Perfect Pair: Gates Carbon Drive & Bronto Bikes

Josh Fonner - HeaderJosh Fonner | December 21, 2014

bike dorkI’m a bike dork. 

There I said it…I’ve had the pleasure of riding some of the most amazing bikes in the industry: carbon, ti, steel, full squish, rigid, you name it.  Despite all the amazing technology out there, it never ceases to amazing me that the piece of the bike that helps move it forward is the one that is most exposed to the elements: dirt, water, grit, and grime.  This would be the drivetrain of course.  I’ve always thought it would be cool to have a totally enclosed drivetrain, i.e. – a driveshaft like on some motorcycles, but alas, we’re still here with chains.

Radio Flyer Trail. Vail, CO. (2012) Photo by Jake Orness
Radio Flyer Trail. Vail, CO. (2012) Photo by Jake Orness

When they work right, chain drive systems are amazing.  Electronic shifting was a huge leap forward.  Single chain ring drivetrains revolutionized the MTB world.

Bronto Bikes built the frames with a splitter specifically for the belt drive.
Bronto Bikes built the frames with a splitter specifically for the belt drive.

At the end of the day though, they all seem to be working with an inherently flawed system.  Enter Gates carbon belt drives.  With a nearly maintenance free system, that is almost totally silent, it offered some promise to help break the chains (man, that was a stupid pun!) of the chain drive world.

So why hasn’t the belt drive system gotten more traction?  The challenge is that to run a belt drive system, you must have a compatible frame – meaning there has to be some sort of apparatus that can allow the one-piece belt to slide through the frame and into place.  Luckily for us, our good friends over at Bronto Bikes got us dialed on some belt drive splitters when they were making our frames.

New Bronto Day!
New Bronto Day!

The first up on the belt-drive extreme makeover was the Bronto Willy singlespeed.  After years of talking 32×18, 33×20, etc., it was a change to no longer talking gear ratios. Belt drives operate with a different set of gear ratios.

gear calculator

This is easily done, however, with a handy calculator located on Gates’ website. In the initial set-up, belt tension is a critical item.  This can be measured in a couple ways, from an iPhone tension app to a specifically designed tensionmeter to squeeze testing it.  The latter is least advisable, though often used.

Our initial test rides on the singlespeed revealed, well, not much.  I say not much in a good way – silence.  It just plain worked, no metal on metal grinding, no squeaks, just pure simplicity.

My wife tested out her Gates Belt Drive on her Bronto, too!

Though it was silent at first, I was advised to pick up a can of silicone lube at the hardware store to keep any dust and grit from leading to a noisier ride later.

Of course, the belt is a frequent talking point on the trail.  From “How do you like that thing?”, to “Man, that is cool”, to “Stupid singlespeeder” are all phrases that are often heard…so get used to hearing some comments!

The belt drive is a constant point of interest!
The belt drive is a constant point of interest!

Though I spend most of my time on a singlespeed, we really wanted to dial in some killer, low-maintenance, geared bikepacking rigs.  We don’t really like getting bitten by the upgrade bug later, so we went all in.  S&S couplers, titanium, Thomson, Rohloff…and Gates Belt Drive of course!

We picked up the bikes from Gates...ecstatic!
We picked up the bikes from Gates…ecstatic!

Winter hit the mountain so we haven’t had much of a chance to pedal the Rohloff rigs yet…but there is no doubt they’ll prove to be just a reliable as the singlespeed version.  The one challenge is that the sliding dropout on the Rohloff bikes does not have a tensioning bolt, which makes setting the proper belt tension almost impossible.  Hopefully that won’t negatively affect the longevity of the belt.

One of our rigs set up for bike packing.
One of our rigs set up for bike packing.

We’ve definitely got some testing in mind for the belt set-ups coming up in 2015.  Some desert training rides, 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo, Leadville 100, and some to-be-decided bike packing destinations all should put the belts to the test.  Looking forward to putting some more time on the belts and to minimal maintenance in the process.

Titanium Bronto Bike with Rohloff hub (and now a Gates Carbon Belt Drive!) - ready to map out a new adventure.
Titanium Bronto Bike with Rohloff hub (and now a Gates Carbon Belt Drive!) – ready to map out a new adventure.

In the meantime, there is some snow in the hills, and some skin track to put down.

For now, we'll be skiing but once the snow melts, we are back on our Bronto Bikes with Gates belt drives!
For now, we’ll be skiing but once the snow melts, we are back on our Bronto Bikes with Gates belt drives!

Copyright 2014 Roam Life, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Mountain Biker to Moto Head

Jason Fenton - Header

Jason Fenton | November 9, 2014

My name is J. I am a trail builder and bike shop owner. I have been immersed from head to toe in the bicycle world for 30 years. This is a story about how I fell in love with a different kind of bike, an orange bike from Austria with a 400cc motor.

I knew about moto guys and their amazing skills on mountain bikes. I saw the ease at which these guys controlled their bicycles in the woods. Something was quite different about these guys. They were comfortable at very high speeds and they could handle obstacles and terrain changes easier than most of my mtbing friends. They made “Brraaappp” noises while we pedaled through the woods and most typically they seemed to be having the most fun of all of us.

moto 1I had a Honda 3-wheeler when I was a kid for a short while. It was an x-mas gift that my Dad and Step-mom bought me. My mother was not happy about this purchase. I loved the power, and the thrill of this little machine. Unfortunately, one of our neighbors broke his leg on the 3-wheeler and it was sold without my consent.

I took some serious lumps on this bike as I learned quickly that there is no such thing as a good dual sport bike.

I had no intention to be hooked on moto riding, it just sort of happened. At first I started with a Suzuki DRZ 400. This bike is claimed to be a great dual-sport bike. It was claimed to be good, both on and off road. It was neither. I took some serious lumps on this bike as I learned quickly that there is no such thing as a good dual sport bike. It was piss poor on the road and maybe worse in the woods. It felt fast to me, but in hindsight it was mostly top heavy and slow through the woods.

In about 3 turns I realized that these guys had been riding longer than I had been alive and that I had no chance in hell to keep up with their “easy” pace. 

Not long after I got this bike, I was invited out in the pine barrens of New Jersey with a bunch of guys on an “easy” Sunday ride. Most of these guys were 20-30 years older than me. They walked slow and they basically had none of the marks of the fast guys I knew from mountain biking.

moto 2

In about three turns I realized that these guys had been riding longer than I had been alive and that I had no chance in hell to keep up with their “easy” pace. It was disheartening to get dropped so badly but I figured I had to learn the hard way. On that particular ride, I managed to drive a sharp stick through the radiator, and after a long push of the bike back to the road, I swore I would not ride this bike in the woods again.

I soon bought a KTM EXC. All the fast guys rode these orange beasts and I knew that I would figure it out sooner or later. It was a mean bike, maybe more than I could handle but I was determined. I quickly learned about suspension tuning, various costly repairs and basic bike setup. There was so much to learn and I was so excited at each new element I dug into.

So little of what makes sense on bicycles carries over to motorcycles.

