303 Welcomes New Contributor Scott Downes!
And You May Ask Yourself, How Did I Get Here?
By Scott Downes
The first time I remember being on a bike was in the driveway of the house where I grew up, on a winding street off a county road a few miles outside of that Indiana town. A simple, silver-colored Huffy with red grips, I wobbled at first, uneasy with the balance and pedal action. There were stops and starts and spills, for sure. Soon enough though, it was another appendage that brought seemingly endless freedom.
I roamed those country roads with friends, ripped through the trails we built in the woods behind our house, and hurled off precariously built jumps into heaps of carnage. The ensuing scrapes and breaks and cuts and bruises were met with liberal amounts of hydrogen peroxide and vaguely disapproving parental looks. It’s how everyone should get to play.
After my dirt bike days, I graduated to a maroon, ten-speed Ross with skinny tires and down-tube shifters. Like a real bike racer, I thought. Though the most important race was usually a short sprint against a tenacious farm dog out on 11th Road. Mostly, I biked back and forth to swim practices and basketball camps and first kisses and the lake where I spent so many of those summer days.
Few things are as spectacular as being a kid on a bike, both boundless and completely present.
That was thirty-something years ago, and I can’t say that I’ve ever really lost that feeling. I’m months away from hitting 40, and still feel like a kid most any time I click in.
These days, after living in Colorado for more than a decade, I ride for fun, for adventure, for transportation, sometimes for competition, and often just to stave off backfat and enjoy a guilt-free green chili bacon cheeseburger.
It would not be inaccurate to call me a roadie, but my last three races were of the MTB variety. I have a fixie in my garage which I use for commuting now and then, and I’ve competed in a dozen triathlons over the last few years. I ride a Denver B-Cycle to such occasions like dinner dates with my wife or the Broncos Super Bowl parade, and I am considering some possible future bike-packing adventures. I’ve never been on a fat bike, done cyclocross, or raced in an off-road tri, but hope to try all of the above in due time.
All this is to say that I am “of no party or clique,” and don’t subscribe to the turf battles and tired tribalism that sometimes plagues biking and triathlon. We all hate to see “No Bikes Allowed” signs; so we ought to avoid putting up fences around our own sandboxes. To paraphrase a line from a teammate: if you’re out on two wheels, having fun, and trying new things, then kudos to you and bravo for getting out there.
In this space, I’ll be a contributing writer on a variety of topics: Exploring places where biking and advocacy and public policy converge. Highlighting efforts to make cycling more diverse, and more welcoming to those who are new to it. And reporting on interesting people, events, and untold stories in which we might see a part of ourselves and how we got here.
I’m also hoping to start a (semi) regular feature, called How We Ride – a few brief, straightforward questions to uncover insights, lessons, and humor from industry folks, riders, racers, advocates, commuters, and more. I’ll go first.
-What do you ride and why?
My road bike is a Trek, which I’ve had for 13 years. It’s taken me to some incredible places, including the top of Alpe d’Huez and back. I also ride a Yeti MTB. My fixie is soon to be donated to The Bike Depot/Bikes Together, and my tri bike is destined for Craigslist. Why do I ride? See above.
-Where are your favorite places to ride?
I love riding anywhere in the foothills – Lookout is a go-to route, and Golden Gate, Deer Creek, Squaw Pass, and Witter Gulch (ouch!) are some of my favorites. And I dig Summit and Eagle County trails for high country mountain biking. Though I don’t get to any of these spots as often as I’d like.
-Describe your worst day on the bike
Stage 3 of last year’s Breck Epic MTB race – stupid hard climbs, and some hike-a-bike that left me a bit bonky, technical descents way over my skill level. I was punchy, frustrated, full of despair, and came very, very close to quitting before the stage was even over. But grinded it out, and was rewarded with a restorative bacon pickle sandwich at the finish.
-Describe your best day on a bike.
Stage 4 of last year’s Breck Epic. It was like the scene where Keanu Reeves finally sees the Matrix. But on a bike. On the Colorado Trail. At 10,000 feet above sea level.
-What advice would you have for anybody new to cycling?
Invest in good bike shorts. Lycra optional. Your kibbles and bits will thank you.
Smile and wave to drivers who don’t hit you.
Just get out and ride – sometimes the hardest part is leaving the house.
You can find me on Twitter at @downesscott and on Instagram at @stdownes. Thanks for reading.