All of us are figuring out how we can resume our lives safely and responsibly. How can we ride our bikes? Does it make sense to train when races and events are postponed or cancelled? How can we enjoy the community that cycling brings us? I caught up with gravel racer Ted King and asked him about life and cycling in these times.
JH: As the ‘King of Gravel,’ how have you been dealing with the current global scenario? How does riding fit into your schedule these days?
TK: Cycling is an enormous part of my life, but my cycling life doesn’t revolve exclusively around racing. 2020 is already a year that’s completely different from any in the past, because Laura and I are now a family of three, with little baby Hazel as part of the mix. We had decided to limit some of the smaller races that I typically jump into and focus on our family and the bigger events of the year.
Things change, however. Very few people would have foreseen the screeching halt to traditional life that coronavirus has created, so we all have to adjust. We three are blessed to be happy and healthy and at home at this time. Hazel was born just before the pandemic hit, so our timing to be out of the hospital couldn’t have been better. There is no typical paternity/maternity leave for two independent contractors, so to be honest, this forced lockdown is something of a gift to help raise Hazel.
It’s a pleasure to able to head outside and ride for the sake of riding, and not to tackle intervals or formal training. That’s actually been my MO since leaving the WorldTour anyway, so this period is just echoing the reasons I stepped away from road racing. Counterintuitively, despite the global stoppage, I’m as busy as ever. UnTapped – the nutrition brand that I co-own – carries on with all hands on deck, as we are a small business, too; I’m working with sponsors daily to help social promotions and kick ideas around; and of course caring for Hazel is a new addition to the daily schedule. My to-do list at the end of the day is always longer than it was at the beginning, but maybe that’s just adjusting to parenthood.
Spring is springing now in Vermont, and 40 degrees will soon be 70 degrees. Hazel’s sleep schedule allows plenty of time to explore new roads and get out for longer rides. For the days when that’s not an option, I’m embracing the efficiency of riding indoors. There’s a place to have fun with it all and this video really helped share how to mix it up when indoor training is the tool for the day.
JH: What are your goals for this year, now that the situation is so different from what we expected? How do you keep motivated and what do you enjoy about riding these days?
TK: This situation is very real, and mere optimism isn’t going to put events back on the calendar. “Patience is virtue” is something my mom used to tell me as a kid, and patience is as strong a tool as any to help get through this time.
I think that how someone rides these days tells a lot about who they are as a cyclist. I’m a cyclist because I’m it in for the means, rather than the end. I embrace the riding, the training, and the process that gets me to an event, instead of purely the event itself. So despite a dark cloud hanging over a 2020 event calendar, I know there will be more gravel events in the future. If it’s next month or next fall or next year, we’ll be able to get together and ride again. In the meantime, I just love riding, so I’ll continue to do that. Not to mention how peaceful the roads are these days with an enormous reduction in traffic!
JH: We’ve caught wind of DIYgravel. Tell us what that’s about!
Laura and I are event promoters ourselves with Rooted Vermont. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to support events as they are pushed back further into a nebulous fall or off the 2020 calendar entirely. Events and races flow with the seasons. Rasputitsa is inextricably linked with the mud of Vermont’s spring snowmelt. Dirty Kanza is a dusty summer ride across the plains. How can we recognize the original dates and characters of these events?
It was through this thinking that I created #DIYgravel. The goal is to look at my original event schedule and ride each event’s distance on or near the event day – ideally with the same elevation gain, too.
These events are about community, so I wanted that aspect to continue, too, not just the riding itself. I did some brainstorming, then decided to act. I built a webpage for it, talked to my sponsors, and then opened it up. Anyone can do it, the rides can be done indoors or outdoors, on pavement or gravel. It’s mandatory to ride alone and follow local ordinances, but it’s all very welcoming. It’s not a competition, and the focus is on being safe and responsible. And it’s been tremendously well received in the very short time since launching.
Look, I recognize that there are incredible challenges facing the world today. There’s sadness and death and suffering, and that’s all so painfully heart-wrenching. This is not ignoring any of that. There are people looking for positivity and for a way to be part of something. I launched DIY just last weekend, when Rasputitsa would have been on my calendar. That’s one of just a few events here in Vermont that I can easily travel to. The outpouring of support has been amazing, and I think the momentum is only building from here.
JH: I like the idea of creating community. By enabling all cyclists to be part of the same events – without travel, even without actually racing – you are expanding the already inclusive nature of gravel. Hopefully that’ll bridge some of the artificial divisions between racers, bikepackers, randonneurs, cyclotourists… and bring everybody together for a series of virtual events that take us out on real rides!
TK: Exactly! That’s my goal, that’s my hope. That what I love about all people on two wheels. Now more than ever!
JH: I’m excited about it. I’m already plotting a course for Rasputitsa this week, and then I need to think about DK!
TK: Perfect. I’ve said “Ride alone, together” and that’s been catching on! You can see all the basic rules and sign up here.
JH: Thank you for the inspiration and initiative. We’re excited to be part of it. This will be fun!
Photos: Ansel Dickey