For the longest time, I only knew of Derrick Keith as the brother-in-law of a high school friend who rode motocross bikes. My dream growing up was to be a motocross racer and I remember going to Derrick’s parents’ house in Riverview with friends when I was still in high school and my jaw dropping when I saw his MX bikes in the garage. Even before knowing him he was already one of my heroes.
Then in the late 90s, I met Derrick when he started racing mountain bikes. We raced together in the same category and I witnessed his rapid progression first hand. His dirt bike skills carried over to mountain biking and there was no question whatsoever that he was a natural on two wheels. Never one to register to race in a lower category in order to win, he was still always a threat for ending up on the podium every time he entered a race. I remember him catching me at a cyclocross race at the 4-Plex a few years ago and then so gently riding away. I just couldn’t hold his wheel. He was always there in the mountain bike races also, grinding the gears relentlessly, always smiling. He was one of the racers who enjoyed it the most. His persistent grin and grit were contagious.
|MBS Cup Tuesday night race series podium 2008|
|MBS Cup Tuesday night race series podium 2008|
There is also the legendary story of Derrick finishing the BC Bike Race with a broken cheekbone after a bad crash during one of the stages. Not many riders would keep going after going down that hard. But Derrick wasn’t the average rider. Although soft-spoken and gentle, he was also tough as nails. In 2015, Derrick had signed up for the 225 km distance in our annual Cyclebetes ride to cure Type 1 Diabetes. The day ended up being super long and when we got to the 200 km / 225 km split in the course, as the organizers, we made the decision to cancel the 225 km ride distance in order to be able to finish before dark. But Derrick had promised all of his donors that he was going to do the full 225 kms so when he got to the 200 km / 225 km intersection he insisted on doing the full distance; by himself. You could see the determination in his eyes and I knew for sure that there was no way that I was going to convince him otherwise. He finished his 225 km ride before dark; tired but with his huge trademark smile.
As much as his abilities on the bike were impressive, his kind and humble demeanor were what I admired most. He was one of the kindest humans that I have ever met. He would almost apologize when he beat you in a race. And I have never seen him mad or pissed off. I don’t think anything could have made him angry. He was just such a gentle soul.
Derrick was also always willing to help and give back. The amount of volunteer work that he has done over the years for the Mike’s Bike Shop Challenge youth races as well as for the Sprockids learn to mountain bike program is beyond admirable. And there was also all of the trail work that he tirelessly did with the Codiac Cycling Trails group. Derrick was the kind of person always offering to lend assistance, even before being asked, even if he didn’t have any kids racing or any obligation whatsoever to be there. He was such a good mentor for all young riders, bringing some of the kids from his neighborhood to the BMX track every Wednesday night for open track practice. And there was also the time when he brought those same kids to the Elgin fall mountain bike race and rode the shorter distance race with them. I was all done my own race and all cleaned up when I noticed Derrick crossing the line with the kids. I’m not sure why but I think that they called themselves “Team Tobias”. And there was also that time when I was riding with Derrick and I crashed and landed on my head during a Tuesday night MTB race in Rotary Park in 2016. Derrick immediately stopped and asked if I was OK and I told him to keep racing as I sat on the side of the trail still in a daze. The world would be so much better with more Derricks in it. We all know that our time here is limited, that we all have an expiration date and that we don’t decide when our number eventually comes up. Thanks for showing us how to live fully and generously in the meantime Derrick.
|The very first Mike's Bike Shop Cyclebetes ride 2008 - Derrick on the far left|
For the last few years the Mike’s Bike Shop Cyclebetes ride to cure Type 1 Diabetes has been giving an award to the most deserving riders, those who continuously go above and beyond in fundraising and continue to ride year after year. I never got to give you that award Derrick. I’m so very sorry. You were going to be the next recipient and you deserved it more than anyone else. Even when you were sick in the hospital and couldn’t ride this year you sent a friend to pay for your registration the day of the ride. Thank you so very much for every single thing that you have done for cycling, Mike’s Bike Shop Cyclebetes, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and Type 1 Diabetes over the years. The award is still yours; I just regret not giving it to you in person.
You had such a huge heart Derrick. Thanks for inspiring me to try to grow mine as big as yours. Rest easy my friend. May the single track in heaven be buff and flowy and may the wind be at your back when you’re out in the open sections. Ride in peace. See you on the other side. You will be missed Derrick Keith.
My deepest condolences to your family and friends…