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Old 11-26-2011, 09:36 AM   #1
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RIP Colin Barlow

After a three year battle with a cancer that was supposed to kill him in three months, my friend Colin Barlow died in London Thursday night. Only a relative handful of BARFers ever knew Colin in person, but many of you benefited from him.

I met Colin after the riders meeting the night before the 2006 Centopassi. Colin was the captain of Team UK. He came up to me after the meeting - conducted primarily in Italian - and asked me what my plan for navigation was for the event. When I told him it was to try to follow the roadbook and keep up, he told me that my start number came just after the start numbers for Team UK, and that they would wait for me outside the start. If I could keep up, he would make sure I got to all my checks on my minute. We've been friends ever since.

Below, Colin is on the right, with the other members of Team UK:


Colin competed in the Centopassi in 2007 and 2008 as well, enjoying a best result of third in the team standings in 2008.

Colin was famous for his battlestar BMW, the sneakiest ratbike out there!


Doesn't look like much, does it? The bike, an 82 or 83 R65, had about 700K miles on it the last time I saw it, which considering that he bought it about a decade ago with 10K miles on it is pretty amazing. Not only that, it wasn't his only bike, nor his primary work bike. The surprising bits don't stop there. It has a later model BMW swingarm, a braced and stiffened frame, and a 980cc dual-plugged, port and polished and balanced motor built by one of the foremost airhead tuners in the UK, which all meant that Colin was notorious for humiliating riders on much more modern - and nicer looking - machinery.

In the winter of 2009 Colin was diagnosed with Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor (GIST), a rare and difficult to treat cancer. When his cancer was discovered it was already inoperable, and he was given 3 months to live. In the spring of 2009 he came over to visit, and he helped me pre-run all the potential routes for the 2009 BARF Spring Rally in Paso Robles.

The two of us in my driveway as we prepared to leave to pre-run.


Looking down on Hwy 1 from Nacimiento-Ferguson.


All those cool little roads we did on the rally - and many more - were all checked out by Colin the month before. During the time he was here, we rode everything we could from Tepusquet Road in the south to Skaggs in the north, plus Colin went out on his own to thoroughly experience the Santa Cruz mountains, and I think met up with a BARFer or two up at Alice's.

In 2010, really suffering from the advances of his cancer, Colin and his friend Stuart rode from the UK down to Nice to meet up with us for the start of the 2010 EuroBARF Rally. Colin was gaunt, and he tired easily, but he could still show us the way through the Alps - where he'd visited more than 20 times - and when he couldn't, Stuart would go to the front and show us the way.

The group at lunch on day 1. Colin is at the lower left with Stuart next to him.


On the Col de Lombarde.


Atop the Col du Galibier.


Col de la Sarenne, Colin at the lower left.


Over the winter from 2010 to 2011 Colin's cancer got worse. He'd already gone through the approved drugs for treating GIST, and when put on an experimental drug, he had difficulty tolerating it. The docs at Royal Marsden then tried an experimental way of dosing him, and not only was he able to tolerate it, his tumor began to shrink!

Colin again joined us for EuroBARF, meeting up with Mattzz in Germany, then riding down to meet up with me in Italy to ride the Dolomites before we headed to France to rendezvous with Mark and George. Colin looked better, had better energy, and was stronger than in 2010, and everyone was encouraged by his progress.

We repeated some photos from 2010.


Mattzz and Colin did all the navigation.


Colin with Matt and me at the top of Stelvio.


Colin was not necessarily the fastest rider I've ever known, though when healthy he was definitely faster than me, but he was the best rider I've ever known. He's the smoothest rider I've ever followed, willing to tackle anything. I've even seen him bounce that BMW over a field of baby heads that were bouncing off the cylinders!

Colin rode almost everyday from the early 80's up almost until his death. He had been a service manager at a car dealership, a job he hated, until he chucked it in and became a despatch rider (courier) in London in the 80's. He kept that up until the early part of this century when he began to run a taxibike between Heathrow and central London, carrying busy passengers and their carry-on luggage to and from the airport the fastest way possible.

When Colin wasn't working from the saddle of a motorcycle he was on vacation on motorcycle, including many trips to the legendary Bol'Or when it was held at Paul Ricard. I have no idea what Colin's lifetime mileage was, but I would not be surprised if it was in excess of 2 or even 3 million miles. Bottom line: for nearly 30 years all Colin really did was ride, and it showed.

