5/19/21 Updated with details of the accident, and words from friend Chris Price and Tim Rutledge
It’s with great sadness that we report that five-time U.S. National Cyclocross Champion and 2017 U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame inductee Laurence Malone died on May 17th, 2021.
Following His Own Path
Fellow cycling legend George Mount reported Malone’s death on social media.
Malone was reportedly found on the road in Lancaster, CA with no ID or phone with him, and only his Hall of Fame inductee badge. Some have called his death an auto accident involving his car and a semi-truck. Cyclocross Magazine has not yet confirmed these reports.
Malone split time between Ojai, California and Santa Fe, New Mexico, and was on his way back to Santa Fe at the time of his death.
Malone’s best friend, Chris Price, told Cyclocross Magazine that Malone was driving on Highway 138, just west of Lancaster, California, when he suffered a head-on collision with a semi-trailer truck.
His Nissan Pathfinder was crumpled upon impact.
Price was in disbelief and suspects Malone had a mechanical issue with his car. Price recalled that Malone’s “bike handling skills were second-to-none” and that “those bike handling skills translated 100% to driving skills that would help him avoid an accident.”
Malone typically kept his wallet under the driver’s seat, according to Price, but kept a few meaningful momentos on his dashboard, including his letter from cycling legend George Mount welcoming him into the 2017 class for the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame.
This letter was the form of identification authorities could easily retrieve from the wreckage. They contacted the Hall of Fame, and George Mount set about trying to reach Malone’s next of kin.
Malone had recently visited his eight-year-old son in Mexico.
An Unmatched Cyclocross Resume
Malone won his first cyclocross national title in Berkeley, CA 1975.
“If you were going to make a movie of cyclocross, Malone’s who I’d make a movie about. He was the original rebel, he is American ’cross,” said fellow cyclocross legend Tim Rutledge.
Malone went on to win five straight national titles, a feat that’s been unmatched among U.S. Elite Men cyclocrossers. He’s arguably the greatest American male cyclocrosser.
“If you were going to make a movie of cyclocross, Malone’s who I’d make a movie about. He was the original rebel, he is American ’cross.” -Tim Rutledge
Malone raced cyclocross in Europe, and was famous for hopping the barriers, earning him the nickname “Der Springer.”
After years away from racing, Malone made a return to cyclocross in 1990 in Bremerton, Washington, racing Masters and winning easily and then finishing third behind Don Myrah in the Elite men’s race.
Malone was also an accomplished road cyclist and was inducted into the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame:
Riding and Wrenching Until the End
We were fortunate to visit Malone and profile him for our cover story of Issue 15 of our print magazine, and just as we found him nearly ten years ago, Malone was still active until his death, and still riding fully rigid bikes offroad.
He had just commented about joining friends on a mountain bike ride this past Saturday and being the only one without suspension. He was riding a vintage Columbus-tubed Marin with mismatched brake levers and thumbshifters. Price, who got Malone to join him on the ride, said his friend had salvaged the bike from the metal scrap yard, and cobbled together parts including a riser bar to suit his ailing back, despite still preferring to ride drop bars offroad. The climb included a 4,000-foot climb, and Malone conquered the ride in his typical ride attire: sneakers, pants and without a helmet.
Malone was well-read, and philosophical. He also recently posted about poet Borges’ Circular Ruin on a CXM team member’s Facebook post just a few days ago.
Price suggests Malone was feeling melancholy recently after a series of traumatizing events in Ojai and Mexico. Just three days ago, Malone posted this song by Lauryn Hill, one of his favorite singers, to Facebook:
While we’ll try to resist reading into the lyrics too much, but we can’t help but wonder as to whether they meant quite a bit to Malone in recent days:
“I find it hard to say that everything is alright…While today is still today, choose well. And what I gotta say, is rebel, it can’t go down this way. Choose well, choose well, choose well…Why don’t you rebel? I’m fading myself down now.”
We’ll miss the original cyclocross rebel deeply.
Words of Tribute Start to Pour In
Tim Rutledge, the creator of one of the earliest mass-produced cyclocross bikes for Redline and multi-time Masters National Champion, had raced with Malone, and had this to share:
“An American original, the Jack Kerouac of Cycling. A rebel who could think outside of the European mindset and revolutionize the sport. From bunny-hopping to fat tires, to bicycle design he was never afraid to be different in his approach to the sport. Laurence was able to see technology changes in the sport back in the 80s. He was way ahead, by 20 years, of what staid European cyclo-cross designers and racers thought. I learned so much from him in just the short time our lives interacted.”
Price was emotional when we spoke with him, but knew Malone outside of cycling and shared the side of Malone many of us didn’t get to see.
“He lived his life with integrity. He was courageous in his individuality. It’s not easy being an oddball or outcast. It’s hard to encapsulate what Laurence Malone meant to me and everyone else. In terms of his cycling prowess, Laurence was cycling royalty, literally royalty. His notoriety as a cyclist he always tried to downplay, he didn’t want to be known as a cyclist, he wanted to be known as a person beyond cycling. He downplayed that, was very humble about that, because ultimately he didn’t want to be known as a good cyclist, but as a good person. He gave, he was creative, unique, lived by his own standards, a higher standard of intellect and morality and ethics. ”
Stay tuned for more on this breaking story, community reactions and our full-length feature on Malone.