I competed in a few harescrable races and quickly determined that I cared for my life more than my competition. I got knocked off the bike and I had enough. I was in the top ten but the racing really turned me off. It seemed like a competition to see who might out red-neck their buddies. I remember sitting at the start line with 40 guys all revving the hell out of their bikes for no apparent reason. It was fast and I learned a lot in a hurry, but in the end I was happy to go ride with a few racer types on my own terms. I quickly found a few guys who rode a lot and they taught me countless things that I would have taken much longer to figure out on my own. So little of what makes sense on bicycles carries over to motorcycles.


Fast forward to the present day…I now do a handful of dual sport rides a season and mostly trail ride on trails that are a bit tougher than what we mountain bike. These dual sport rides are usually 80-100 miles a day. They are mostly on private land. You pay a fee for access to trails that are otherwise off limits most of the year. It is a great way to ride some amazing single track with good friends and have a blast.

moto 8

As a mountain biker I appreciate the fact that so many of the trails we ride on bicycles were first cut by motorcycles. I love the acceleration and the power to climb hills and mountains that are simply too much for a bike to climb. I am simply amazed by what is possible on a dirt bike. It has been an interesting journey to get to a point where I feel equally at home on a KTM as I am on my Cannondale.

moto 4

It is interesting that my cycling friends look at me as a moto guys and my moto friends see me as a bicycle guy. Luckily I don’t need to choose just one. I think they compliment each other nicely.

mtn and moto


profile picJason Fenton owns Halter’s Cycles in Monmouth Junction, New Jersey. When he isn’t slinging bikes out the shop door, Jason is trail building, riding bikes with the cutest daughter and raddest wife in the world, or hopping on his KTM to tear up some dirt. 




Copyright 2014 Roam Life, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Swiftwick Wins South Africa

Christine Fonner | June 21, 2014


My Love for Swiftwick Runs Deep

About a year ago, I started exclusively only wearing Swiftwick socks. It wasn’t a conscious decision – they were just more comfortable so when I would look in the sock bin and eye all the sock options, I inevitably would pick up a pair of Swiftwick until, one day, there were just no other socks except for Swiftwick.

So, it’s with no great surprise that when I was packing my carry-on bag for a nine-day stage race in South Africa, that, without hesitation, I piled in all the Swiftwick socks a girl could need and then decided to also throw in my Swiftwick Arm Sleeves as well.

You Don’t Know About Swiftwick Arm Sleeves??

Ah, the arm sleeves. Not arm warmers. These nifty little sleeves do much more than keep your arms warm. If it was cold out, I would throw them on and marvel at their stretchiness. They kept my arms warm. If it got hot out, I would forget I even had them on until I was properly sweating up hill. They kept my arms cool. They breathed really well. They protect from sun burn. They never seem to smell and are incredibly comfortable. I was in love.

The Swiftwick Arm Sleeve was carefully designed to be effective as a wind break, offers great UV protection and its an easily removable base layer protecting against the cold.
The Swiftwick Arm Sleeve was carefully designed to be effective as a wind break, offers great UV protection and its an easily removable base layer protecting against the cold.

I had learned to use the arm sleeves often. All the time. On all my rides. My Swiftwick arm sleeves (seen or unseen) have been part of many amazing friendship driven adventures and life moments (my wedding engagement, bottom left!). I’ve become emotionally attached!


I knew they breathed well, were stretchy, and you could wear them for a long time and not feel hot when the sun was beating down on you. But I can’t begin to tell you how much MORE grateful I was that I brought these little arm sleeves to South Africa for the JoBerg2c Mountain Bike stage race, especially after wearing them for 9 days straight.

South Africa’s JoBerg2c – 9 Days, 900 kilometers

South Africa’s JoBerg2c 9-Day Mountain Bike stage race is no joke. It takes you from Johannesburg, South Africa all the way to Scottburgh, at the ocean. 900 kilometers over 9 days with many of those days climbing you up and over the mountains of the Free State. 99.5% of the route is off-road. Over the course of the race, only 10 kilometers is on actual paved road. It isn’t until Day 6 that you finally get to see some proper descending. The race is an amazing way to see a very diverse (and big!) country.

The 9-Day JoBerg2c route

For my partner and I, race was a term we used loosely. For us, it was about finishing every day and enjoying the experience of crossing half a country by bicycle. Over the nine days on a bicycle, we were averaging 7-9 hours on the saddle each day. We become a well-oiled machine and learned what works and what doesn’t work. Part of my essential gear were comfortable, breathable socks that could keep the toes warm in the morning and let them breathe once the sun warmed us up and would help in preventing blisters, sores, etc on my much used feet.

I climbed (and sometimes walked) many hills.

Or climbing and climbing...until your legs give out.
Climbing and climbing…until your legs give out.

It was also essential to have socks (and arm sleeves!) that could get wet and dry quickly. In addition to crossing on top of water, we had to sometimes cross through water. Once, it was up to my stomach!

I crossed floating bridges

Floating pallet bridge on Day 2
Floating pallet bridge on Day 2

And sometimes had to cross non-existent bridges!

The Invisible Bridge - Day 6
The Invisible Bridge – Day 6

I experienced amazing descents (70 km an hour!) and looked out across amazing vistas.

Looking out across the mighty Umko Valley
Looking out across the mighty Umko Valley

I froze in the morning and felt scorched in the afternoon.

The temps varied widely from morning to afternoon.
The temps varied widely from morning to afternoon.

The days were long and challenging…but the singletrack made you holler for more…

day 4 - 2

and the people made the experience unforgettable.

The "Back of the Pack" Crew at the finish line!
The “Back of the Pack” Crew at the finish line!

When I came home, I found I was at a loss for words on how to describe such an intimate, challenging, long, and unique experience. How do you explain what 77 miles riding your bicycle feels like? How do I describe the hot wind scorching my lungs as sugar cane leaves smack my face down double track? How do you describe the endless miles of cattle trail and how absolutely uncomfortable single track can be when it’s that bumpy?

You can’t. Not really. A person has to experience that for themselves. I can tell you that it made me closer to the Earth, to people, and to my bicycle. It made me really grateful for good gear and comfortable clothes. And, most importantly, after all was said and done…it made me look forward to my next adventure on my bicycle.

Do what moves you.

– Christine


ChicoBag Sling rePETe Tourmaline

by Christine Perigen

The Roam Life Team recently went on a cycling adventure in Taiwan. While searching for rental bicycles, the ChicoBag Sling rePETe Tourmaline came in really handy.

ChicoBag Sling rePETe Tourmaline (Photo: ChicoBag)
ChicoBag Sling rePETe Tourmaline (Photo: ChicoBag)

I am a very light packer. I never carry a purse or wallet or bag or…well anything but my passport and credit card while traveling. I threw this little satchel into my backpack last minute thinking it might come in handy. Boy, was I RIGHT!  The ChicoBag Sling rePETe Tourmaline is perfect for adventure traveling. We threw two sets of pedals, two helmets, two cell phones, and a water bottle in the bag and it sat comfortably against my side as we hiked the streets of Taichung.

