On July 27, Nona Cycle and the Central Florida cycling community lost an outstanding athlete, a devoted husband and father, United States Marine Corps veteran, and a man of deep faith. On this sunny summer day, David McGrinn was doing what he loved most, riding his custom-built three-wheel bike with members of Nona Cycle on the Saturday morning Airport Loop Ride. On this picture perfect Saturday, typical in many ways, the unthinkable happened; while cycling on Heintzelman Boulevard, David was struck and killed by a distracted driver who veered into the bike lane.
The following morning, Nona Cycle made the decision to ride our Sunday Signature Ride in David’s honor. Nearly 100 riders met at the usual starting point, Canvas Restaurant in Lake Nona. Gone was the usual morning banter and fellowship. We were a somber group, numbed by grief, uncertain to some degree on how to proceed. We rode at a slower, quieter pace than normal, lost in our private reflection of what happened just 24 hours earlier.
Following the suggestion of David’s friend Dovi Goren, a large group of riders detoured to David’s home in St. Cloud to offer our condolences to his widow, Carly, and young son Landon. There is no describing the anguish we felt while trying to express, often without words, how much he meant to us, even those who did not know him well. David was one of us. He was family.
Throughout the following week, a small group of Nona Cycle members organized two events to honor David and show our respect to the McGrinn family. The days passed by in a surreal whirlwind of on-the-fly planning; member Matt Rought suggested we place a Ghost Bike memorial at the site of the crash, and within a matter of days, we had approval from the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority to do as we wished. Matt and Dovi acquired a bike and transformed it into a Ghost Bike, then prepared the site where it would be placed. We chose the morning of Saturday, Aug. 3, the week following the crash to cycle the same Airport Loop to install the memorial.
The McGrinn family graciously invited the cycling community to attend David’s memorial service later that same day at Heartcry Chapel in St. Cloud. Within days, Nona Cycle had commitments from the Osceola County Sheriff, Orange County Fire/Rescue Engine 13, David’s World Cycle, and Velofix Cycle to support the ride from Canvas to the service. Word spread throughout the many cycling groups, and with it came the attention of local media outlets. Channel 9, Telemundo, Orlando Sentinel, Channel 13, and Spectrum News picked up the story, devoting prime airtime to share our tragedy along with a reminder to not drive while distracted and respect the 3-foot law for cyclists.
The forecast for Aug. 3 was rain throughout the day. We departed Canvas Restaurant just after 8 a.m., and rain began to fall as we began the ride. Accompanied by the McGrinn family, who transported the Ghost Bike, more than 140 cyclists rode in somber formation to Heintzelman Boulevard, where we wept, prayed and shared our thoughts about what David meant to us. Vehicles rushed by behind us, and I could not help but wonder – do they care? Do they understand what happened here?
Later that afternoon, we reconvened at Canvas to depart for Heartcry Chapel. Our numbers had grown considerably with every cycling group in the area represented in a show of unity for our Nona Cycle family. We headed out under police escort, well over 150 cyclists riding in a paceline as far as one could see with sag vehicles and Orange County Fire Department’s Engine 13 ensuring our safety. The skies were sunny until our procession was within a quarter mile of the chapel; at that point, the skies could no longer contain the grief we all felt, and the rain began to fall.
Along with family and friends, we filled Heartcry Chapel to say our goodbyes. Those who knew David only as a fellow cyclist learned about his deep love of family, his faith, how he ran a ministry named Dare2Heal, and how cycling aided in his mental and physical recovery after he was thrown from a car at 100 mph – an accident that paralyzed the left side of his body. We learned David was a Paralympic hopeful and a member of the Paralyzed Veterans of America Racing Team. He was also active with Project Hero, Orlando. We learned he was loved and respected by so many people on so many different levels.
Originally, I had planned to interview David for a Meet the Members of Nona Cycle article in this publication. When I reached out to him back in June to schedule a meeting date, he was competing at the 2019 USA Cycling Para-cycling Road Nationals in Knoxville, Tennessee, where he raced to third-place finishes in the MT2 road race and time trial events. We planned to reconnect upon his return; I still have the Facebook message thread saved on my phone.
