As a brand ambassador for Zoic Clothing I was asked to write a little story about my background and how I got to where I am today. You know, my origin story. Figured I would share it here too….
Holy smokes, ever since I was 9 years old and reading comic books by the stack I have wanted to tell my own origin story. Now I have the opportunity. Regrettably, my story doesn’t include an adamantium skeleton, a fortress of solitude or a bite from a spider that led to amazing super powers, but this is my origin story and I’m sticking by it. Hopefully I am able to tell it in a way that connects with the reader and sparks a fire, perhaps even inspires. You know, like a super-hero. I’m not holding my breath, but we’ll see what happens.
Like most people, I’ve been riding bikes since I was a little kid. I learned at 5 years old on a little, red, girls bike with a wooden block for one of the pedals and solid tires. These tires were rock hard, the bike was heavy and it was extremely lame. As was I. I was, however, the only kid that could ride through piles of glass without worry. Whatever that was worth. I learned to ride on the local tennis courts with my older brothers pushing me to gain momentum and then releasing me so I could learn to balance. A couple hours later it was second nature. 6 years later, it was those same brothers whose bikes I would steal from the garage and on those bikes I would cement my mt. biking passion. I guess I owe them.
At 11 years old my brothers were in their mid 20’s and they were coming home from college with new mt bikes. A Trek 850 singletrack and a Jamis Dakota with roller cam-brakes (google it). I would snatch one of these two bikes from the garage any chance I got and pedal across the street, through the school yard and right onto some sweet, northeast singletrack. I remember blasting a wedged sidewalk curb on that Jamis. I launched that bike off the curb directly into a tree and proceeded to bend the fork backwards directly under the downtube. I never let go of the bars. My brother was pissed. I was stoked. It wouldn’t be the first time. It wasn’t until I graduated high-school 6 years later that I got my own bike. Not only my first mt. bike, but my first bike. New, from a store. Not something I put together in the garage out of old parts that was generally more of a death trap than a functioning bicycle. From that point on, pretty much all of my decisions were directed by riding trail. I look back on my youth and am extremely grateful for what that simple, mechanical machine had done for me. I’m fairly certain that if it were not for the bicycle I would be, literally, pumping gas at my hometown Mobil station. Prior to spending time in the woods on my bike; hours and hours every day, riding to friends houses, to work, to parties, everywhere, I had no direction. No drive. But getting away from people, from fitting in, from acting ‘right’ and pedaling made the world right for me.
My first big decision influenced by riding was where to go to college. I went to college in Orono, Maine. Because they had rad trails. Hard, technical, break your chain and walk home everyday trails. I learned a lot there. A lot about choosing lines, shifting gears at appropriate times and bike control. Most notably, I learned that it is absolutely freezing damn near year round an hour from the Canadian border, so after my freshman year I moved to Boulder, CO where a few of my high school friends went to CU and I was told the riding was amazing. And the weather was great. Blah, blah, blah, a year later I ended up in Durango, CO to ride bikes and go to Fort Lewis College. Things were happening in Durango with endless trails, amazing weather and tons of back-country snowboarding to be had; I was in heaven. At this point it is around 1996 and I had started returning to my hometown (a small suburb outside Boston) during the summers and working in a bike shop as a service department grom. It was here that I learned the basics of how to work on bikes. It is also where I learned to act like a macho dick in a shop setting, how to be ‘manly’ and how to be disrespectful to co-workers, management and customers alike. Ahhhh, Boston. How I DON’T miss thee. It took a while to unlearn most of those things. I stuck with the mechanic part.
Meanwhile, back in Durango, (I realize this is later, not ‘meanwhile’ but i’m sticking to my comic book origin story theme, so deal with it) I graduated from college, started managing a bike shop’s service department and met my wife to be. We moved to Denver. A mostly forgettable time where I had my first encounter with hipsters, the pretension of ‘cycling’ (prior to this point it was all “just riding bikes”) and an urban lifestyle. Also, I continued running a service department and spent much of my time riding bmx in the city. riding 20’s is a good memory. The rest I could do without, but you take the bad with the good, I suppose. After three years in Denver, my now wife, then girlfriend, called me from Portland, OR where she was visiting with her sister. “Pack our things, we’re moving to Portland”, she said. “Ok”, was my response. A few months later we were living it up in the Pacific Northwest. Great trails, bike shops that offered good wages, insurance, retirement plans. Where the fuck was I. I never even imagined this. Sure, it was wet, but it was worth it. I learned so much about bicycle service, retail, customer service, how to treat people. I was truly inspired by my experience in this environment. I owned a commuter bike (or 3), a road bike, cyclo-cross bike, a couple mt bikes and some ‘fun’ bikes. there was so much riding you had to have em all. It was here that I realized people make careers in the bike industry. For the first time I realized that my lifestyle didn’t mean I necessarily have to be poor. I remained poor. But there was a realization.
We (my wife and I; we married while in Portland) spent 10 years in Portland. The rain began to wear after 5 years. It took 5 more before we left. I needed to escape the rain and the city and get back to riding trails. Portland is an amazing city, but the trail access is some of the countries worst and I couldn’t continue spending so much time driving to trails and being regulated to a ‘weekend warrior’. I had invested too much time in this industry for that.
I was offered a job as a tech rep and race mechanic for a global suspension company. I jumped at it. I was given a van and a credit card and the responsibility of covering North America. And cover it I did. Florida to British Columbia and everywhere in between. I’ve ridden in my fair share of the country. I attended mt. bike festivals, wrenched for professional racers for Felt, Marin, Transition Bikes, BMC, Rocky Mt., Knolly and Scott at enduro, dh and xc races and visited shops galore. After a solo year on the road, my wife quit her job and moved into the van too. Those were some of the best times. Along with our pocket dog, Ruby, we couldn’t be stopped. The friends made, the places visited, the unreal experiences that only living in a van with your family can provide; hurricanes in Illinois, floods in southern Utah, snowy passes and muddy dirt roads. Of course, there is also indescribable sunsets, bald eagle sightings on the coast and endless hi-5’s after long, epic descents with brand new friends. There is a lot to be learned traveling the country.
But, as they say, all good things must come to an end. After 3 years of windshield time we were all ready to find a new spot to settle down. Somewhere in the sun with a great community of people and world class trail access. Somewhere small and quiet. We got to see a lot of places during our travels. We chose Prescott, AZ. It clicked all the boxes; year round riding, countless miles of primitive singletrack, elevation, wilderness, access to trails in town and the surrounding area and, perhaps most importantly, it is undiscovered. It’s how I imagine Bend, OR was 20 years ago. Look at Bend now. One of the countries premiere towns for outdoor living and the cost of living to prove it. We feel like we are ahead of the curve in Prescott.
I left the road and started managing a bike shop in Prescott. Bikesmith Cyclery. Our goal is to promote Prescott and the amazing trails here while pushing to be the best mt. bike shop in the area. I’m stoked for this new opportunity and all the potential it offers. I knew at 11 years old that this was going to be my life, and over a quarter century later it still is. And i’m proud of that. Come to Prescott. Come visit the Bikesmith family and come ride the trails with us. You won’t regret it. Now you know me, and like it or not, we’re friends. So, as they say in the comics; “stay tuned for the next exciting episode of ………”