Marilyn Hayward, prominent Portland bike-shop owner and recumbent leader, has died

By Nick Budnick | nbudnick@oregonian.com
on November 14, 2014 at 6:33 PM, updated November 15, 2014 at 6:43 AM

Source: OregonLive

(Courtesy of Lonnie Morse)

(Courtesy of Lonnie Morse)

Marilyn Hayward, a prominent figure in Portland’s cycling community known for her frequent smiles and for helping others, has died. She was 65.

Hayward, having never fully recovered from a 2012 car accident, took her own life, her family confirmed.

The owner of Coventry Cycle Works on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard specialized in recumbents, also known as “bent bikes.” Because they let riders pedal from a reclining position, the bikes have become increasingly popular with Portland’s older and disabled riders, in part due to her efforts.

“She was very important,” said Ray Thomas, a Portland lawyer who also is active in the city’s cycling community. “She’s somebody who was extremely influential in Portland’s bicycle community, particularly for people who have some type of physical or mental disability, making them aware that there are alternatives to a traditional upright bicycles.”

A bird lover known as “Tweety” to her friends, she used to liken the feeling of cycling to that of flying like a bird.

Hayward was born and raised in Long Beach, California. After working for Kroger, Sears Roebuck and Vestas, she bought her bike shop in 2009. She quickly increased its recumbent inventory – both bicycles and tricycles– and boosted its business.

“She took a small business and made it healthy,” said Lonnie Morse, a friend of Hayward’s who advised her on her venture. “It bloomed significantly to be known as the top recumbent shop in the Northwest, and that’s including Seattle. She seemed to offer a better service and have a wider range of inventory to choose from, and she’s always had a very good staff.”

For Hayward, connecting older and disabled people to recumbents was more than a business, it was a cause, according to her friends and associates. Long an avid cyclist, she came to recumbents by way of her own injury, losing part of her shoulder to an operation to remove a cancerous fibrosarcoma in 1993.

Even as she fought to keep her business thriving, she rode competitively, notching a world record in her age-class for distance covered in a 24-hour period, of 381.4 miles. She also was known for giving bicycles or tricycles to the needy in an effort to change their lives.

“She lived to ride and help others,” said her brother-in-law, Philip Ford of Portland.

Monica Christofili, a writing instructor for Portland Community College, spent four days shadowing Hayward while researching a 2011 profile in the bike zine Taking The Lane. She recalls Hayward being most interested in fitting her customers with the right bike for their personal situation.

“She didn’t care about the sale, she cared about the fit,” Christofili said. Hayward “had heart and integrity (and was) full of gusto. Almost intimidating, but in a good way. She really cared about what she could do for biking culture.”

Marilyn Hayward at a 2010 recumbent event in Portland. Courtesy of Lonnie Morse

Marilyn Hayward at a 2010 recumbent event in Portland.
Courtesy of Lonnie Morse

In August 2012, she was cycling in Cornelius when she was hit by a Toyota Prius. She was hospitalized and went through a lengthy recuperation, but never fully recovered from the significant head injury she suffered.

She purchased a second store in Beaverton but could not make it work. She filed for bankruptcy, and it was obvious that her business acumen was not the same, Morse said. Nor was her riding: She started using a tricycle to help with her balance, and stopped racing entirely.

He remembers the last ride he took with her. “She still carried a very brisk pace. You could tell the racing spirit was still in this lady. But she was out of place. She just never felt in place again.”

Hayward is survived by her sister and brother-in-law, Diane and Philip Ford, and nephew, Matthew Ford, all of Portland. Details of a service to remember her have not yet been set.

–Nick Budnick