The bag is light. Given the materials it is made out of, it is also surprisingly durable. The bag is 99% recycled PET (Polyethylene terephthalate, aka, plastic bottles) and the carabiner is 97% recycled aluminum. This bag became an extension of me for the rest of the trip. When it wasn’t in use, I scrunched it back up into it’s travel bag and when I needed to go out on the town, I whipped it out and had it over my shoulder in no time.

The sling - bundled up in it's built in pocket
The sling – bundled up in it’s built in pocket

For a self-proclaimed “Bagless Chick,” the Sling rePETe was just too practical to say no to.

Brand: ChicoBag

Price: $14.99

And color coordinated to boot!
And color coordinated to boot!


Vagabond on a Bike: Keepin’ it Real with Drew Edsall


 by Christine Perigen | January 16, 2013

Drew Edsall is an understated guy that should be over-stated. He works hard at being good at what he does and it makes him really good at stuff. Drew has incredible work ethic and for every race he’s won he’s spent ten times as long preparing for it. From helping out on his family’s orange farm during the off-season to traveling around in his Sprinter RV from race to race, Drew still finds time to reach out and support others that are passionate about cycling. We caught up with Drew during a Starbucks break in the middle of his training ride on a Wednesday night.

So, we did a little Internet stalking on you and prepared some questions.

I bet you found my crash, right? Did you see the crash? It’s the most popular thing people look at. That video got the most views out of anything. Everybody likes extreme sports.

Watch more video of Lumberjack 100 2012 on

On Mountain Bike Radio we talked about the “Best of 2012” and I wish they made cross-country racing more extreme. They should make the downhills more difficult. The pros crash more on the downhills and people want to see other people crash. It makes it more of a spectator sport. [Editor’s Note: Drew started hosting a mountain bike show on MTB Radio in 2012]

Being as you are in your off season right now, I’m assuming your crash liability has gone way down. Other than training the Roam Life crew, what else do you have going on?

 Off-season for me is insane. Let’s go back 10 years. I went to college in Gettysburg, PA and studied exercise science and I was a decathlete. I’ve dropped 40 pounds since then and transformed my body to a skinny cyclist. After college, I got stuck in the family orange business.

I like to work hard and a lot.

I was planning on doing the complete opposite. My dad called me and said that out of the three brothers, I fit the job the best. My dad was asking me a favor and I took the offer and got pulled down into Florida. It was the last place I wanted to be because I had just gotten into triathlons and I wanted to be in Colorado. I went full time into the orange business and started mountain biking. Two years later, I went pro.

Drew at Sun Harvest - his family's orange grove business
Drew at Sun Harvest – his family’s orange grove business

I told Dad I would do the orange business in the off season while coaching [athletes]. Since then, I’ve been living on the road.

Coaching seems to be your calling and we like you quite a lot so far. What have you learned from athletes you coach?

As a coach I’m a listener and a lot of times I’m learning from what my athletes want and how they are by asking questions.

Coaching allows you to learn about all different types of personalities. Some people are extremely organized with high work ethics and then some people can do extremely well but are the complete opposite. I try to accommodate to each individual athlete, learn who they are, and use that to help build them stronger and also build future athletes stronger from what I learn.

I had an RV at the time and always thought it would be so cool to live on the road.

Lumberjack 100 (2012)
Lumberjack 100 (2012)

This last year I learned a lot about myself and try to use that to apply those learning experiences to coaching also. I was so obsessed with building my career on the new team and coaching that I think it hurt me. I was so set on “gotta get results” that I raced so much I hurt myself more than not. For 2013, I’m more relaxed but I want to be more focused this year on getting really, really good results and less on tons of racing around the Nation.


You seem like a happily busy man. Describe your average day.

I coach about 20 to 30 athletes during the year and professionally mountain bike race. In the off-season, I combine those two and take on a third job of working in the family orange business, which adds another 40-90 hours a week of work. The last six weeks consisted of waking up at 6am to do coaching. Then, grab breakfast and do coaching work at the same time. After that, I start my other job in the orange business at 8am. I’ll work until 4:30pm or sometimes 8 or 8:30 or even 10, then I go straight from that job to walking the dog and hop back to coaching and then ride the bike. I go to bed sometime between 10pm and midnight and then repeat. No breaks to watch TV, relax, or do anything else.

We lived with two dogs in an RV for two years straight. We spent a lot of time in Wal-Mart parking lots with Redbox DVDs or parked by the train tracks.

In the off-season, how much riding do you normally do?

This week I got 20 hours of riding in, but most of the time it’s closer to 4-10 hours. I try to make the most out of the time I have. January is the toughest month because I get lots of new clients, work at the orange business is still busy, and I am trying to get ready for my racing career putting hours in. Tough!

pic 5

You have been traveling with your dogs and girlfriend during the race season in an RV for the last couple of years. What’s that like?

Drew & Dyan at Lake Tahoe
Drew & Dyan at Lake Tahoe

We [Dyan, Drew, and dogs] lived in Durango for a few years and I was building a business coaching, I had this job in Florida in the off season, and pro riding. I was doing pretty good but then Dyan lost her job because the place went out of business. I had an RV at the time and always thought it would be so cool to live on the road. First, I was racing a lot and all over the place. If I wanted to race that much, I had to live on the road. There was no way we could afford it if I didn’t do that. So we sold a lot of things, packed everything we could in the RV, and went off. Awesome feeling!

Dyan just got a new job in St. Louis which means I don’t have to be on the road anymore which is nice but I will probably travel a lot, too. Once you find the good trails you have to go back sometime!

I saw so many trails and now I know where I want to ride. There are so many amazing places.

What’s your home on wheels like?

We are in a Sprinter right now. It’s great on gas at 14-15 mpg and easy to drive. It’s got everything in it from a stove, to microwave, small bathroom, and sink. We enjoy it while on the road but aren’t living in it 24/7. When we were, we’d even rent hotel rooms occasionally just to get out of that because it’s hard when you are in there 24/7, without running water and all the little things that add up. I always wanted to do it and I did and I’m so glad for that but living full time in an RV is tough. We never took time off. It was two years straight with no break. If you take a couple of months off then it isn’t as bad.

Most people don’t realize that biking is a business. I do it because I love it but it’s also a job.

Drew & Dyan at Transylvania Epic (2012)
Drew & Dyan at Transylvania Epic (2012)

We traveled from Florida to Arizona to Texas to California, then back to Pennsylvania, then back out West. We went all over the Nation. We visited so many different states where we got to ride. I saw so many trails and now I know where I want to ride. There are so many amazing places. Everywhere has their cool trails that separate them from other places. Even Florida has cool trails. Not a lot of views, but cool trails…and alligators!

Your vagabond life has slowed down and you’re living in a city now. How have you accustomed to the change?

I never thought I’d want to live in a big city but we’re really enjoying St. Louis. We’re going out to eat and enjoying learning about the city. Lots of coffee right down the road including my regular quad espresso. Love that.

One of the downsides of living in an RV is that it’s such a small space so it’s hard to recover. We were always trying to find places to stay. In California it was ridiculous. RV parks were $60-70 a night so we would park in random areas and I wouldn’t sleep as well. Living in an apartment in the city is much nicer than expected.

