Josh Sawyer: Chapter V

Besides games, I have noticed that you are also an avid cyclist.

Yes. Actually I feel bad because I’ve done less than half as much cycling as I did by this point last year. Last year I think I rode 5000 miles; this year, I’ve gone maybe 2100, something like that.

I had a very bad accident, and I tore up my elbow and my back and I fractured my kneecap, and I was really scared of bikes for about 20 years

That’s great! I am always quite amazed when my Facebook timeline produces a story of somebody who just did a hundred kilometers on a bike, so now they can chill. It seems a bit unreal to me as I spend most of my time not moving at all.

Last year was probably my biggest cycling year. In 2016, I did AIDS LifeCycle, which is a charity ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles. That’s 545 miles over six or seven days. And then I did right across Wisconsin, which is 175 miles, all in one day.

Wow, how did you become such a passionate cyclist?

It’s actually kind of weird. So, when I was a kid, my dad was really good friends with a guy who owned a bicycle shop in Wisconsin where I grew up—a guy named Tom Klein. Tom owned, and still owns, a bicycle shop called The Bicycle Doctor, and Tom—either my mom bought it, or he gave to us—a Gitane. My mom never rode it [laughing], so I rode it because I was still pretty small—I was in fifth grade—and I really loved it. But I had a very bad accident, and I tore up my elbow and my back and I fractured my kneecap, and I was really scared of bikes for about 20 years—for a really long time.

Then a friend of mine became a triathlete—and she is actually an iron man triathlete—and cycling was just a part of what she did, and I started becoming interested in it. I got a bike and I was training to do a triathlon—I had my tri-bike. I was awful at swimming, I was okay at running. But then, my knee basically just gave out one day in training and I went to the doctor and they said I didn’t have any cartilage left in my right knee. And I said, “well, can I get it back?” [laughing]. And they said, “No, it’s never coming back. Your cartilage is gone; you have osteoarthritis.” And that was when I was in my mid-thirties. I went to a very bad physical therapist who discouraged me from getting to the point where I could run again, but I still loved cycling.

I like finding stuff that’s a couple hundred dollars and then I rebuild it

So I gave up on doing triathlons and just kept cycling. I rode a bike for a while and then I decided to build by own bicycle because I was into motorcycles, and I liked repairing old motorcycles. But repairing old motorcycles took up a lot of space, and it was pretty expensive and very dirty. So I got into doing that with bicycles. I ride bicycles a lot, but the big focus that I have now is finding old bicycles on Craigslist or Ebay and restoring them. For example, I have an old Raleigh International from 1970 and I’ve turned it into a city bike. I changed the stem and the handlebars and the brake levers and all this other stuff, and just doing stuff like that. I got a Bertin, a French cyclotourist bicycle, for my girlfriend. I took apart the hub, took apart the bottom bracket, the head set, cleaned them all, re-greased them and put them back together. I restored the bike for her, and that’s my big hobby now, restoring old bicycles.

I was really excited because there is a cafe and a shop on Wilhelmstraße called Steel Vintage Bikes, and the whole focus is just old bicycles, so I was very happy when I got to go there today. Every bike in there is way too expensive for me [laughing] but they’re beautiful. They are top-of-the-line bikes for their time and they’re restored perfectly, so I was like, ‘I’ll just look at these, [laughing] I’ll just look at these and admire them and have my tea.’

How much were they?

I think the cheapest one I saw was probably 1200 euros and some of the nicer ones were over 3000. They’re beautiful bikes but it’s a little much [laughing]. I like finding stuff that’s a couple hundred dollars and then I rebuild it.

Wonderful. It’s great to see a busy developer such as yourself having another big hobby. One would sport an assumption that people like you cannot have any free time for anything else apart from making games.

Yeah, I was like that when I first got into the game industry and I just can’t do that anymore; I need other things to do to help give me perspective on things, I guess. History is another thing; I take so much inspiration from history, from nature, from being outdoors.

Here we have the three biggest passions of your life: games, history and cycling. Correct?

Yeah, I would say those are the big things.

What would be the fourth?

Hmmm, well languages, I guess.

The very last question is at hand then: How many languages do you know?

Realistically, I can only speak German and English but I took classes in Spanish, French, Latin, Arabic—yeah I think that just about covers it. I was taking Latin classes until recently—I took Latin in college as well but I didn’t get very far—and that was going very well but my work schedule just got too busy. I also do tutoring. There’s a library near where I used to live that has a literacy program, so I go there and I work with an adult learner who’s learning to read and write and speak English.

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