SANTA FE, N.M. — There were few places where Robert J. Romero was happier than riding his bicycle hard and fast, attacking a hill with a fervor not many in the state could match.
So, his many friends and acquaintances within the local cycling community decided that perhaps the best way to offer a fitting tribute to him was to don their cycling helmets, strap on their bike shoes and do what he loved to do: climb a big hill.
Romero, 52, and a 1984 graduate of Santa Fe High School, was shot to death July 30 in his backyard by an unknown assailant. Police are still investigating the homicide and cannot release any additional information at this point, said Santa Fe Police Department spokesman Greg Gurulé.
Since Romero was such an active rider in both road and mountain biking categories, organizers for Sunday’s Memorial Ride wanted to do something to reflect both disciplines.
“I just had this idea that it would be nice to do something in honor of him in the biking community,” said Michael D’Alfonso, who worked with Romero at Barker Realty and was also a personal friend.
“We’ll start off as road bikers, taking a symbolic start and riding as a group to the ski area and the base of the Aspen Vista Trail, and from there take that mountain bike trail to the top of the (Tesuque) mountain and have a memorial service and, in our way, to say goodbye.”
The road ride is about 14 miles and the mountain bike trail is about six miles, all of it pretty much climbing.
Those who want to can do either of the riding sections, or even pass on both and take the ski area chairlift to its top and hike the final mile up the mountain, D’Alfonso said.
Riders will start to gather at 9 a.m. at Barker Realty, 530 S. Guadalupe St., head to Fort Marcy Park and then go up the mountain.
Friend Bob Vigil, who went to high school with Romero and later grew to become close friends with the Romero family, said this was perfect way to honor Romero’s legacy.
“Mostly because 90 percent of the people that know Rob who aren’t immediate family equate bicycling with him in some fashion, mostly mountain biking, but he wasn’t a stranger to road biking either,” Vigil said.
“A lot of our friendships with Rob were based on biking and the outdoors. Rob loved the outdoors. His passion was mountain biking so it just made sense.”
Romero was a quiet man with a sly sense of humor who enjoyed sharing his passion for the outdoors with others, Vigil said.
“He loved being in the outdoors, especially with his family,” Vigil said. “He equated cycling with all aspects of his life. A few days after he passed, all of us were dealing with things on different emotional levels. I was having a hard time getting back on my bike but, once I did, I put some thoughts down about what I really felt bicycling meant to Rob and what he taught us. In my life lessons in cycling, Rob taught us a lot about that.”
Having the climbs, then the ceremony overlooking the wilderness area pays tribute to the things Romero loved, said friend Kyla Klain.
“Robert was a master mountain biker that could out-climb just about everyone in the state,” Klein said. “We couldn’t think of a better way to honor our friend than to climb the mountains overlooking Santa Fe.”
And with police still seeking a shooter, this is a good way not to let Romero’s death become just another cold case, D’Alfonso said.
“This thing has been focused on honoring Robert this year, and it’s also focused on keeping it alive and not letting his memory die, and not letting the story die because somebody is still out there who took his life,” he said. “There’s still no closure on that. So part of this idea was to keep this out there so that this just doesn’t just become another murder that wasn’t solved.”