It’s fair to say that most people who take up an activity like bike riding will probably never show up on any given weekend and enter a race. This shouldn’t seem so strange really given that team sports seem to capture a lot more attention than cycling events, and kids around the world are largely introduced to sports as a means to propel a ball up and down some kind of field or court. But it’s not that way for everyone.
Meet Brady Kappius, elite mountain bike racer and a member of the Team CLIF Bar professional cycling squad. Brady has been riding and racing bikes since he can remember, and entered his first race at the age of three. OK, this is pretty unusual, even for a professional athlete, but the reasons he chooses to continue racing are very similar to those that a lot of people might have for engaging in just about any activity.
For Brady, it comes down to a sense of achievement and the satisfaction he gains from a job well done. Some of this has been fueled by pivotal, breakthrough moments in his career. He recounted his first time racing the US Elite National Championship XC in Sol Vista, Colorado. “I think it was 2011 or 2012 and it was my first time as an Elite. I found myself close to the front with guys I’d never raced before. I think I got something like 13th place, top-15, and I was the first U23 guy. I had the realization that I could be really good at this.”
But racing bikes isn’t necessarily the high stakes pressure cooker that some may associate with sports. For example, attending the CLIF Team Camp last spring in Moab, Utah he got a chance to reconnect with teammates, sponsors, and ride the new bikes for the season. One of these was the all-new AIR 9 RDO.
Niner leaned heavily on the team’s input on the redesign and Brady said, “They took our feedback and nailed it!” He claims that the new flattened seatstays and 27.2 seatpost make the new bike more comfortable, but, “it’s still catered to racers.” He also noted that the downtube and bottom bracket are ridiculously huge and stiff. “Getting off the line, the last thing you want is a flexy bottom bracket!”
The CLIF Team has been around a number of years now and they have a well balanced formula for success. Brady offered up, “CLIF is pretty low key and we have a lot of fun. Sure you have to get results at races, but it’s more about being an ambassador and good for the sport.” Fostering a positive image as an athlete and of mountain biking as a whole is an aspect he sees as an element of being a professional, and taking every opportunity to support younger riders and offering people tips are all ways to give back to the sport that has given him so much over the years.
So maybe you’re still not looking at turning to a career as a pro bike racer, but it might still be interesting to show up to a race and challenge yourself. Setting some realistic goals can be a great motivator. And who knows, you might really love the thrill and adrenaline rush of racing, or at least take home the more modest feeling of accomplishment that Brady holds up as one of his reasons for racing. Either way, you don’t have to get a team together to do it, and you might just find your own reasons to love bike racing.