Let’s switch gears. (Get it? Switch gears…) You were just signed on to Kenda/Felt again for 2013.

Getting re-signed on to Kenda/Felt was a really good feeling. I was hesitant about what might happen at the beginning of 2012, but after that I had some pretty good results. I had two mechanicals in my first race which gave me a bad start. I had another mechanical the next big race so things turned all horrible. I refocused, stayed positive, and pressed on. I put things in gear after that and had some wins in endurance racing, which surprised me, and I focused on endurance racing from then on. I also worked on promoting myself on Facebook, and now on my own show “The Dirt with Drew Edsall” on Mountain Bike Radio.

Felt Bicycles has a few new bikes out including the Felt Nine Hardtail and the Edict Nine. And Kenda has some new tires out including the 24 Seven Race I will be using along with my trusted Kozmik Lite II. All in all, very exciting to be a part of the team again.

pic 1

Most people don’t realize that biking is a business. I do it because I love it but it’s also a job. I work hard at it so I can keep it. Getting ready for 2013, a lot of the relationships with sponsors and teams developed all the way back in August. If anyone is reading this and looking for sponsors, you have to start early. Biking at the Pro level is a business.  Teams and companies look for resumes and have an idea of who they want back in September through November. After that you are going after the leftovers.

You have to have the results, and then also make the most out of every minute you are on and off the bike.

I treat this as a job. If I’m not on the bike I do things off the bike that will help me. I take control of what I can control. Racing isn’t always in my control. But coaching, promoting myself, talking to sponsors, MTB Race News, advertising are…I try to network as much as possible and establish relationships and coach.

Getting over that small hump at the beginning of the year was challenging, but once I did I was fairly confident I would be back on the team for 2013.

Drew - 2nd at US Cup MTB Race (2012)
Drew – 2nd at US Cup MTB Race (2012)

Is it hard to stay in mountain bike racing? Do you have to work hard to stay in it?

I think it is. Like any job everyone is fighting for your spot especially at the top tier of mountain bike racing. I raced way too much this past year which was good, but I didn’t rest enough. I was riding too much and I wasn’t recovering enough.  This sport is very competitive. Everyone is fighting for the top spots. Once in, it’s easier to stay in if you do your work. By getting on the Kenda/Felt Team, I was able to network a lot easier and I was meeting all these new people. Before you know it I was going to Sea Otter and talking to people all over the place. You have to have the results, and then also make the most out of every minute you are on and off the bike.

Missoula Jump while racing pan blur 2012

If you get on a team and you want to stay on it, don’t just think about it as getting on a bike and riding. It’s more than that unless you are someone like Todd Wells. Results help, but it always helps to have good relationships with bike companies and work hard off the bike. Being a proactive advocate for the companies you race for can really help you keep your job.

My dream job would be for a team to come and say, “Hey, all you have to do is stage races this year.”

One of the things that Dyan (Drew’s girlfriend) helped me with the most in 2012 was helping to develop my websites and she has been doing all the photography. Almost everything on Mountain Bike Racing News is from her. I wouldn’t have made it without her helping me. It all goes back to marketing, and promoting myself, my team, and the companies I race for.

What’s your dream event that you’ve never done before?

There is a lot out there, not a single one I can narrow it down to. Stage races are awesome! I want to do BC Bike Race. Definitely. Awesome singletrack. I normally do really well when I am extremely challenged so La Ruta de Los Conquistadores is on my bucket list also. I like the challenge of waking up at 5am and working hard every day. I used to surf as a kid and I was the first kid up and out on the surf. Early challenging mornings get me going. I see La Ruta as a big challenge but I also might move toward something like the Cape Epic: a big challenging stage race with the best competitors in the world there.

Drew Edsall - MTB Nov 2012

My dream job would be for a team to come and say, “Hey, all you have to do is stage races this year.” You are riding hard but aren’t riding so hard you can’t talk to a person. You get to talk with guys like Jeremiah Bishop who I used to watch videos of. In my first stage race in 2009 at the Transylvania Epic Stage race, I was talking to that guy and racing side by side. You eat at the same table as the pro riders, you get to talk to them, share experiences, meet them and learn that they are all just really cool guys. We are normal people doing the same thing you do, which is riding your bike and having a good time. Other than the pain at stage races, you are really enjoying it.I got hooked and have been back every year. The Transylvania Epic is a lot of challenging East coast single track, 7 days in a row. It’s a vacation on wheels. Instead of paying to ride by yourself on a vacation, you ride on single track with others, and can race if you want…or drink beers if that’s your style.

You started being a part of the MTB Radio scene. What’s that about?

This last year, at TSE, they wanted some pros to get on MTB Radio. I thought, “This is so cool.” I know all these pro riders and have these connections so I thought, “Let’s run it by them and see if I can start a show.”

I ran it by Mountain Bike Radio and they said “Absolutely!” and we got started on it. It’s been a way to create more exposure, help out friends of mine who are pros, and promote sponsors’ equipment while helping the average person by talking about nutrition, equipment, and training. It also gives me something to think about while riding countless hours!

The Transylvania Epic is a lot of challenging East coast single track, 7 days in a row. It’s a vacation on wheels.

Drew riding Raider's Ridge (Durango, CO)
Drew riding Raider’s Ridge (Durango, CO)

Finish the sentence: “When the going gets tough…”

Go harder?!? From a coaching and rider perspective, stay positive. Everyone is different. I talk to myself and will yell at myself. If I’m yelling, that means I’m hurting. Positive self-talk is huge for whatever sport you are in. It’s the most beneficial thing you can do when you are hurting. In a 100 mile mountain bike race you are going to hurt no matter who you are. Whether you are the best or the worst biker out there, you are going to hurt. When you start to hurt, you have to know what to tell yourself. You’ve got to get yourself thinking positive. “Come on.” “Let’s go.” You have to tell yourself to go faster and not focus on the hurting. The mind is a crazy tool if you use it right. 

You are sitting at a Starbucks at 8:30 at night with only a portion of your training ride done. I can’t help but think, “Man, I hope he is lit up like a Christmas tree.” When we heard of Burry Stander’s accident, we were floored. We had spent 7 days getting to know him as an athlete at Cape Epic.

What happened to Burry was horrible. He was an incredible rider and a great person. My prayers are with him and his family, and to every other rider out there that has ever been hit. It happens far too often.

Riding on the road can be a bit of a nightmare at times. I just do everything possible to avoid any close interactions with cars.

Here are a few things I try to do: Use bike paths off the road as often as possible including sidewalks if needed, at night I use two back lights and one 1,000 lumen front light. I try to ride only safe/well known areas, and I try to remain a very defensive/aware rider at all times.

If a car wants to be a dick, I let them, give them a sarcastic wave, and continue on my merry way!

So far, I have only been hit once and that was when I was actually riding the sidewalk trying to commute from one bike lane to another. No serious damage other then an insurance bill for the car driver for the $6,000 bike frame!

