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Longtime customer dies on bicycle ride, as tragedy strikes bike shop again

In a lengthy post on Instragram, the owners of Sunnyside Bicycles discuss the passing of Kurt Lange. The 59-year old Reedley man died Tuesday while on a group ride near Sanger.
In a lengthy post on Instragram, the owners of Sunnyside Bicycles discuss the passing of Kurt Lange. The 59-year old Reedley man died Tuesday while on a group ride near Sanger. Sunnyside Bicycles Instragram page

Kurt Lange was a fixture around Sunnyside Bicycles.

Of the multiple group rides the shop coordinates each week, he typically rode them all.

It was on Tuesday night's Chili Ride, a 30-mile trek through the foothills around Sanger, that the 59-year old Reedley man collapsed and died. The California Highway Patrol responded to reports of a downed bicyclist on North Piedra Road in Tivy Valley north of Sanger just before 7 p.m. and Lange had died on the scene.

On Thursday, Sunnyside Bicycles confirmed the news on social media.

"This is by far the most difficult post we’ve ever had to write. On Tuesday night’s Chili Ride, we lost a beloved member of our Sunnyside family," read a lengthy post on the shop's Instagram page.

This is by far the most difficult post we’ve ever had to write. • On Tuesday night’s Chili Ride, we lost a beloved member of our Sunnyside family, Kurt Lange. Kurt collapsed mid-ride from an apparent heart attack and was unable to be saved, despite the best efforts of his cycling family, good samaritans and emergency personnel. • The sadness and grief we feel is profound, and reaches new depths with each passing hour. All of us who were lucky enough to ride with Kurt know that he was an incredibly special man - a kind, funny, easy-going, thoughtful, generous, positive, straight-shooting, good-natured, good man. Kurt was protective and supportive of us personally and as a group. We all genuinely loved riding with him and hanging out with him. When Kurt wasn’t on a ride, his absence was felt and noted by everyone. It sounds cliche, but it’s the sincere truth: Our rides simply will not be the same without him. • Of course, Kurt had a real family, too, and all of our hearts ache for them. As much we hurt for losing our friend and riding partner, we cannot fathom the pain they are enduring after losing their father and grandfather. We ask the entire cycling community to lift Kurt’s family up in prayers for peace and comfort, and hope his loved ones know how much we appreciate them sharing him with us these last couple years since he started cycling. • Kurt’s legacy will live on in all of us privileged enough to ride with him. All of us who were with him Tuesday night will never, ever take anything or anyone for granted. Kurt reminded us that in an instant, everything can change. We are changed forever, and will always ride with Kurt in our hearts. •Kurt’s funeral services will be held at 10 am on Thursday, June 21 at Reedley Cemetery with a reception to follow. Cards may be sent to Creighton Funeral Home in Kingsburg. •We have started a gofundme account to help Kurt’s children and grandchildren during this devastating time. Please donate and share! Link in bio. •We have a memory book at the shop to give to his family. Please come write a memory to give them comfort. •A memorial ride is being planned. Details coming soon.

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Vanessa McCracken, who owns the shop with husband John, calls Lange's death "utterly devastating" and says it changed everything for everyone who was on the ride.

Whatever struggles the shop might have gone through lately, they no longer seem important, McCracken says. Last month, a car crashed through the front door of the shop on Kings Canyon Avenue, destroying merchandise, knocking out the computer system and leaving cash registers buried underneath a pile of rubble. They had just finished repairs on the shop.

"A car smashing through your shop doesn't seem too significant," McCracken says.

"This put everything else in perspective."

McCracken struggled with whether to post about Lange's death on social media. But Lange was so important to the cycling community around the shop. He was always thoughtful and generous and, ultimately, the McCrackens say they hope the cycling community can repay some of that generosity to his family.

To that end, the shop started a GoFundMe campaign. (Lange deeply supported any and all fundraisers the shop ever had.) The money will go to his family.

Since the campaign went up Thursday, it has raised more than $1,100.

There is also a memory book at the shop, and the McCrackens are urging those who knew Lange to share their stories.. It will eventually be given to Lange's family.

The shop is planning a memorial ride. It will be open to all levels of bicyclists, and McCracken hopes Lange's family will be able to participate so they can get a small sample of the community he seemed to love.

And on Tuesday, they will continue with the Chili Ride, McCracken says. The group will stop for a moment at the point where Lange went down. Then, they will finish the ride that he didn't.

"I intend the ride to be a time for all of us to heal," she says.

Services for Lange will be held at 10 a.m. June 21 at Reedley Cemetery. The cycling community is invited. Cards can be sent to Creighton Funeral Home in Kingsburg, but the family is requesting no flowers, according to Sunnyside Bicycles.

Joshua Tehee: 559-441-6479, @joshuatehee

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