By Brice Minnigh
On a weekend when mountain bikers were to be celebrating our sport at the Dam Cold Downhill race in Bootleg Canyon, Nevada, many will instead be attending a memorial service for that race's spirited organizer.
Dave "Crash" Collins, who had devoted much of his energy to promoting races on Bootleg Canyon's downhill trails, passed on January 8 following an intense battle with cancer. His passing came just 10 days short of his 48th birthday.
Mere weeks before being diagnosed with terminal cancer in late November 2009, Collins had announced his ambitious plans for the Dam Cold Downhill, a new pro-am that promised a $20,000 prize purse. The race, which was scheduled for January 16-17, was designed to give local racers a rare opportunity to compete against some of the world's fastest pros.
Among those who had been expected to participate were the likes of Sam Hill, Cedric Gracia and brothers Gee and Dan Atherton. But due to the severity of Collins' cancer—it was already in the advanced stages by the time he was diagnosed—he was unable to continue organizing the race and it was cancelled.
Collins' passing comes just one year after that of his friend and fellow Bootleg Canyon trail advocate Brent Thompson, a trail builder who had almost single-handedly hewn the canyon's impressive singletrack network. The 56-year-old Thompson passed away in February 2009 following complications from a heart attack, and Collins immediately began helping with his fundraiser and added a memorial ride to his own St. Patty's Day Feast downhill race in mid-March.
"After Brent Thompson died, Dave kind of assumed the mantle of being a promoter of Bootleg Canyon, and he had developed really good relations with Boulder City businesses and bike shops and had helped them realize how much potential Bootleg really has," said Collins' friend Steve Boehmke, a bike industry PR and marketing veteran.
"He was always full of energy, and he was a driving force in raising the profile of Bootleg Canyon's trails."
A Southern California native, Collins grew up in Orange County during the beginning of the BMX and motocross craze. His father owned a motocross shop in Anaheim, and the young Collins cut his teeth racing moto and BMX bikes. In adulthood, he began riding road bikes, joining the Fullerton-based road bike club Team Velocity.
In his 30s, Collins transitioned into mountain biking, racing downhill for Chumba and later for Mountain Cycle. He became a regular on Thursday-night group rides in Fullerton, California.
"He would show up to the Fullerton Loop, which is mostly a cross-country ride, on a downhill bike with a single ring, and would be hitting jumps and having all kinds of fun," Boehmke says. "It was as if he was 12 years old again—he was doing all the shit we used to do on bikes as kids in the 70s.
"He brought that youth and playfulness to our Thursday night rides, and reminded us to stay kid-like in your riding and in your life. That was a real inspiration to me. And now that he's gone, he's proof that we're here for a good time, not a long time."
Like many in our sport, Collins' youthful energy was also infused with a healthy dose of angst, and run-ins with the law landed him in prison for a year in his early 40s. Friends say that Collins emerged a much calmer man, with a sharpened focus on what he wanted to accomplish in life.
He resumed riding his mountain bike, competed in the Red Bull Road Rage and dedicated himself to developing and promoting races like the St. Patty's Day Feast and Dam Cold Downhill. He built relationships with athletes, businesses and media, and was tireless in rallying support for his events.
Collins' go-big-or-go-home approach to life and riding had its consequences: Last July, he crashed badly while training at Fontana, cracking his right kneecap in half and sidelining him for months. During his down time, his left leg atrophied, and in a random fall he tore his meniscus and ACL and later developed a sizeable bump on his left knee.
"The doctor said that big bump on his knee was a hematoma," said Collins' wife Terri. "He went into surgery to have what we thought was a hematoma removed, and it turned out to be a big wad of cancer. They did tests and found out that it had already spread to his brain, lungs, liver and vascular system."
A memorial service will be held this Saturday, January 16, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the San Clemente Community Center, 100 North Calle Seville, San Clemente, California, 92672. Those wishing to make suggestions for eulogy remarks, remembrances or activities for the service are asked to send their requests in an e-mail to email@example.com.
In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to the American Cancer Society in Collins' honor. Some Boulder City residents and businesses have already organized fundraisers to help Collins' family cover his medical expenses, and inquiries on how to make such donations should also be directed to the above e-mail.