Being the Wilcox

TheWilcoxStudio

Everyone loves David Wilcox. For such an unassuming guy, soft-spoken without being shy, no hint of nervous energy or burning drive, this is strange. The Wilcox, as he’s known in bike circles, has a reputation for two things, incredible strength on the bike over distances that most of us wouldn’t even consider rideable and incredible generosity with his time and his experience. Call it a quiet charisma.

19249448273_0d50c3d68d_zA former co-owner of Boston’s legendary Broadway Bicycle School, the Wilcox has most recently been managing Rapha’s Mobile Cycling Club, and that experience, traveling the country, working events and continuing to be his usual self has spread the legend of The Wilcox far and wide.

Even as he has maintained a grueling travel schedule for Rapha, he has continued to chalk off the longer rides in the brevet series, including the Vermont 600 where his freewheel stopped spinning with 90 miles to go. He pedaled those last 90, non-stop, without taking his feet off the pedals once.

DSC_0044When asked what keeps him motivated to keep riding, to keep putting up big rides, he says simply, “For me it’s really just about getting out, seeing, exploring. How far can I go? I lived in Boston for 10 years, but when I come back to visit I find new parts, even now, only minutes from where I lived. That’s what gets me on the bike. What’s on the next street?”

He continues, “A lot of what I do qualifies as Type 2 fun. At the time, you want it to be over, but the next day it was great. Seeing the sunset and sunrise in the same ride is amazing. It’s a special opportunity when  you can do that.”

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Those lucky enough to ride with The Wilcox will tell you how strong he is, but also how even-keeled he stays even hundreds of miles into a ride. He says,  “The only time I recall being on edge on the bike was during the second Green Mountain Double Century. We were ripping down Green River Road at twilight, and I was on the end of the paceline, so I’m not sure how it happened, but I hit a pothole so hard it destroyed my front wheel. I think I was just scared and a little angry, and I said, ‘Ok, guys, we need to slow down a little,’ which we didn’t really do.”

19249438853_c9de68915d_zAsked where his calm demeanor comes from he says something we hear a lot of randonneurs say, “When you encounter problems on the bike, they always have solutions. Usually, when you’re struggling you can eat or drink, and that gets you back to where you need to be.”

In typical Wilcox fashion, David is not inclined to chase achievements. For example, a high profile recent even, Paris-Brest-Paris is for many randonneurs the ultimate achievement, but The Wilcox isn’t interested. “A big part of it, for me, is social,” he explains. “A big ride can be a kind of shared hallucination. I don’t look forward to doing that kind of thing by myself, but with my friends it’s a great experience. At the same time, doing something like Paris-Brest-Paris isn’t attractive for me, because it’s like you do it just to say you did it. I’m more inclined to go on adventures with my friends. I’m not knocking PBP. It’s just not for me.”

Soon The Wilcox will leave the road, swapping his job with Rapha for a more settled position with his friends Jeremy and Julie at The Athletic.  “I’m excited to be in one place for a while,” he says, “to race ‘cross and maybe even to train a little bit for it rather than just pulling stuff out of my suitcase, confirming I have everything I need and then racing two hours later.”

A Tale of Two Millenia, Pt 1

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To say that Matt Roy and David Wilcox failed to complete their first attempt at a 1000km brevet this summer in the Pacific Northwest would be technically true, they did not ride 1000km, but so oblivious to the circumstances and outcomes as to be ridiculous. Most of us can’t even conceive of riding 1000km (621 miles), and doing so, as Matt explains, requires a process of understanding how to break down the mileage to begin with.

19247665074_9c447a23c9_z“Anyone who’s done a full brevet series (200km, 300km, 400km, 600km, 1000km) knows they come in palatable chunks. There’s a natural progression, and brevets are designed to be finished as the season goes along, March through August,” he says. “I had done the training, the series, so you get that confidence that you can do the next distance, which eventually adds up to 1000km. I never start with my computer set to countdown from 620 miles. I just break it down and know that I’ll have a mental reset at each checkpoint.”

The week of the PNW 1000km event an historic heat wave swept across the region, visiting temperatures north of 110F on the roads of the long route.

“At the start,” Matt says, “we thought we had it. Temps were peaking around 104F, but it’s dry heat, probably equivalent to the 80s here in New England, so we thought it would be tolerable. We never thought we’d encounter the heat we did, but it became clear midway through the first day. When the heat came it was complete, like you’ve never experienced, and the roads are all really exposed. There was no shade even to change a flat in, and I thought we might be in trouble.”

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Normally, brevets are self-supported. Riders need to manage their own equipment, food and liquid. That first day Matt and David rode from 5am to 1:30am the next night. Around 10pm they received a text from one of the promoters that just said, “Good luck, guys. You’re the only ones still riding.” At that point, Matt’s wife, Mo, began to follow the pair by car packing water bottles with ice for them to carry in their jersey pockets and nylon ice socks to drape over their necks.

19683766099_fc8736f0d1_zThey were on their bikes at 8:45am the next day, and it was already 98F. With 86 miles to the next checkpoint they calculated they had 8 hours to get there. Stopping as they were, every 20 miles at first, then every ten, for Mo to restock them with fluids and ice, they made the checkpoint in 8-and-a-half hours.

“We were riding fine,” Matt says, “probably holding to about a 15mph average, but the day just ticked away from us.”

