Next Gen’



My favorite picture from my days in the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference is a breakaway featuring a single rider each from Harvard, Princeton, UPenn, Columbia, Dartmouth, and lil’ Middlebury College. That there is a strong collection of academic horsepower. Brains in that breakaway were right on par with brawn since not a single one of those institutions consider themselves cycling powerhouses and I trust no one in that breakaway got into their schools as a result of cycling.

Tyler Wren and I raced against each other in college. He was that Princeton rider and I was the Midd kid. We stood atop the same podiums at collegiate national championships and both went on to race head-to-head professionally for the past ten years.

It’s always interesting to see where cyclists take their careers and lives post-cycling. Tyler has gone on to create the Farm to Fork Fondo series, which I really can’t rave enough about. I first caught wind of it last year when I was already spending a week training in Vermont mid-summer and he invited me to the one smack in the heartland of that state. I was already smitten since Vermont is where I found and fell in love with cycling, so it was probably an easy sell. This past weekend I joined a few hundred other bike loving folks and rode the Hudson Valley edition of Farm to Fork, plus there are events in Pennsylvania and Maine later this year.

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Cycling is an industry like anything else. Ergo, it hinges on sales to succeed. What makes cycling so unique is that it covers so many aspects of life. Cycling is exercise, it’s transportation, it’s a way to blow off steam, it’s both an input and generator of deep human emotion, it’s fun, it’s exhilaration, it’s a sport, and of course my favorite:┬áit’s community (among a long list of other “it’s…”).

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Farming is an industry too. While it’s feasible that we could live in a society that’s considers only scale and economy, and therefore make mega-farms that produce all GMO foods on enormous swaths of land to feed modern society, that would involve a lot of chemicals, frightening quantities of fossil fuels, and a stark lack of community ties. We’re humans, after all, not machines.

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Tyler has brilliantly tied these two things together. The Farm to Fork Fondos begin in one central location, the Hudson Valley for example rolled out from a permanent farmers market/cidery/apple orchard farm and then visits a half dozen farms along the way. Even if just for a glimpse, it puts you in touch with the farmer, the family, the community that produces the food. Of course, the food is exquisite — this isn’t the age of orange slices and crusty granola bars! Think apple cobbler, freshly homemade ice cream, pies, turnovers, cheeses, just picked berries and apples, and lots of other just-made goodies. Oh right, maple syrup. They have maple syrup too.

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From the industry side of cycling, I come from a racing background. That’s all well and good, but when Tyler can draw out hundreds of cyclists from around the country in just the first two years of these Farm to Forks, whereas so many races struggle to secure sponsorship, he’s absolutely hitting the nail on the head. The industry at large is taking notice and creating the perfect equipment for this new age of cycling.

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I rode the Cannondale Synapse, for example, which is a plush ride accommodating all day in the saddle, but is still performance driven given that it’s the bike I once upon a time raced in the spring classics. I now have SRAM disc brakes for next-level performance combined with unparalleled reliability. I run wide tires; depending on the wheel I use, I run anywhere from 28 to 30c. Staying on the wide train, my gear ratios are enormous compared to my racing career. My 52-36 crank with 11-28t cassette has every single gear you’d ever need. Whether you’re on pavement or dirt, gravel, meandering farm road, or whatever, this type of set up (in fact, this exact set up, if I do say so myself) is optimal for a huge variety of terrain.

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Honestly, it’s been tremendously eye opening to see the world outside the perspective of a bike racer. It’s no longer through horse blinders, but with eyes wide open. Whether you want to ride 10 miles or 100, these events — fondos, Dirty Kanzas, gravel races, 200 (not) on 100s — are so accommodating and so dang much fun. Especially the 200 on 100, that’s a bucket list item for everyone (but it is 200 miles, not 10, so heads up).

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Bonus: You never know who you’ll run into at an event like this. I met a hero of mine from my days as a up and coming hockey player. Dude in the middle is Mike Richter, goalie for the New York Rangers. Want to feel humbled? Check out his bio. Then there’s that dude on the right. He might be British or something, not quite sure. There’s also the new president of USA Cycling, Derek Bouchard Hall. Lots of former cycling friends, whether collegiate or otherwise, like Tyler of course or Derek’s brother Kevin.

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Comments

  1. Humberto Leandro

    That’s great. I need to give this a try

    Reply
  2. Ron

    Holy cannoli, that IS Mike Richter. Though I hate the Rangers, I liked that guy. As a shortish feller, gotta love a goalie that size when so many could be shooting guards.

    Small college guy here. Grew up in upstate NY and went to Colgate University, where I played lacrosse. (a good buddy from growing up played soccer at Colgate and his older sister played volleyball at Middlebury) I was burned out after college sports and picked up a bike to commute to work. That was 2002. I still commute to work daily, have more bikes than I’d like to admit, and LOVE cycling. What a great activity. It is now my lifetime sport of choice!

    Two things I’d love to see:
    1) more “roadies” riding for utility and commuting. So many hammerheads I know ride a bike ONLY to race/train and drive a car everywhere else. Considering I drive a car a handful of times a year, this frustrates me.
    2) Forget the first openly gay athletes…I’m waiting to see the first openly vegetarian or vegan. Seriously. I bet NFL players are responsible for countless barrels of oil used in the production of all the meat and food they consume to weigh 325 pounds. I really, really want to see some guy come out and say he consumes only what he grows in his garden and buys at his farmers market. Fingers crossed! Those rides sound great, though I’d bet that cyclists on the whole are much, much more conscious about how & where their food is produced than football or baseball players. Those meatheads have to love mega-farms while I think cyclists, by the nature of our sport being relatively eco-friendly, are more likely to have a home garden and cruise on down to their farmer’s market on Saturday morning.

    Reply

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