Category Archives: Interviews

Sonya Looney: Finding Peace at the World’s Hardest Races

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Sonya Looney. Photo via Topeak Ergon.

Cyclists love to grimace. It is, in part, because pain and suffering have been venerated in cycling culture to the point of fetishization. Entire clothing empires have been built on marketing the nobility of suffering on a bicycle. But it’s also because racing and riding hard just really, really hurt sometimes. From the pro peloton to local cat 4s, people tend to scowl and frown in race photos. Then there’s Sonya Looney. The professional endurance mountain biker is smiling so often in race photos it’s slightly disconcerting. She says it’s because she just has fun on the bike. I suspect endurance athletes have some sort of subconscious love of hardship. Either way, Looney has parlayed her endurance talents and smiles into a successful race career. Her specialty is 100 milers and multi-day mountain bike stage races. She’s notched podiums at the US National Championships, Breck Epic, Mongolia Bike Challenge, Trans Andes, BC Bike Race, and many other races around the world. I spoke to her about her foray into endurance racing, that smiling-while-racing thing, the business side of being a professional racer (and the need for a side business), adventuring around the world, and much more.

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Glen Copus: An Elephant’s Place in Cycling History

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Glen Copus with a fleet of Elephants in Spokane. Photo by Ben Tobin via Elephant Bikes Facebook page.

For a man whose career has woven in and out of many major eras of bike history, Glen Copus has managed to fly under the mainstream radar remarkably well. He raced cyclocross in Santa Cruz in the late 70s and early 80s with American cross pioneers Laurence Malone and Dan Nall. He learned how to build bike frames from Keith Bontrager, one of the godfathers of mountain biking. Copus worked as a race mechanic in Europe for the US women’s road team in the 80s. He did production building for Serotta, Bontrager, and Rocky Mountain Bikes. He was in it and has the stories to tell. But one doesn’t get the impression that Copus ever wanted to be a bike industry “name” so much as he wanted to just go to the workshop, put his head down, and build amazing bicycles. When he launched his own bike company Elephant after an 18 year stint in metal fabrication, he chose the name in part to keep his own off the downtube. Today, Copus continues to build Elephant bikes out of his garage workshop in Spokane, WA–a mix of custom frame orders and small-batch production runs. In this interview, Copus discusses his long history in the bike world from shop rat to professional builder, life as a race mechanic, bike art versus commonsense craft, the business side of frame building, and more.

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Mike McGinn: Fighting Bikelash with Seattle’s Former Mayor

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Former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn. Photo by David Ryder.

Bikelash is a clever term that describes the hand-wringing cries of, “War On Cars!” that’s followed the installation of every inch of bike infrastructure in the US. Even in the bikiest cities such as Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis, and New York, new bike lanes are met with fear and anger. And though bike politics may always be divisive to some degree, in Seattle it felt like bikelash reached its virulent fever pitch during former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn’s term in office.

The mayor himself was a bikelash lightening rod. He aligned closely with biking and walking advocates during his campaign and his term (his team even handed out “Mike Bikes” stickers and spoke cards during his first campaign). He fought against a multi-billion dollar project to build a highway under Seattle. And he implemented highly visible arterial “road diet” projects that prioritized biking and walking safety over speed by reducing the number of car lanes. In return, the media, political opponents, and the public dismissed him as anti-car, out of touch, the biking mayor, and, my favorite of the bunch, Mayor McSchwinn. I sat down with McGinn near his home in north Seattle to talk about his experience with bikelash, dealing with divisive bike politics as mayor, the role of mayors in transforming streets, how advocates can assist electeds in their job, and much more.

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Colin Stevens: The Bicycling Mad Scientist of Seattle

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Colin Stevens outside Equinox Studios. Photo by Josh Cohen.

I don’t need to check the address to know I’m at the right place. Tucked away off the main drag in one of Seattle’s increasingly-rare industrial zones, the bright blue Equinox Studios stands out among its neighbors of weathered, post-war manufacturing buildings. It was once home to Mastermark Printing and Engraving. During World War II, Norton Bomb Sights built crosshairs for bombardiers in the building. As I walk down the hall, I catch glimpses into a few of the 36 shops and art studios the building now houses. Sparks fly in one room as a sculptor puts grinder to metal. In another, a woman pulls colorful wires from an array of spools, prepping for an espresso machine repair job. Inside studio 109 I find Colin Stevens fiddling around with some tools behind a small, but well stocked work bench. One room of their shop is filled with bikes, trailers mopeds and tools. The other with huge lathes and other similarly impressive machinery.

Stevens first made a name for himself with his Haulin’ Colin cargo trailers along with wild creations such as an 8-person, pedal-powered parade float. And though he still builds the custom trailers, his work has evolved far beyond. Today Stevens–along with friends Garth L’Esperance and Michael Nazaroff–is co-owner of CycleFab, LLC and does everything from repairing bike frames to building cargo trailers to metal fabrication and parts manufacturing. I sat down with him at his shop to talk about his path from computer science to industrial manufacturing, the recent rise of cargo biking, the difficulties of a niche bike business, the creative satisfaction of hands-on work, and much more.

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Austin Horse: From Courier to Career Adventurer

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Austin Horse. Photo via redbull.com

Bike messengers have a hard-earned image as punks, rebels, thrill-seekers, and outlaws. And deservedly so. They risk their own safety to bomb through cities between cars and pedestrians delivering packages for very low pay. It’s an image and lifestyle that captivated the mainstream cycling world for the better part of the previous decade, spurring on massive sales of fixed gear bikes and messenger bags large enough to hold a body. For some enterprising couriers, the popularity presented an opportunity to align with sponsors and escape the check-to-check lifestyle of full time delivery work.

Austin Horse partnered with big companies such as Red Bull and Oakley and bike companies such as Brooklyn Machine Works, All City, and Lazer and carved out a “wild and unpredictable” life for himself. He travels the world riding and racing in unique bike events, organizes his own races, and even worked as Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s stunt double for the 2012 messenger movie Premium Rush. When he’s at home, Horse still works part time as a courier and as an advocate with his mobile bike co-op Bike Yard. I spoke to him while he waited in the airport for a flight to the Middle East about messenger life in New York, sanctioned vs unsanctioned racing, his bike adventures around the world, the evolution of biking in New York, and much more.

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