Ellen Noble taking the U23 leaders jersey at Gloucester. Photo via cycle-smart.com
For most people, riding bikes in second grade meant cruising around on park sidewalks with friends. For Ellen Noble, it meant lining up against adults in her first mountain bike race. It helps explain how, at just 19, she’s a professional cyclist with two cyclocross and two mountain bike national titles and nearly a dozen UCI podiums and wins to her name.
Though she’d been making a splash for a few years as a prominent elite junior, it was just last season that Noble had a major breakthrough and established herself as one of the strongest racers in the pro women’s field. She credits much of that success to joining the JAM Fund cycling team, the nonprofit development squad founded by Jeremy Powers, Alec Donahue, and Mukunda Feldman. I spoke to Noble about her early days racing with her parents, her development into a professional, JAM Fund’s successful development program, the difficulties of being a teenage pro athlete, and much more.
Posted in Cyclocross, Interviews, Mountain Biking, Racing
Tagged al donahue, american cyclocross, ellen noble, jam fund, jeremy powers, mukunda feldman, NECX, new england cyclocross, professional cyclocross racers, women and cycling, women's cyclocross
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:
- Austin Horse: From Courier to Career Adventurer
- Nicholas Carman: Pedaling the World as a Gypsy by Trade
- Cosmo Catalano: The Snarky, Outsider Voice of Professional Racing
- Dan Malloy: Slow is Fast When You’re Surfing by Bike
- Casey Greene: Mapping the Future of Bike Touring
- Ed Ewing: Race, Equity, and Empowerment by Bike
- Mary Gersemalina: Coffeeneuring, Community, and Some Seriously Long Rides
- Mike Curiak: Finding the Edge of Human Endurance
- Jeremy Powers: Life at the Top of American Cyclocross
- 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!
Posted in Everything Else, Interviews
Tagged austin horse, bike advocacy, bike interviews, casey greene, cosmo catalano, cycling interviews, Cyclocross, dan malloy, ed ewing, jeremy powers, mary gersemalina, mayor mike mcginn, mike curiak, nicholas carman
Jeremy Powers under the lights at CrossVegas. Photo by Motofish Images courtesy Emily Powers.
Jeremy Powers likely doesn’t need much introduction to The Bicycle Story’s readers. He is almost unquestionably the best American male cyclocross racer of his generation. Powers has won every race he’s entered so far this season save for his impressive 3rd behind Sven Nys and Lars van der Haar at CrossVegas. He’s been similarly dominant the last few seasons notching dozens of wins, two national titles, and a few USGP overall titles. Despite that, success in Europe has eluded Powers. He’s hoping to buck that trend this season and has made some radical changes such as quitting road racing and launching his new one man Aspire team to try and make that happen.
Off the race course, Powers is nearly as ubiquitous in American cyclocross. His popular Behind The Barriers web series evolved into a full-on cyclocross media company with live race coverage, analysis and more. His nonprofit JAMFund charity works with underprivileged cyclists in New England and is developing some of the best up-and-coming US cyclocross pros. Talking with Powers the week before he headed to Europe for the Valkenburg World Cup, it was clear that his success is not just the product of a huge engine and good handling skills (though that’s certainly essential). He’s taken a meticulous approach to all aspects of his career–training, racing, building a team, media exposure, partnerships, developing younger riders, etc–and it’s paying off. I spoke to him about his new Aspire program, his deep history in the sport, the challenges of Europe, what it will take to get Americans on World Cup podiums, the growth of Behind The Barriers and JAMFund, and much more.
Posted in Cyclocross, Interviews, Racing
Tagged adam myerson, american cyclocross, aspire racing, behind the barriers, crossvegas, JAMfund, jeremy powers, jpows, NECX, rapha focus, stephen hyde, sven nys
Photo courtesy of Sam Smith.
Filmmaker Sam Smith is probably best known as the eccentric-looking guy following Jeremy Powers around with a camera for the web series Behind The Barriers. But Sam’s roots in cycling films reach back over a decade. His first film, Transition, centers on the 2004 North American cyclocross season, following the stories of guys like Barry Wicks, Ryan Trebon, Adam Myerson, and Geoff Kabush. He followed up with a sequel to Transition, a short-lived “video periodical” called Cyclofile, before eventually starting Behind The Barriers. And though he’s left Behind The Barriers, Sam is still producing cycling films including the forthcoming Working Dogs and a new episodic series called Acro Velo. Sam and I spoke about his history with filmmaking, his junior years of bike racing, working on Behind The Barriers and his decision to leave, his filmmaking influences, and much more.
Posted in Cycling Media, Cyclocross, Interviews, Racing
Tagged acro velo, adam myerson, behind the barriers, btbtv, cycling documentaries, cycling films, geoff kabush, jeremy powers, NECX, sam smith, working dogs film
Tom Hopper working for Garmin Sharp. Photo from VeloNews.
Mechanics are unsung heroes of bike racing. Most people recognize the critical role they play in a rider’s success (it’s tough to win if your bike falls apart on your breakaway). But how many of us could name the mechanic supporting Andy Hampsten the day he attacked over Gavia Pass or the guy working the pits for Jonathan Page when he took Silver at Worlds? Good mechanics are perhaps most critical in cyclocross where harsh conditions and hard racing frequently result in destroyed derailleurs, flat tires, and worse. Tom Hopper is a mechanic for the Rapha Focus cyclocross team. In this interview he discusses what it takes to be a successful pro-team mechanic, his history in cycling, innovations in cyclocross technology, and more.
Posted in Cyclocross, Interviews, Mechanics, Racing
Tagged adam myerson, Cyclocross, garmin sharp, garmin slipstream, jeremy powers, jonathan page, louisville 2013, professional cycling mechanic, rapha focus, tom hopper, zach mcdonald