Tag Archives: Cyclocross

A Year of Adventures and Advocacy, 2014 in Review


Though The Bicycle Story is four years old, 2014 was a bit of a rebirth for the site. For the past couple of years, the project took a serious backseat to my day job, other obligations, life in general. This year, with the flexibility of full-time freelance journalism, The Bicycle Story was once again a high priority. We published new interviews nearly every week, readership grew, and fascinating bike people shared their valuable perspectives on adventuring in far off places; the growth of American cyclocross; women and Afghani tribal politics; long distance randonneuring; race and poverty’s intersection with urban biking, and so much more. It was a good year.

Year-end retrospective lists are kind of hokey and as much an attempt to squeeze a few more page views out of recycled content as anything. But they also provide a moment for valuable reflection on the year. Looking at The Bicycle Story’s top 10 most-read interviews of 2104 helps sheds some light on what you love to read and some of The Bicycle Story’s coverage gaps. This year’s most read are:

  1. Austin Horse: From Courier to Career Adventurer
  2. Nicholas Carman: Pedaling the World as a Gypsy by Trade
  3. Cosmo Catalano: The Snarky, Outsider Voice of Professional Racing
  4. Dan Malloy: Slow is Fast When You’re Surfing by Bike
  5. Casey Greene: Mapping the Future of Bike Touring
  6. Ed Ewing: Race, Equity, and Empowerment by Bike
  7. Mary Gersemalina: Coffeeneuring, Community, and Some Seriously Long Rides
  8. Mike Curiak: Finding the Edge of Human Endurance
  9. Jeremy Powers: Life at the Top of American Cyclocross
  10. Mike McGinn: Fighting Bikelash with Seattle’s Former Mayor

It’s not surprising that more than half of the year’s most popular interviews feature bike adventurers. Austin Horse parlayed the popularity of bike messengering into opportunities to travel the world and ride. Nicholas Carman scrimps and saves for half the year, then spends six months touring around the world. Pro surfer Dan Malloy rode the coast of California surfing along the way. Mike Curiak’s wilderness adventures are both impressive and a little terrifying. It’s inspiring to read about other peoples’ adventures. I know I’ll never do a 1200km ride like Mary Gersemalina or follow Curiak’s tire tracks across Alaska’s Lost Coast, but reading their stories gets the gears turning about what’s possible on two wheels.

It’s exciting that several of the other most popular interviews are about bike advocacy. Biking-as-transportation in the U.S. has a lot of momentum right now. Cities are recognizing the need for better infrastructure. More people than ever are getting around by bike. But, there are still huge gaps in our infrastructure networks, far too many people are dying on the road, and there’s real inequity between those neighborhoods that support bicycling and those that don’t. It’s helpful to tap into the insight of advocates such as Ed Ewing and former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn to think about the problems we’ve solved and the fights yet to come.

From the outset, The Bicycle Story’s mission was to capture the incredible breadth of the bike world. There are so many people involved in bicycling for so many different reasons. And while I’m proud of the project’s work in service of that mission thus far, I recognize that there’s a ton of room for improvement. It’s telling that eight of the 10 most read interviews of 2014 are with white men. I will work harder in the coming year to elevate a broader range of voices.

Thanks so much for reading. You, the readers, make The Bicycle Story possible and I thank you for your support. Looking ahead, I’ve got a few plans in the works to help reflect The Bicycle Story’s growth and evolution. Keep your eyes peeled for details soon. In the meantime, keep coming back weekly for great interviews with the best adventurers, advocates, racers, industry insiders, and frame builders the bike world has to offer.

Happy New Year. See you in 2015!


Spencer Paxson: Fighting to the Top as a Working Man’s Mountain Biker

Photo from konaworld.com.

There’s something of an adoration–occasionally bordering on idolatry–for the working men and women of professional bike racing. We hold high racers such as Erik Tonkin, Tristan Schouten, and Mo Bruno-Roy who put in a full week’s work and still make it to the podium on the weekends. That esteem is, in part, a recognition of their serious dedication to the sports we love and their willingness to sacrifice time to compete at the highest levels. But it is also that we can see ourselves in working pros, unrealistic as that is. Few of us will actually spend the time training to compete at that level and even fewer have the genetics to do so. But their success feels just a little more within our grasp, a little more aspirational to those of us finding time to train and race in between all of life’s other commitments.

And though he eschews the notion that his full time job is a badge of honor or an excuse, Spencer Paxson falls squarely among that top tier of American working pros. He routinely places in the top 10 at national-level professional cross-country mountain bike races, placed 5th at the 2012 cross-country nationals, has made the US World Championships selection, and was on the 2012 Olympics long team. I spoke to Paxson about the challenges of balancing his office job with his bike racing job, what it means to have a career as a cross country racer in the ever evolving world of mountain bike racing, coming up under the mentorship of Erik Tonkin, and much more.

Continue reading

Bill Schieken: Cyclocross Passion and the Art of SVENNESS

0501SOD BIlenky003
Photo by Sean O’Donnell.

Cyclocross lends itself to obsession. Participants either love it and go all in or hate it vehemently. Rare is the middling cross racer with a lukewarm attitude. Bill Schieken of In The Crosshairs falls squarely among the cross obsessed. He is best known for SVENNESS, a web series that recaps the major international cyclocross races and breaks down racers’ technique and strategies. (The title is a play on Sven Nys’ name and a nod to his dominance and nearly-unparalleled bike handling skills). But SVENNESS is just the tip of Schieken’s cyclocross iceberg. He also launched a similar web series, Like a Vos, that’s focused on women’s racing, runs a cycling team, wrote a cyclocross skills book, is a photographer, announces races, is a race series director, and occasionally finds time to actually race. I spoke to Bill about the evolution of In the Crosshairs, SVENNESS, Skills, Drills, & Bellyaches, his history with racing, and much more.

Continue reading

Elle Anderson: Cyclocross’ Up-and-Coming Crusher

Photo from theroaddiaries.com.

A relative newcomer to the sport of cyclocross, Elle Anderson came into this season swinging hard. She bagged four wins in a row, taking the top step on both days of the Trek CXC Cup and both days of the Grand Prix of Gloucester. To the casual cyclocross observer, it seemed like Anderson had simply appeared out of thin air. I spoke to her about her success so far this season and how it’s shaping her cycling goals,  her short career as a cyclist and long history as an elite athlete, balancing a non-racing career with her high-level racing, and much more.

Continue reading

Jeff Bahnson: Cyclocross, Bike Touring, and the Freedom of Adventure

Photo from Van Dessel.

In 2008, the MABRA cyclocross series championship race was a heated battle between Jeremiah Bishop and Jeff Bahnson. Ultimately it was decided by a close sprint at the line with Jeremiah—a seasoned pro and multi-time mountain bike national champion—winning by half a bike length. That a championship race came down to a sprint is not surprising, but Jeff’s near-victory is remarkable because he was just 15 at the time.

Something of a cyclocross wunderkind, Jeff grew up in Newark, Delaware. His mother, Lauri Webber, is a strong elite racer and Jeff came up racing with the Delaware Cyclocross Coalition of Delaware (which includes notables Weston Schempf, Marc Vettori, and others). He has four junior and collegiate national championship titles and has had strong results in the US and Europe.

This summer he took a break from training and toured across the United States with his friend Felix Smith. They chronicled their trip with photos and stories at lostonbikes.com and plan to put together a book of the 35mm photos they took along the way. In this interview, Jeff talks about his early experiences racing, his rise to the elites, his summer bike touring adventure, his future as a professional cyclist, and more.

Continue reading