I did not know David well, but I was intrigued by this guy who showed up for our Sunday Signature Rides with a crazy looking 3-wheeled road bike that was obviously custom-made. I was amazed, given he had limited mobility on his left side, that he was able to ride in our paceline, dropping all but the fastest riders. It was evident watching him speeding by that he greatly enjoyed cycling and being part of Nona Cycle. Given I am not a particularly fast rider, I found myself thinking on more than one occasion, “If he can do it, so can I.” Following David’s death, it was no surprise to hear my fellow cyclists echo the same sentiment.
One of the most impactful tributes on Facebook was shared by the Paralyzed Veterans of America Racing team, a brief video interview with David. In it, he explained how cycling saved him following his accident, how much it meant to him to be able to once again fatigue his body through physical exercise, and how much he enjoyed the wind blowing through his hair.
In the time since David’s passing, countless people have shared memories of how David impacted and inspired their lives through photos, conversations and Facebook tributes. I realized I could tell David’s story through their eyes and words. What follows are just a few of those stories accompanied by visual memories.
Fellow Nona Cycle member Craig Grason shared the following:
David was a man of integrity who would not give up until the end. When he began cycling on his first low rider trike, he wanted to stay with the group and not get dropped. He would push and pedal hard to keep up, flying his American banner flag to ensure he would be noticed on the road. Two years later, he came up with the design for a large three-wheel trike so he could ride at the same level as other road cyclists and have an added sense of safety. The new, lighter bike gave David more of an opportunity to not get dropped on group rides, and he became competitive in the sport of cycling. Cycling gave David the freedom of riding in the wind and striving for a balance in his lifestyle following his time in the Marine Corps. He will be missed greatly in our cycling community but never forgotten in our hearts. Thank you, David, for the quality of time I had to cycle with you and watch you grow into a well-respected Man of Honor in our lives.
Spencer Phelps, a founding member of Nona Cycle, shared that David did not let his injuries hold him back. “He pulled the bike off his truck and he set it up every time we rode; David was humble and polite and always sincere and genuine.”
Nona Cycle co-founder Paul Pikel remembered how incredibly strong and solid David was as a rider, and fellow rider Paola Holanda shared that her motto “Never Give Up!” was inspired by David’s encouragement to her when they rode together.
Dovi Goren shared how he met David through Project Hero, Orlando, a cycling group comprised of veterans. The group was a catalyst for David to discover cycling, leading to his progression to competitive racing. He and David became riding partners and close friends despite their differences in religious beliefs and a 20-year age gap. He shared that he believes David will always be watching over his cycling family.
David was a regular at several of the local bike shops where staff remembered his sense of humor, gentle demeanor, politeness, and desire to improve upon the design of his custom bike to help him increase speed and efficiency.
His friend Sean Gibbs shared on Facebook: “There are people that cross your path in life that make you feel like this world is a great place. My friend and fellow Marine, David, was one of those people.”
David’s trainer Kameel Abdurrahman shared on Facebook:
It was my privilege and honor to have had the opportunity to work with David to achieve his cycling goals. Just last week (shortly before the accident), we spent a few hours working on his form when I expressed how proud and amazed I was in his determination and work ethic while ensuring he did not sacrifice his family time. There are no words to describe how much our cycling community is going to miss David. There are no words to describe how much I’m going to miss David.
May we all be inspired by David’s story to do our best, believe in ourselves, and help make the world a better place.
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ranked Florida as the deadliest state for cyclists in 2017 with 125 deaths.
- Last year in Florida, 148 people were killed on bicycles, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
What is the 3-Foot Law (and other rules) for Bicycle Safety?
- Drivers MUST give bicyclists a minimum of three feet of clearance when driving alongside or passing them. It’s the law.
- When turning, yield to any bicyclist in the bike lane and make your turn behind the cyclist.
- Avoid using high beam headlights when you see a bicyclist approaching.
- Before opening a car door, check for bicyclists who may be approaching from behind.
*Photos Courtesy of Friends and Family of David McGrinn