One trick I think leads to less encounters with cars for me is that I tend to ride my mountain bike on the road a lot. This helps me feel comfortable riding sidewalks and off road when needed. When things get crazy, instead of freaking out and being stuck on the road, I hop onto a curb or off road on the mountain bike! I play a super defensive position on the road even when in the bike lanes, and try to respect the cars. We have every right to be on the road, but we also can be shattered to pieces with one small mistake. I don’t take that for granted and would rather be safe then sorry.

If a car wants to be a dick, I let them, give them a sarcastic wave, and continue on my merry way! You just can’t control some things and getting pissed off about it only makes the situation worse. Relax, stay alert, and have fun on the bike! Don’t let a crazy driver destroy your ride by pissing you off!

We ask everyone: Do you Crumple or Fold?

[Laugh]. Fold. I guess. Yea, I’m an organizer. Big time. I have to have things organized. Even e-mail. One of the coolest things about coaching is that I get to work with a lot of people and become friends with them. A lot of then are business savvy and I’ve learned a lot from my 40-50 year old friends who have developed their own businesses. They taught me how to organize my e-mail. When I have organization it’s so efficient. I don’t know how I could do all of this without organization. I wouldn’t’ get anything done.

I’ve never had that question. Very interesting…

profile picDrew Edsall is a professional mountain bike racer for the Kenda/Felt Team. He is also an athletic coach that has helped athletes reach the podium more than 150 times in two years. He is now calling St. Louis home and lives with three dogs, his girlfriend Dyan and Dyan’s 15 year old daughter, Sabrina.

For more information on Drew:


La Vida La Cava: Pack it up and GO!

Paul LaCava | January 22, 2013

I’m shooting from the hip on this one…. New style… let me know what you think. Sometimes it’s gotta be about sharing the joy of just packing it all into a car and hitting the road, the style of travel that I know the best.

La Vida LaCava: Pack it up and just GO:

 Dec 19th, 2012: Last minute planning

Work is tapering down for the year. Holidays are approaching. Nervous energy is pulsing through my veins. Must. Leave. Soon. I don’t want to be stuck at home spending the holidays worrying about doing what normal people do during the holidays…like tossing back egg nog at some party with people you don’t know very well wearing a terrible sweater. Packing begins…

There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.

Dec 20th: Will it all fit?

I’m trying to figure out how to pack three surfboards, two bikes, a hoard of warm and cold wet-weather gear into the back of a Subaru for a dubious mid-winter trip to California. I’m leaving from Portland, Oregon, in late December. Apparently, it’s actually winter in other warmer parts of the world. Arrrrrg. There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. Solution: pack more clothing. Er, maybe a sweater after all. Gas tank is filled. Lots of surfboard wax has been acquired. Minimal food is packed, it’ll sort itself out somewhere on the way. Chopping wood last minute for a fire… This trip is happening…

 Dec 21st: Last minute packing

Hmm, it seems to be raining heavily. Hoping it won’t be doing this 600 miles south! Departure. Whatever didn’t make it in the car is not needed. This is a road trip. Things will happen on the road that are not expected. It will not all go right. It is because of this that it will be perfect. At least I have good windshield wipers that work along the 12 hours of Interstate 5 that separate me from home and where I need to go: Santa Cruz.

Whatever didn’t make it in the car is not needed. This is a road trip.

 Dec 22nd: Departure

Fresh tunes on the iPod, iPhone, whatever it takes, heck even a CD or two. Sunglasses have been located. I haven’t needed those in a while. It’s time to hit the road. It’s a long haul, fully pinned, with only a slight detour at my favorite coffee joint in Ashland called Noble Coffee. About 8 degrees further south, on the parallel lines of the globe, I hit Santa Cruz in a dismal pissing, shit storm. I’m a seasoned Pacific Northwest life-long resident and have never seen rain like this! Oh well, stormy weather often means big swells… I find a local state park to rest for the evening.

 Dec 23rd: Sorting it out

It turns out that the new temporary tie down surf board rack straps that loop through the car leak water inside. It also rained about 2” last night in this full monsoon. Awesome. Things are wet. No biggie. Far better than doing taxes at home. It’s quite stormy all day, the surf is mess, but I’m by the ocean and sucking it all in. So fresh! Coffee. Beer. Relax. In any order possible. I join friends Abby and Ariel in town and watch the local river at critical flood stages and we count the tennis balls floating down the river. A couple couches float by, some tires, it’s a shit storm of crap. The waiting ensues…

It will not all go right. It is because of this that it will be perfect.

 Dec 24th: Life in motion

Ahhhh, the smell of the ocean. It invites energy into the soul like nothing I know of …I checked the surf. There’s a decent swell coming into town and it’s time to paddle out! I plan to get a good couple of hours in the water and then hole up in my favorite local coffee joint in Capitola: Verve Coffee. I think I’m supposed to be doing something or I’m late for an event, it’s Christmas Eve. I couldn’t care less. I’m starting to leave the worries of life behind.

It’s quite stormy all day, the surf is mess, but I’m by the ocean and sucking it all in.

 Dec 25th: Holidays are for riding

For the holiday, I have chosen to do something obvious: go mountain biking. It’s pretty dodgy weather again, but time to break in a new bike I just built up and it’s been a while since I hit the trails. Long drive out of town and into the back woods of Demonstration Forest, I avoid some minor landslides, what with all the moisture and obscenely wet un-hot California weather, I get to the trailhead. Headed out for a great ride, got super wet, cut some drifting corners in the sloppy muddy conditions, dodged a few trees, and I feel alive! Cruising around in the huge redwoods forests always makes a person smile! Makes you feel so small compared to those giants!

Cruising around in the huge redwoods forests always makes a person smile! Makes you feel so small compared to those giants!

Dec 26th: Now on to the good stuff

Ocean is booming with swell. Waves crashing. I scout out some localized reef breaks and hidden point breaks. Nervous sweats watching the sets roll in. Heavy water today. After much deliberation I take the leap and jump in, and it’s worth the effort. Slightly beaten down and taught a lesson or two by the Pacific, I get a few waves and sit back and relax in some mid 60 degree sun. Feels good when you’re used to 35 degree rainy days lately…I can handle this.

 Dec 27th: Time to get social

Mid-morning surf. Then drive to San Jose to pick up my girlfriend, Suzanne, from the airport. Very happy to see a familiar face! Head back to the beach for some awesome camping by the water, clear skies with a starry night, and a campfire. After five days of getting to know the inner thoughts that unravel in my head and spending time in all isolation, the company is nice!

Dec 28th: Surfs up! 

Wake up. Coffee. Eggs. Listen to the ocean. Jump in the water. Catch a few waves. Repeat as needed. Getting down to the basics here and really starting to settle into the mode. Not a care in the world except for wondering what is for dinner, and even that seems like a triviality not worth giving much thought to. Life ain’t bad!

After five days of getting to know the inner thoughts that unravel in my head and spending time in all isolation, the company is nice!

Big Sur Rainbow, Nepenthe Bar & Grill

Dec 29-30th: Big Sur

We checked out some wildlife at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It’s awesome how much life there is in the ocean that you just rarely see! Ideally, you aren’t seeing too much when paddling around in the ocean, especially those fascinating pre-historic great white sharks that take a rent check every so often from those who wander into dark water. Sue and I decide stay on a sailboat for a couple nights and head down to Big Sur, one of my favorite places on Earth!

