Come and Gone Review

In 1986, Joe Parkin was a fresh-faced American teenager with a bike, a spare set of wheels, and a dream of becoming a pro cyclist. While his peers were cutting their teeth on the US circuit, he flew to Belgium and embarked on a hard-fought European cycling career built on blood, sweat, and countless Kermis races. Parkin’s 2008 memoir A Dog in a Hat details his whirlwind journey through the European professional cycling ranks at a time when Americans in the sport were quite rare.

Professional cycling is a fickle sport and in late 1991, Parkin finds himself unsigned for the upcoming season. He returns to the United States without a team, a career, or a country that felt like home.

Parkin’s recently released second memoir Come & Gone: A True Story of Blue-Collar Bike Racing in America, picks up the story as he chases a professional cycling career in the United States. Despite landing a coveted spot on the Coors Light team, Parkin has difficulty relating to American road cycling culture and his motivation begins to wane. After three grueling seasons, he finds himself in the familiar position of being without a contract as the Coors Light sponsorship falls through.

A twist of fate leads to Parkin to contact the Diamondback team, where he quickly trades asphalt for mud and signs a pro-racing mountain bike contract. Parkin feels a renewed sense of enthusiasm for the sport he once loved. Dirt riding is just plain fun and Parkin is hooked.

Far from being a fairy tale, Parkin’s professional mountain bike career threatens to become a string of underwhelming performances peppered with a few brilliant races. Spectacular crashes, mechanicals, and tactical mistakes consistently derail his chances to shine on the national and international stage.  Yet, he steadfastly chases the dream of nailing that perfect race and hammering home the big win.

Come & Gone
is an unflinching look at the grueling and often mundane world of professional cycling. Dirt geeks will appreciate the historical context as Parkin races in the blossoming mountain bike scene of the 90’s, and competes against legends such as Ned Overend and Tinker Juarez. Parkin’s humility, humor, and at times, indignation combine into an engaging coming of age story on the bike.

Ronit Bezalel is an award-winning filmmaker and sports journalist based in Chicago.  Her work can be found at ronitfilms.com.

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