Cycling was a huge part of 69-year old David Schermer’s life. All the way up until the end.
Schermer died while riding his Giant TCR road bike down Pete’s Mountain Road in West Linn last Friday. According to the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office there was no other vehicle or person involved in the crash. Evidence suggests Schermer lost control on the steep downhill portion of the road where it ends at the junction of SW Riverwood Drive and SW Hoffman Road (see photos below). The turn to Hoffman is nearly a right-angle and the turn to Riverwood is quite sharp as well. The last section of Pete’s Mountain Road drops over 100 feet at an average grade of about 7% in just three-tenths of a mile.
Sergeant Dan Krause from the Sheriff’s Office told me yesterday that a crash reconstruction and forensics team responded to the scene last Friday around 1:30 pm. Sgt. Krause said they found no skid marks and no other physical evidence of another bicycle or automobile. “It appeared to be an unfortunate incident,” he said. “We found nothing at the scene that would have caused this crash.” Schermer was found in a ditch about 20-30 feet from the intersection. He died on the scene from head and neck-related injuries.
Schermer was a lawyer and had an office in downtown West Linn about seven miles northeast of where he crashed. He was likely on one of his usual lunch rides on roads he knew very well.
I first heard about this when acquaintances of his contacted BikePortland looking for details about what happened. There were no news reports and law enforcement didn’t make any public statements about the crash. Then I saw a tribute to him on the Facebook page of the local Lawyer Ride. That tribute was written by Schermer’s friend and riding buddy Dan Rohlf.
Rohlf remembered David as an energetic adventurer who loved to challenge himself on the bike. “David died as he lived — going for it in the outdoors, whether on a bike, climbing a mountain, on cross-country skis, or hiking for miles,” Rohlf shared on Facebook. “He climbed the Tourmalet like Pantani a few years ago, and ripped passes in the Dolomites. But his idea of a perfect ride was a climb to Council Crest, a few laps on Fairmount and Humphrey/Hewett, then Terwilliger to the Multnomah Lucky Lab for pizza.”
“David was just a wonderful guy; he had a smile for everyone, was a fantastic husband, father, and grandfather, and was loved by his family and friends alike… our community has suffered a profound loss,” Rohlf added.
Schermer was an avid mountain climber and member of Portland Mountain Rescue. In a statement on their Facebook page today, PMR wrote, “Willing to hump a big load and quietly competent, David was the rescuer you always wanted on your team. Over his tenure with PMR, he logged almost 1000 hours of training and missions. More important, he was generous with kindness and a cheerful word. David, we always knew you had our backs, we just wish we could have been there to cover yours.”
He had also ridden the Ronde PDX ride several times. This legendary and unsanctioned ride tackles all the big West Hills climbs. This ride is “officially cancelled” but the word on the street is many people are likely to show up tomorrow (Saturday 5/11) to do it anyways (10:00 am from NW 31st and NW Industrial). If you ride it, keep Schermer in your thoughts. Rest in peace David.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and email@example.com
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We all have to go sometime. Given a choice, I’d rather exit as this gentleman has, suddenly while doing what I like to do in a beautiful area, than in a hospital with a drip, slowly dying of a terminal and painful disease.
If you enjoy going on long, solo rides into less-busy areas, please consider getting a bike computer with a “ride tracking” feature that utilizes your cellphone to periodically send updated location information to a contact list. No, this won’t work in those areas without cellphone service (which are more common than you think) but it would help narrow down the area you were last located.
I sometimes use a Spot locator. It can be, um, spotty at times (particularly in forested canyons), but it usually lets folks know where I’m at decently. It uses satellites, so the automatic tracking is a paid service over and above the fee to use it for manually showing people where you are. At least its lights let you know if it successfully got the last location off.
Sometimes for us Olds, the most dangerous descent is the one we’ve done thousands of times. It’s easy to get just a touch complacent at just the wrong time. I absolutely have no idea if this is what happened to this seemingly wonderful person, but I’m certainly going to make an extra effort to keep my focus on just such descents going forward.
If you’re riding with GPS, many GPS units will provide a link where people can track your location.
I know Wahoo units do this for sure.
Some newer helmets also have sensors that send out alerts (I believe with beacon function) if the helmet is crashed.
Oh my goodness, I can’t believe this. I was riding the exact same route on the same Friday afternoon, headed from Portland to Newberg. Based on that estimated time I was probably less than an hour behind. I got to the top of the Pete’s Mountain climb (at the golf club), resting to take in the view, and was about to head down Hoffman when a guy in a truck warned that the road had just been blocked down below for a crash. I ended up taking a different route westward (Schaeffer Rd.) on his advice.
