Mike "Mad Dog" Gallagher, shown here at left with friend and support team member Alex Indeck, during the 2007 Cycle Mania that lasted for 113 hours. (Courtesy photo/Alan MacRae)
LACONIA Daily Sun Article ~ Nov 19,2021— Not only did the WLNH Children’s Auction grow into a phenomenal yearly fundraising event, it sparked a series of other phenomena. For its 40th anniversary, the Greater Lakes Region Children’s Auction, as it is now called, is bringing back one of those events, Cycle Mania.
Cycle Mania will make its return with a 12-hour spin session starting at 9 a.m. on Dec. 7, at Gilford Hills Tennis & Fitness Club. Jennifer Kelley, executive director of the auction, said supporters can sign up for a single hour or multiple hours, and that each hour will have its own instructor, keeping the atmosphere buoyant.
“There will be fun things to do while you’re on the bike,” she said. “We’re going to make it high energy, very exciting.”
Cycle Mania, like the auction, started out small and grew into a huge, week-long event. And it came about due to a late-night conversation.
Tom Oakley, who owned the Laconia Athletic and Swim Club, said he was chatting with his employee Mike Gallagher after closing one night. Gallagher, who had recently relocated from Massachusetts, was asking about the Children’s Auction, and Oakley recounted how it was started by Warren Bailey, who parked outside the club one early December to auction off donated items on the air, proceeds to be given to local organizations that benefit children.
Gallagher then shared how he had once pedaled a stationary cycle for 12 hours straight, as a fundraiser, and Oakley suggested that they bring the idea to Laconia.
“He immediately loved the idea,” Oakley said. For branding purposes, Oakley coined the nickname “Mad Dog,” for the hairy, scrappy Gallagher, and the rest of the club’s staff and members got behind the effort.
“It got bigger and bigger each year,” said Oakley. He attributed its success to both the community that had grown up around the health club, and to the enigmatic characteristics of the man at the center of the event.
“Mike is big-hearted, free-spirited, extremely adventurous, and he loves the social environment,” Oakley said. Yet he had a contradictory side, too. Once in a while, he would tell his boss not to expect him for a while, and Gallagher would take a tent into the woods for solitude. “He loves being social, he loves talking to people, but he loves being in the mountains by himself.”
After the club closed in 2015 — the property now operates as The Wellness Complex — Gallagher decamped to the Mountain West, where he works for ski areas in the summer, runs ultramarathons and rides mountain bike trails. He hasn’t sat on a spin bike since 2009.
“I was pretty much done with it,” Gallagher said, and it’s easy to understand why. After the success of the first Cycle Mania, Gallagher and Oakley kept upping the ante. They did 24 hours straight, then 36. Later they heard that a man named George Hood set a Guinness World Record by cycling for 111 hours, 11 minutes, 11, seconds, and that sounded like a challenge. So, in 2007, Gallagher got on his spin bike with the goal of staying on it for the next 113 hours. And he wasn’t alone. This time he was joined by John Jurczynski, an accomplished distance cyclist, also aiming to set a new world record. Meanwhile, relay teams kept a roomful of bikes spinning around them, all to raise money for the auction.
While Guinness was analyzing their entry, another cyclist accomplished and even longer spin, so they never held the title. But they succeeded in their goal, raising $34,000 for the auction.
Jurczynski lives in Arizona now, and said he is recovering from a serious cycling accident which might prevent him from getting on an airplane. If he can’t attend in person, he might do something remotely.
“It’s a great cause. I lived in the community for 30 years. Tom Oakley was great to work with. Mike, we’re forever bonded because of that 113 hours sitting next to each other on a bike, and I love cycling, so it all comes together,” Jurczynski said.
When Gallagher first heard that the event was coming back, he immediately knew that he had to come back — and cycle the entire 12 hours, just as he did for the first Cycle Mania.
“I don’t want to spin, with one exception, and that’s to do it for the auction,” Gallagher said. “For me, a lot’s changed since I’ve left. Ever since I left Laconia, it’s been a huge void, because every time it gets close to auction time I get depressed and bummed out. I miss being a part of it and suffering, because that’s what I do best... Giving my all for the good. That was everything to me at this part of the year.”
His desire to participate was heightened when he heard of the recent passing of Ed Engler, former mayor and founder of The Daily Sun, who got to know Gallagher at the Athletic and Swim Club.
“I want to do it as a tribute to him as well as to the auction. This ride’s for him, he supported me for years when I did it. He was such a huge part of the community, huge!”
Gallagher and Oakley both said they were pleased to see that the idea they had, that night after closing, had become a part of the auction’s history.
“It’s flattering that something that me and our team and Mikey started innocently, that they’re recognizing it as something significant from the past that they want to honor as part of the anniversary,” said Oakley. “As you get older, you like to look back and say you did some good work.”
“I’m overwhelmed,” Gallager said. “Cycle Mania is coming back, and so am I.”
For more information about Cycle Mania, call 603-527-0999 or visit bids.childrensauction.com. to register.