We watch a beautiful sunset with a double rainbow while having drinks on the patio of the Nepenthe Bar and Grill. This place was hard to leave, but all places are temporary when on the road. Enjoy it while you can.

Dec 31st: The City

San Fran. Holy shit! This place has energy! We took a quick cruise up Hwy 101 to Sausalito and found a warm bed to stay in overlooking the bay. Wow. We headed out for an awesome ride in Fairfax in Marin, and joined good friends Mike and Will for a shred session in the hills. Afterwards, we headed down to the Mission in San Francisco to ring in the New Year with a bit of live music, drinks with friends, and getting lost in a city that I could call home if I had a few extra lives to live. Look! I got a great fortune from the evening’s Chinese food.

Jan 1st: New Year’s Day

I made a quick early trip to drop Suzanne off at the airport in Oakland. I was rushing to and from places while everyone was sleeping. The city was quiet, and seems like you could drop a pin and hear it. Oddly assuring. But after two days in the city it’s time to depart, quiet things down a bit. Quick surf check at one of the most notoriously sharky evil heavy water beach breaks on the planet, Ocean Beach, and it’s breaking double overhead 1/3 mile out in the ocean. No thanks. Cruise down to Pacifica for a quick session and had another stop at In-N-Out for some healthy road food, and then on to a 300 mile drive south to warmer pastures.

Jan 2– 4th: Santa Barbara!

I’m gonna need a vacation after this trip. Three early morning dawn patrol surfing in a row in and around Santa Barbara and Ventura, and I’m tired! 5am wakeup calls and 7-11 coffee because nothing else is open so early! I’ll put up with it for some famous surf breaks with names like Rincon and Silver Strand. Heavy water again. Some perfect waves, and some serious currents and I get caught inside on a few sets and it feels like a week of work in about 5 minutes. Ahhh, what would a good trip be without some hardship!

Although things are nice and pleasant in this paradise town, I’m feeling the urge to move om again.

I decide on a quick night stay with a good old friend, Nick, to recharge the batteries. I watch the Lakers lose again and remember what I am missing and thankful for it. Although things are nice and pleasant in this paradise town, I’m feeling the urge to move om again. Recipe: drive somewhere new. It’s time to head all the way down south: San Diego! I hear there is surf there, and in December, maybe 65 degree weather?

San Diego Sea Lions

Jan 5-6th: The Good Life

Lots of wildlife roaming around these parts! The sun feels so good the sea lions are hanging around getting a dose of warmth. A ton of birds in the air. This place is paradise! I got the best wave of my life at Del Mar Reefs. Then I managed to earn the longest hold-down in the water I’ve seen at Black’s Beach while scratching like mad to make it to the outside of a huge set that rolled in. I got sent backwards over the falls and pinned to the ocean floor for what seemed like an eternity…Lessons learned the hard way.

In San Diego we cruise out to a local trailhead and get some great singletrack in the desert. Warm smiles and a few old friends on this day.

Then I stay with good friends, Elise and Jake, in San Diego for a couple nights and we cruise up to check out the cool Stone Brewery, en route to see the first Supercross racing weekend of the year in Anaheim!

It’s all surreal after spending most of two weeks cruising the quiet coastline of California out of the back of a Subaru.

Jan 7th: Time to Leave

Today when I wake up I feel the most alive I can recall. Without much of a plan in place before leaving, it’s been an incredible two weeks on the road travelling nearly 3,500 miles down the California coastline seeing friends, finding new surf breaks, stopping at a few good coffee shops and seeing a heck of a lot of amazing sunsets. I’ve now pieced together nearly every mile of Hwy 101 on this trip combined with a couple previous adventures, and I gotta say it’s one of the most amazing places I’ve seen on this planet. Nearly every mile of it. Every day and night on this trip provided me with something new and unexpected, with little expectation except for the hope of some good surf and a place to rest my head for the night.

A few extra warm showers and hospitality along the way really made it all too easy, almost, but it was great to see some friends, old and new, Life’s best when kept simple, I find, and these last two weeks reminded me that sometimes you just gotta pack it up and go, leave what you think you need behind, and worry about the rest later. Once back, I unpacked the bags and quickly found myself wondering when I would be able to hop in the car and check out the next place on the road…

Copyright 2013. Roam Life, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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The Two Village Idiots: This Sh*t Just Got Real


So why am I doing this trip? It is a question I often get asked. The real question, though, is why do any trip? I mean, most of us are content with going throughout our days in the creature comforts we have become accustomed to. We get to know the people that have come and gone in our lives, but rarely seek out new people and new experiences that put us out of our comfort zone. Well, I’m not like most people. I recognized that being out of your comfort zone is where real human development happens, and I am constantly seeking new people and experiences to help facilitate adventure and personal development. That’s why I created Roam Life – because we don’t want you to be like most people either. We want you to be the BEST you.

But I guess I should answer the real question, why am I riding my bike from Pittsburgh to DC?

Good question.

Let’s make a list:

  1. It sounds like a bad/dumb idea to nearly everyone we talk to – automatically I’m interested.
  2. It’s close by to my buddy Rich and I – we want to show that you really can have an authentic, legit adventure just out your door. You don’t have to fly to outer Mongolia to have an adventure.
  3. This canal/rail trail is one of the most heavily ridden and most popular bike routes in the country and I have never ridden it. As a bike industry person, this is just a travesty.
  4. I’ve never heard of anyone riding this trail, 325 miles, straight through from end to end without stopping. So we could set a record! A dumb record, but a record none-the-less.
  5. 325 miles is no joke. I’ve ridden an 8 day, 500 mile MTB stage race, the Leadville 100 Mile MTB Trail Race, and a super rocky 50 mile MTB race in Pennsylvania this year. But 325 miles without stopping to sleep, rest, etc., is something different. It was possible to not finish any of these races, but it is very possible that we might not be able to finish this thing. This will be a real test of our equipment, our minds, and our bodies.
  6. Because of this extreme test, it will make for a perfect Roam Life video. We’ll really be able to show how we can expand ourselves through “trying” new experiences.
  7. I want to be part of, and help, my buddy Rich reach his goal of visiting his dad in Arlington. This is a powerful end goal for us, and will help us get through those tough hours on the bike.
  8. By leaving ourselves open to a variety of experiences – we’ll be able to generate future experiences and continue Roam’ing Life.

There are a lot of reasons for me to do this trip. The biggest reason is to change myself, and that change can’t be realized until you are finally on the bike.

– Josh

I was one who smiled much more back then.

I knew my purpose for as long as I could was to show people how amazing life is and could be behind the bars of a bicycle. I could do this, travel, explore, roam places, so many places without worry because my Dad was on point, the man who all looked to for support, the idea, the shoulder all who were in contact or in touch with should anything go wrong or just plain worry about seem removed and far far away. Plain and simple Dad was the rock, and yes my hero.