 

After two days they’d covered 350 miles. They sat in a Taco Time restaurant and assessed the situation. They’d missed the checkpoint closing, and the math on the ride to the next check suggested they’d have to ride straight through to Whitefish, MT in 27 hours.

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“We did that practicality check before we did a safety check really,” Matt says. “Then we said, ‘This looks dumb.’ None of us ever stops anything. This is what we do, but we were all just trashed, even Mo from worrying over all the things we were doing to keep moving.”

19682358400_fb49cdcc8c_zSo they got in the car and continued the trip just as they would have, along the route, but with stops at creeks to swim. They visited Glacier National Park. They saw friends in Missoula.

Matt says, “Listen, we didn’t make the 1000km, and that’s disappointing on some level, but we’re happy with how it worked out. We had our adventures, which is really the point. That’s why you undertake these things. The riding is important, but it’s not everything.”

In part II, Matt tries again, this time back home in New England.

All images: Matt Roy

Matt Roy and the Art of Endurance

Matt Roy is a different kind of bike rider. Most of his exploits transpire in the middle of the night, alone or with a single partner, down a road not likely to show fresh tire tracks. He’s an ultra-cyclist and the other half of MM Racing with his wife and current single-speed cyclocross World Champion Mo Bruno Roy. High points of this season, for Matt, included completion of a full brevet series, 200km, 300km, 400km, 600km and 1000km. He rode from Bremerton on the western shore of Puget Sound near Seattle, down the Oregon coast and up to Crater Lake in Oregon, and then beyond that to Klamath Falls, a three day, 625-mile odyssey  undertaken with close friend David Wilcox.

Riding a bike for three days is not a thing that most cyclists, even the most ardent feel inclined to do. The thing that’s hard to fathom is how you avoid the late night crisis of confidence and keep riding. Matt says, “Part of it is built on desire. Part is practice. You build up to it in palatable chunks, basically four hour units. You can ride for four hours, and then stop and assess what to do next. On the way to Crater Lake we were super-tired, but we were never not having fun.”

He laughs when he says, “All great art requires suffering. Seriously though, there are peaks and valleys both mental and physical, but if you didn’t fall asleep on a picnic table in a park at 2AM because you were so tired, they wouldn’t be worth doing. What keeps me going is that you see so much cool stuff over the miles. Nature changes so much from place to place, from urban to boreal forest to farm land to rushing rivers.”

If the Pacific Northwest provided Roy’s high point, the Green Mountain Double Century served as counter point. He was riding the GMDC with the aim of setting a new solo rider course record. He was, he says, “racing to prove something to myself,” and after 13 hours of hard work he was on track for a 15-16 hour finish. In spite of the rainy morning, the roads were fast and dry.

And that’s when it happened.

“I had just gone up Tate Hill Road,” he says, his tone foreshadowing the crash to come, “basically a wall of a road, so steep, and I was thinking ahead to the next flat section, the next 30 miles, bombing down Chunks Brook Road, and I just hit something. My right hand came off the bar, and I swerved into the sand at the edge of the road, and the front wheel went out and I flew. I ripped both levers off the handlebar. I laid there. I was sure I had broken something. My elbow was wrecked.”

At this point, Mo says, “I went into paramedic mode. I saw his elbow and knew it needed a dozen stitches. We cleaned him up, put him in the car, but the thing about GMDC is that it gets into all these remote corners of the state. Phones don’t work a lot. Eventually we found our way to the hospital in Bennington. It took them an hour to clean out his elbow, and he ended up with 16 stitches, four of them internal.”

The crash left him with severe whiplash. Some weeks later he saw a chiropractor who performed a “life-changing adjustment.” His elbow had hit the ground so hard in Vermont that 1000km into his west coast ride, a small abscess formed and later gave up a further small handful of rocks and soil. Can you imagine it? And he was “never not having fun.”

The crash cancelled a lot of Matt’s plans, but if anything, that seems to have made him more intent on finding a different way to ride.

He says, “I have this amazing bike (Seven Evergreen PRO), and I want to sort of throw as many stupid ideas at it, as I can. I rode the length of the aqueducts between Waltham and Wachusett. I want to do more adventurous, absurd riding, rather than structured events. I’m finding those unique adventures far more attractive now. I want to make some wrong turns, plan less. Mo and I have both said, ‘Let’s make more mistakes.'”

We should all fail so beautifully.

GMDC photos by Dave Chiu.

Video – Green Mountain Double Century 2012

DSC_5703The Green Mountain Double Century is a singular sort of endurance event. The 2012 version was 215 miles, 80% on dirt roads, with 26,500ft of climbing. There is a time cut off of 40 hours. Theoretically, it is a race, but such is the challenge that many ride just to finish.

The inaugural event, in 2011, saw about a dozen riders start, and only four finish. Three of them were from the Ride Studio Cafe Endurance Team, John Bayley, David Wilcox and Matt Roy. They finished in just short of 19 hours. The 2012 version saw the RSC team, all on Ti Sevens, “win” the overall again, shaving three hours off their previous best time. These guys are all randonneuring legends who keep raising the bar for the endurance cycling community. We were incredibly honored to have them all on our bikes.

Natalia Boltukhova of Pedal Power Photography, who shot most of our Love to Ride brochure as well as the photo above, traveled with the winning team in both 2011 and 2012, putting together this photo set and this video, which captures the brutality  (and humor) of the event beautifully.

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