scrolls—that first focused on his adventures in the European peloton, and later on the off-road circuit after he swapped skinny tires for fat and moved first to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and then Durango, Colorado.