Paul Lentz is remembered by his friends as a “sweet guy,” a dedicated family man and a bicyclist who put safety first.
The 72-year-old was known in the cycling community for wearing a wide brim he fashioned on his helmet to shield his face from the sun, which made him look like a “cowboy” when he rode his old-school purple bike. Lentz was passionate about cycling and regularly rode with the Frederick Pedalers group. He had recently retired and was enjoying taking more time to do the things that interested him.
Lentz died Wednesday night after he lost control of his bike, skidded and fell 80 feet off the LeGore Bridge near New Midway, according to Maj. Tim Clarke of the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office. Lentz was riding with about a dozen other bicyclists on an organized group outing that starts at Utica Park every Wednesday evening.
“What is really surreal to me is that Paul was one of the safest riders I’ve known,” said Bill Smith, a fellow cyclist who knew Lentz well. “I’ve known him for 34 years, and he always took the safe way through everything. He was always instructing other riders on how to do things safely.”
Smith said Lentz lived near the bridge and probably crossed it on his bicycle regularly.
“It completely perplexes me,” he said. “I can’t picture Paul making a mistake like that. That’s not the rider I know.”
When Smith heard about Lentz’s death on his way home from work on Wednesday, he said he thought there may have been gravel on LeGore Bridge Road where the cyclist made a sharp right turn at the base of a large hill to cross the bridge. But Smith said he was told by other cyclists who were there that there wasn’t any loose gravel at the turn.
Smith said he began wondering if something stopped Lentz from applying his brakes before the turn. But Smith said he doubts that was the case, because it was reported that Lentz’s bike skidded in the turn, which would mean that he did apply his brakes.
“I’m gonna go up there [this weekend] and look at the spot where it happened and see if there are skid marks,” Smith said. “It just doesn’t make sense to me.”
Smith said he last saw his friend about three weeks ago on a Sunday group ride.
“We were probably complaining about the rainy weather,” Smith said.
The two met in 1984 when they began cycling together in Montgomery County. Smith remembers Lentz as a “cool dude” who was fun to ride with and paved his own way in the world. Lentz was also a helpful resource for other cyclists, according to Smith.
“I remember my wife-to-be at the time and I were on a ride with Paul, and she got a flat tire,” Smith said. “Rather than fix it, Paul had her do it, and he coached her through it. Right then and there, she learned how to fix flat tires on the road and is always able to do it now.”
The night Lentz died, Smith said he heard his friend had helped another cyclist fix a flat tire right before his last ride.
Lentz was handy, Smith said. He built his own cargo holder for the back of his bike and even helped Smith weld his bike together after the frame cracked.
The cyclist was married and had two children, according to Smith.
“He was just a good guy,” Smith said. “A good father. A good husband.”