Dad has since passed. I no longer have that smile I once had. I realize it, I still have much anger. It wasn’t his time.

From the time of Dad’s passing to present, things have changed: ideas, paths, locations, Hell, even responsibility. One of my many “in awe” memories of Dad was how he could connect with so many people; people from one extreme to another. He brought a connection with him people adored, no matter where he was! The stories, the people, amazing people, places he’s been along with Mamasita together. I aspire. The places they’ve visited along their way; Thailand, Philippines, Canada, Colombia, so many places. It finally hit me……..

Three weeks before Dad passed, he said to me that he was very proud of me for doing what I loved. He said I showed so much pride for what I did. I quit. I left, took care of the farm, loose ends, had my family take care of me. Within that time I realized how much I missed this [bicycle] industry, connecting with people through a simple ride on a trail, any trail, anywhere, any adventure-crazy trail.

I could do do this! I can share the story. I can video my experiences with anyone who wants to hit an adventure, meet up at a trail, or convo over pizza and bourbon.

End of the day – there are so many people and places and experiences –

Fitting that the birth of my first ride, Pittsburgh, be the start of an amazing journey to visit my Dad at Arlington National Cemetery to say…well I’m not sure what will be said. No better way to embark on this journey than with my buddy Josh with Roam Life. We have very similar journeys, goals, hopes…

News at 11…………….that means more later yo!!!

– Rich

Expedition Date: October 13 – 14

Expedition Location: The Great Allegheny Trail and the C&O Canal

Expedition Start: Allegheny Trail, Pittsburgh, PA

Destination: Arlington National Cemetery, Washington DC

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Dirt Rag’s DirtFest 2012 (or, how I broke my foot riding my bike)

By Christine Perigen

At 30 years old, I thought my days of being piggy-backed as a mode of transportation were over. Turns out, I was wrong.

In the last hour of the last day at Dirt Rag’s DirtFest, I found myself hanging on to the back of Richie Rich while he sprinted down the trail on foot. Jarring up and down and trying to keep my mind off the pain shooting up my foot at every step, our team of 4 used laughter to avoid thinking about the 6 miles we still had to go until we hit a main road.

Turns out, running down a dirt trail with 100 pounds of me on your back is an awesome cross-training tool. It also makes you sound bad ass – “What did you do to train today? Oh yea? Well, I ran 3 miles in the woods with a sack of potatoes strapped to my back. NBD.”

yea, the two village idiots…again.

We were riding bikes on some of the funnest trails in the Allegripis system in Rayestown, PA. Everyone had packed up and hauled out and we stuck around for a final ride with a few friends from Giant, Stan’s NoTubes, Niner, and Felt.

Happier times at beer school

The dudes took off fast and I smashed pedals trying to keep up. When you get a bunch of dudes together on  bikes (even more specifically INDUSTRY DUDES on bikes), it’s bound to be a testosterone fest (even if that wasn’t the intention).  It also doesn’t help that I’m slow on climbs so I tried to make up speed on the downs (which I’m not so bad at – or so I thought).

After heading out on Doe and looping around to Ray’s Revenge, we finally got to the fun section. I don’t know if it was 3 days of riding, the new shoes, or trying too hard to keep up (probably a combination of all three), but I felt uneasy from the start of the rhythm section and started to slow down. After hitting a patch of gravel on the edge of the trail, my back tire skidded off the side of the hill with my foot stuck in the pedal.

Gripped with pain, I clenched a bunch of dirt in my hands while trying to find air. After pushing my bike off me, I had to shove my foot out of the pedal, which was excruciating.

I ended up hobbling along for a half mile, Josh found me on the trail with Rich and Brian in tow. It was clear I shouldn’t be walking so I hopped onto the seat of Josh’s bike while he attempted to pedal us down the trail without bucking me face-down back into the dirt. Bad idea.

So, what to do? And this is how I ended up on Rich’s back while he sprinted down the trail. Switching from one sweaty back to another, Josh and Rich took turns while Brian took care of my bike.

Back at DirtFest base camp, the guys set me up in the Sprinter van with a rapidly swelling ankle and some ice.

And then I ended up with this:

I spent the next 4 weeks traveling around to all the races and events I had signed up for…as a spectator. Cast off, boot on, I started back on the bike again and went to a lot of concerts where I got premium seating! :o)

A 2014 Olympic Hopeful: Kimber Gabryszak

Amazing Women
Doing Amazing Things:


Kimber is an athlete that has a natural yet friendly determination to be the best. Whether it’s mountain biking, skeleton racing, or her newest hobby, curling (yes, curling!), Kimber quickly becomes competitive.  What I found interesting about Kimber is that she has tried all of these sports based on chance, invitation, and word of mouth. Kimber’s adventurous spirit and fun-loving personality make it easy for you to invite her along on your journey as well. The Roam Life team was able to catch up with Kimber right after her return from her Cabo wedding.

You just got married! Your husband seems to be a big support for you in your career. Who’s the lucky dude and how did the two of you meet?

Kimber & Brad

Brad [Stewart] and I met on in the fall of 2004 and we have been together ever since. He’s a huge support and I try to be one for him. We do skeleton together and we try to keep it balanced so that when we’re both competing we try to stay out of each other’s way but if one person is competing the other is their hugest fan.

Kimber & Brad sporting 2009 Regional Championship belts with pride.

What’s it like to be dating a fellow Skeleton racer?

We’ve been together for over 7 ½ years. Brad does a lot of new ventures and tries new things all the time. We like to travel together and scuba dive.

We went to a couple weddings last summer and realized that weddings kind of suck.

One thing that is really cute is that we adopted a dog when we were together about a year and I’ll come home from work and find Brad in his office with Jean Luc (a 60 pound dog) in his lap in an office chair. Our dog is totally not spoiled (wink).

Tell us about your Cabo wedding.

It was awesome. It was perfect. We had originally planned a wedding here in Park City, Utah. When we started planning the wedding it was kind of a blessing and a curse to know a bazillion people all over the world. People we knew from work, skeleton, and family, really every aspect of our lives started merging into this huge wedding. We were trying to cut down a list of over 300 people to something manageable – like 150. We were having the hardest time ever cutting people out and scratching them off the list.

Kimber, a beautiful and sporty bride

We went to a couple weddings last summer and realized that weddings kind of suck. They are great in some ways and in others they just suck. Not to mention that you don’t really get to see the bride and groom so we just pulled the plug on the whole thing and booked an all inclusive resort in Cabo and didn’t invite anyone except our parents. It was nice to have the parents there but we didn’t invite any siblings or friends or husbands or any of the other people that we didn’t even know that well. We kind of said, “You are all not invited. All of your feelings can be hurt equally.”

When I was growing up, my home was 40 miles from the nearest road in Alaska. We had an outhouse and a hand pump well…

How was it to have the parents at your wedding and on your honeymoon?

My parents never have really had a real vacation so to see them relax and have fun was awesome and we all enjoyed the beach together. The two sets of parents were able to get to know each other. Three hours before the wedding we were all sitting by the pool relaxing together. It was the perfect wedding.

Speaking of your parents, you had a pretty unique childhood living in the mountains of Alaska. What was it like to grow up at the Station House?