Colin was also an on the road riding instructor with a scheme the Brits call RoSPA until his rather unconventional riding style caused a falling out with the powers that be. He did his fair share of trackdays until he decided they were boring, much preferring the mental challenge of riding distant and unfamiliar roads. It was Colin who gave me my love of goat trails, and Colin who showed me how to ride them quickly and safely.

Here are couple of clips of Colin from this year's EuroBARF. The first on Penserjoch in Italy where Colin is taking it kind of easy. His smoothness is readily apparent.

youtu.be/DArCMu38nJk

The following is the next to last time I rode with Colin, and the last time I rode with him in the Alps. It's classic Colin; smooth, fast, and completely unconventional. Fairly early in the vid Colin passes two vehicles on the outside of a RH turn. Watch for his head checks looking down the valley before he takes off and sweeps around them on the outside. I know lots of folks who would get apoplectic over that move, but it's classic Colin. It's worth pointing out that Colin did that sort of thing all the time, rode for millions of miles, and to the best of my knowledge never got seriously hurt on a bike. Then at the end, Colin splits between lanes of oncoming traffic, right past a gendarme, with no drama.


youtu.be/lPBvhPoRC90

The best part of Colin was who he was as a man. Kind, humble, fun loving, considerate of others, willing and happy to make sure everyone was having a good time, the first guy to assist a struggling rider, and without drawing attention to himself, the guy could show it and explain it simply, building the confidence of other riders. Colin made everyone around him better.

I heard a little more than a week ago that Colin's tumor was no longer responding to treatment, and that he'd gone back to Royal Marsden in great pain. The docs there did exploratory surgery to see what had happened, and if there was anything they could do. Colin was upbeat until the end, planning to join us for EuroBARF 2012, even if he had to do so on a liquids only diet. In the end it was too much even for Colin. After stretching his 3 month life expectancy to 3 years, there was nothing more even he could do, and Thursday night he died.

I miss him very much.
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Old 11-26-2011, 09:40 AM   #2
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I'll be heading out to ride Mt. Ham to the Junction later today. This is a ride Colin and I did together. PM me if you want to join.
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Old 11-26-2011, 09:41 AM   #3
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I never met Colin, but clearly the world is a little smaller place for his passing.
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Old 11-26-2011, 09:45 AM   #4
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RIP Collin
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Old 11-26-2011, 09:45 AM   #5
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I'm sorry you lost your friend.
Rest in peace Colin
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Old 11-26-2011, 09:46 AM   #6
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Kurt,
Your words and photos practically put me right there with you guys riding around. Colin, Rest In Peace.
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Old 11-26-2011, 09:50 AM   #7
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Sorry for your loss Kurt. Colin.
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Old 11-26-2011, 09:52 AM   #8
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Kurt, this is a wonderful tribute to your friend. I hope that I have friends like you when my time comes. I'm very sorry for your loss.

Colin
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Old 11-26-2011, 09:54 AM   #9
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Thank you for the lovely tribute to your friend, Colin. Take care of yourself and be safe on your ride today.
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Old 11-26-2011, 09:55 AM   #10
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Kurt... Very sorry to hear that Colin lost his battle.

Your write up is a beautiful piece. I am sure you honor him with your passion for the ride.

Godspeed Colin
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Old 11-26-2011, 09:57 AM   #11
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A very wonderful tribute to your friend. You were very fortunate through a chance encounter to have met someone so special.
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Old 11-26-2011, 10:02 AM   #12
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Colin

A marvellous tribute Kurt, marvellous

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Old 11-26-2011, 10:07 AM   #13
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Kurt,

Sorry for your loss, I remember you telling me about Colin and his sleeper R65. I had no idea he was diagnosed with cancer since you only spoke of how well he lived and what a great guy he was, still is.

Wish I could have been on the many rides with you but at least I can live them through your words, pictures, and videos.

RIP Colin
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Old 11-26-2011, 10:18 AM   #14
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I got misty eyed reading your tribute. Well done Kurt. I'm truly sorry that your friend has left us. He sounds like the type of person all of us would have liked - a lot.

I'm very sorry for your loss. It's clear this hits deep. <x> (hugs)
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Old 11-26-2011, 10:19 AM   #15
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Thanks for the kind words, everyone. Heading out in a few. Pinehurst, Redwood, Palomares, Calaveras, Felter, Mt. Ham, San Antonio Valley, Mines, maybe even Morgan Territory if I have time and light. Colin liked them all.

Feel free to intercept me if you want. Yellow suit, green Versys.
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