Whoa. I’m so sorry for the loss, to all family and friends.
I grew up just down Riverwood and my parents were at the scene while he was being recovered. Very sad, almost contacted you but didn’t have any other info at the time. Glad to see this piece. Sounds like a very full life.
While I’ve ridden these exact roads a lot I rarely make the turn in the direction this happened but it is very sharp and dips down then up right at the apex. It would be one of the worst corners in the area to try and recover from misreading. I actually would be surprised if he rode this area often (as you wondered) and totally missed this corner, it’s one you would not forget about. That said, being too comfortable and familiar could also be a recipe for huge error like this.
Jonathan, any chance you could post Dan’s tribute from the Lawyer FB group here since it is a closed group?
Here you go BradWagon:
Via Dan Rohlf..
Dan Rohlf is himself an exemplary human being. Praise for David Schermer from Dan is high praise indeed.
So sorry to hear that for whatever reason the odds caught up with David on this ride, and a reminder that traveling through space at velocity is always a risky proposition. A wheel can suddenly slip on gravel, an animal can quickly dart out into your path, a chain can jump, a bee can fly in your helmet (or mouth!), a handlebar or steerer can fail… And all of this is just random chances, apart from the intentional or ignorant aggressions and violence from other humans in metal boxes we encounter too frequently. But we all take that risk because it’s a beautiful risk. The fresh air, the hum of tires, nailing the apex, spending time with friends or just alone sorting things out in your head it’s all so worth it compared to rotting on a sofa.
Just be aware, go out each time ready to savor some part of it, and know it might be the last time whether it’s a cold rainy commute or a focussed hard training session or just a ride for the fun of it on a 75º beautiful clear spring day. Tell your loved ones you love them and make sure they know how much the bike means to you, and if you happen to meet that slight chance and not come home again like David, everyone will know you left this world doing what you loved and that can hopefully bring some solace to those close to you.
Well said, Jason H. I’m riding right through there tomorrow and will certainly take it easy. RIP David.
I wish lots more people could have had the pleasure of a ride and a beer and piece of pizza with my friend David. He could talk cycling, politics, law, and the Blazers. He brewed (and appreciated) good beer and grew amazing vegetables. He was smart, interesting, and always smiling — but you probably would have had a hard time keeping up with him on a bike! The open road will be a much lonelier place without him.
I’ll take away a few lessons from his tragic death. Going fast downhill is a blast, but lycra and even a good helmet provide modest protection at best. Unless you’ve broken away from the peloton on the World Tour and you’re heading for victory, stay within your limits. Always carry ID on a ride. And live each day to the fullest.
David was on a portion of the Canby Ferry Classic – a 25-mile loop that’s been around for many years. Think of him if you’re ever doing this ride:
Poor fella. It looks like he got to ride in the Dolomites – if there is a cycling Heaven, it looks just like that and he’s there now.
Bummer and sad
I debated whether to post this or not, and please remove it if not appropriate. I have gotten rid of only one bike in my 60+ years of cycling because it was scary at very high speed (45+mph). It was a Giant TCR. Twice it started going into almost uncontrollable wobble on screaming fast descents. Both times, if I had gone down, there would have been no skid marks, just a guy losing control and going off the road. and, yes, I raced for decades and know all the reasons and techniques for avoiding high speed wobble. Your experience may be different.
I have sold off two bikes–one US-built and one French and both steel– because they were too good-handling for high speed descents, enough so to goad me into descending at speeds I knew damn well weren’t sane.
This is sad and I also hope he didn’t suffer. When I saw the bike he was riding it sent shudders down my spine. The TCR was my first racing bike and I’m sure some people love it but I found the geometry extraordinarily touchy – it demanded my attention at all times and I went down twice descending sharp turns. When I started riding other geometries I knew the TCR wasn’t for me, and I can’t help thinking he was taken by surprise and went down suddenly and hard. It’s so sad to hear about people like this, who drank life in with adventures, pushed themselves, only to be taken young. My condolences to his friends and family.
I have had good success with “viewranger”. It’s an iPhone app (may be on Android as well) and has something called “beacon buddy” that allows folks to follow you on hikes, rides, etc.
I used it when riding the Kokopelli trail and now try to turn it on whenever I am on a solo trail ride, hike, or cross country ski for the reasons listed above.
I’m sure there are other programs / services out there, just sharing my experiences with this one.
Strava does this but you need to have Premium (paid) access. They call the feature Beacon.
It would also technically be possible for the phone to detect a crash (any crash actually, even in a car) and send out an alert to predefined contacts.