When I was growing up, my home was 40 miles from the nearest road in Alaska. We had an outhouse and a hand pump well and solar panels for electricity. Before electricity, we had ice house and ice blocks – it was very 1800’s-esque. I was home schooled and didn’t really have any access to sports. I didn’t discover sports until my early 20’s. I was always pushing myself hard academically and I think that transferred over, along with a lifestyle of hard labor (shoveling snow, cutting firewood) into athletics.

You somehow went from living in the wild forest of Alaska to joining civilization. How did that happen?

When I started college in Alaska, I was technically a high school drop out because I didn’t finish home schooling. I went to community college and then the University of Anchorage. A friend and I were on a fundraising walk for a non-profit and we were rounding the bend of a major road and we were talking about where our next trip would be and decided it would be China. So the next semester I registered for a Chinese class. Fast forward a few years later and I got my Associates in Chinese and obtained an internship on a cruise ship in China!

You were a pretty rad pro mountain biker. Tell us about how you got involved in mountain biking?

Kimber, 2008

A lot of our friends mountain biked so a good friend of ours convinced me to register for a downhill race at Deer Valley on my cross country bike. It turns out I was the only beginner so won by default but my time was better than some of the sport girls so I got hooked. I got my first “squooshy” bike after that. The bike had seven inches of travel and a few of us girls went around to a bunch of races and we kept moving up in ranking and moving up again. In women’s downhill mountain biking, there was a lot of camaraderie. We supported each other and really encouraged each other. It’s not the same in skeleton.

In women’s downhill mountain biking, there was a lot of camaraderie. We supported each other and really encouraged each other.

Kimber, riding for Velo Bella, 2008

From heading downhill on a mountain bike, you ended up going head first into skeleton. At what point did your (then boyfriend) Brad convince you that pummeling head first down an icy shoot was a great idea?

Kimber, doing her thing

Brad and I had been dating for about 6 months and he worked at the Olympic Park part time. He came back from work one day and said, “I think I want to take this skeleton class.” I didn’t even know what skeleton was and said, “Yeah! That sounds fun.” He couldn’t talk me into it then so he took the intro class himself, which was four days of sliding. He was so excited and grinning ear to ear that he finally managed to talk me into trying it.

I was thinking, “What the hell did I just fall into?”

Skeleton racing looks intimidating, but it’s more like flying.

The following November I took my first run down and I was thinking, “What the hell did I just fall into?” It was the scariest thing I had done in my life. The instructor gives you a little push and you start pummeling down at 55 mph. For me, that was all she wrote. I was hooked. I joined a local club and we slid for fun and then we were getting better and better and started competing. Then, we were all of a sudden going to US national races. We thought about quitting here and there because it’s really difficult to make money at skeleton and it can be expensive to compete but instead we’ve had to make a lot of sacrifices to keep at it.

It is so fun to skeleton and as a competitor you are an ambassador for your country. When you are at a race you are surrounded by people from all around the world. When else do you get so many different nations in a room? When you make friends and are joking around together…you really are an ambassador. The potential to go to the Olympics is phenomenal. 

When did you realize that you were an Olympic hopeful? 

Once you do well enough at regionals (Western or Eastern), you qualify for team trials and then work up the ranks from there. The top 2 or 3 people at team trials go to the Olympics. You start thinking, “It’s a possibility.” If you manage to make that leap into the top loop then you know you have a chance.  One thing we encounter a lot with skeleton is that people think it is easy and that if you keep sliding and sliding you’ll get better. You will, but there is also a physical component you have to have and you have to cultivate an athletic talent to make it. If you don’t push yourself and train then you won’t make it from the C or B group up to the A group.

I do it because I love skeleton. It’s the closest thing to flying you’ll ever get to.

We made the choice to really train for it. The results have shown themselves. Last year I struggled on tour because I had some hamstring issues but I was 1/10 of a second off from the puck (head pusher) which showed I had potential. I worked out 3 hours today – before work and after work. It’s a huge time and energy commitment. I do it because I love skeleton. It’s the closest thing to flying you’ll ever get to.

Where’s the most unique place you’ve competed?

Without hesitation, Switzerland. Every year the Saint Moritz build a track from scratch. Usually a skeleton track is concrete with a layer of ice over it and a refrigeration system keeps it all together. In Switzerland, they take ice from the river and make the track from scratch every year, purely of ice.  You slide at 85-90 mph but it feels like you aren’t going that fast at all because it’s so quiet and your runners feel like they aren’t touching anything…you feel weightless.

 We made the choice to really train for it. The results have shown themselves.

Is it easy to get into skeleton racing?

Most people don’t know what skeleton is. We, as competitors, have to first overcome the question of “What is skeleton?” in order to gain support. I started taking skeleton seriously in 2006. You pay a fee into a club for the year and you can use a rental sled. I bought my first sled at the end of 2006 and bought a new sled this last year. Thanks to help from a couple of local people and fundraising, I was able to cover half the cost of a new sled. I was also grateful to have won a grant from the Women’s Sports Foundation for a portion of the sled. A sled can cost between $7,500 and $10,000.

What makes skeleton racing unique?

The fact that it is unique. You can only do it on certain tracks in the world. The rush, the speed, how challenging it is are all unique to the sport. If you turn your head one way or flex your quad and something happens, the sled moves direction while your careening down a track at 80 mph. I ski and snowboard and do all the other winter sports but skeleton is unique in and of itself. Not a lot of people get to do it.

 You travel a lot to compete. Any must know travel tips?

We don’t get to do a lot of sightseeing for the most part. We’ll drive to a race site and then have one day to settle in and train and then three days of official training and then we race and drive to the next location. Some of the coolest experiences have been in Germany and Austria during pre-Christmas time. They have crazy customs where they dress up in hand-made monster masks and run around the streets. There are parades where they bless people who have been punished. The Christmas markets are amazing. Germany and Austria around Christmas are phenomenal.

Through your travels, who have you met that has been most inspiring?

There are a lot of really inspiring people in the sport and around it. A conglomeration of small acts of kindness and helpfulness from a lot of people all over has been inspiring. Martins Dukurs is the top man in the world and is pretty much unbeatable but he’ll still do things like hurry to get his sled on the truck because you have to change your runners at the top. He’ll inconvenience himself a little to help you out a little and it’s impressive that he’ll do that. You’ll see things like that all the time.

Martins Dukurs, Olympic Medalist

Any travel snack indulgences you tend to hide away in your pack while on the road?

There are a couple of things. One thing I travel with is Werther’s originals. I love caramel. I love chocolate too but if it’s chocolate with caramel I’m hosed. I also pack a little tea kettle and herbal tea. Once in a while I get a hankering for a box of Corn Chex. I love Corn Chex.

TP question: Folder or crumpler?

I’m actually both. I start off folding and I end up crumpling. I am one of those that tries to start off organized and then it just falls apart at the end.

Kimber Gabryszak is a member of the US National Skeleton Team and is a 2014 Winter Olympic hopeful. She lives in Park City, Utah with her husband, Brad and her dog, Jean Luc.