September 19, 2020



RAFAEL GOMEZ – An interview with a Yaqui Indian and his “steel pony”

Perhaps you saw 71-year old Rafael Gomez bicycling by one day through the Northeast area. Gomez bicycles every day, rain or shine. “I’m doing all that I can to maintain a smile on my face,” says the 71 year old bicyclist. “I feel very fortunate to have my health…I actually put in nearly 150 miles last week, in a loop that I do from my home several times a week, about 40 miles a loo . I do this not to train anymore, but to maintain a sense of equilibrium.” Gomez explains that he bicycles to build his confidence, and he likes to switch up his loops, through Glendale, Eagle Rock and Northeast L.A., and into Pasadena. According to environmental activist and actor Ed Begley Jr., one of the simplest ways to “help the earth” is to get out of our cars at least one day a week. Clearly, Gomez is doing his part to be a part of the solution. Though a lifelong bicyclist, it was after returning home from the Vietnam War that he and his brother Vicente

” His religion is the Bicycle, His church the Open Road.”

became serious bicycle racers. “After returning to the states, we used bicycling as a form of self-therapy, as our positive way to overcome the stress of serving in an unpopular war,” explains Gomez. Rafael Gomez, of Yaqui Indian heritage, refers to his bicycle as his “steel pony.” For 40 years, he and his brother Vicente were competitive members of the U.S. Cycling Federation, actively completing in the tandem category. Rafael and Vicente were the few over age 55 competitive bicyclists to win four national track racing championship medals in the elite men’s tandem division. (His brother Vicente passed away in 2017 at age 70.) “Too many of the youth today see their only transportation as a car. Our whole culture pushes youth that way, and that’s too bad,” says Gomez, pointing out that bicycling keeps the body healthy and the air clean. His religion is the Bicycle, he states, and his church the open road. Promoting bicycling is Rafael Gomez’ number one mission in life. “Children need to see adults involved in bicycling. The adults need to set the example so the children grow

up wanting to be on a bike. With the advent of the electric car in this country,  we started to lose the great importance of bicycling. Today, people in Third World countries have a much better perspective of bicycling than we do. “Cycling truly helps the world. It’s an environmentally safe form of transportation. There’s no noise, it’s safe, and it keeps you strong. Riding a bike is far better than a car or even the bus. Riding puts you in touch with nature in a way that riding an auto can never do,” he says enthusiastically. And when you look at the fire in his eye, you can sense that to this Yaqui in the modern world, his bike is truly his pony that he rides from adventure to adventure in the urban wilderness. Rafael Gomez has found his fountain of youth via his religion of The Bicycle. He does not fear gas shortages or automobile breakdowns. He has learned that by transporting himself on this simple wheeled device, he accomplishes many things at once: he stays in top shape and peak health, he does not contribute to environmental pollution – he is the solution — and he needs no gym or psychologist. Rafael Gomez lives the life of health. [Christopher Nyerges is the author of “How to Survive Anywhere,” who leads regular wilderness trips. He can be reached at Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041, or]


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