Monday, August 30, 2010

How it all began. asked for it and here it is. The answer to the question: "How did you come up with the Urban Assault Ride?"

It's been a long journey and I certainly didn't have the vision of a nationwide 13-city Beer, Bikes, and Big Wheel Tour back in 2003. Here's how it went down.

Chapter 1: Big Wheels and BMX roots

I had two. My 1st was a Hot Wheels big wheel and the 2nd was an Incredible Hulk big wheel. Both gave me my 1st sense of freedom. I rode those babies all over my 'hood. I also experienced my 1st taste of pedal-powered pain. Me and my friends used to ride up next to this mattress and jump off the big wheel onto it. I missed once and my knee has a nice scar to show for it. There was a big gash - "nothing left to stitch" - I remember the Dr saying. I didn't blame the big wheel though.
I got into BMX freestyle when I was a kid in Montclair, NJ. I loved the flatland tricks. I watched RAD almost every day (I still listen to the soundtrack from time to time). I had a few Mongoose bikes and I was a 'freestyler'. I wore the clothes to fit the role: Vision Street Wear was my favorite. I read the 'rags' too - like Freestylin' Magazine. My Dad lived in the SouthBay in SoCal where the magazine was based. I remember going to the magazine office and getting to meet the editors (one of the questions on the 2010 bonus quiz references this). I was star struck - not only by these guys who I thought were brilliant in their writings and drawings, but also by the bikes all over Wizard Publication (the company that owned the mag). I asked them what they were going to do with the hot pink GT Pro Freestyle Tour Team Model when they finished testing it - hoping they'd toss it my way (to no avail). I was also into punk rock. I had a cousin that was into punk but later turned into a DeadHead. So he was happy to hand down his punk LPs to me. I was already into Dead Kennedys and Black Flag, but I was then exposed to The Vandals, The Circle Jerks, Agent Orange, Bad Religion.
....and then I moved to Ft Worth TX. Yep.

Chapter 2: Big culture shock moving from the diversity of NJ to that of Cowtown, USA. I was none-to-thrilled. I went to middle school in Crowley TX. There were literally barns to tie your horses to. I was still rocking the punk rock BMX thing and there was nobody within 100 miles like me. This is good and bad. The teachers didn't care for my t-shirts and while I was in school, they imposed a "no concert t-shirt" rule.

This seemed rather ambiguous to me. I decided to push the limits. I wore a D.R.I. shirt and explained it was a cross country running club I was part of.

Soon it was time for high school. I went to a private school where there was a uniform. Always an 'individual' I tried to differentiate myself the best I could. As soon as the clock stuck 15 years old, I got a job. I worked at Service Merchandise - in the 'Sight and Sound' dept. At 15 years old, I sold everything from phones to stereos, to computers, to cameras to TVs. I quickly learned what I DIDN'T want to do when I grew up. Part of the job was wearing a tie to work. I transferred that to my school uniform and wore a different tie each day to show some character. I rode a Honda Elite 50 to high school since I wasn't able to drive a car yet. The kids at school scoffed, but I was fully mobile. They got rides home with Mommy. Now look at the scooter crazy - ahead of my time I tell ya!

While in high school, I decided to get in shape. I went through about a month of painful running until I was hooked on the adrenaline and endorphins. I woke up before school and would run a 6.7 mile loop. My best friend was a Sony Sport Walkman

I listened to Pantera and Slayer and loved to run. I started running 10ks and 1/2 marathons in high school. Reading about 'cross training' in Runner's World Magazine, I thought I'd get a mountain bike since they were becoming all the rage. Ah yes...bringing back the bike.

Chapter 3: Give a man a Mountain Bike and set him free....
I decided to buy a couple mountain bike magazines to decide what type of bike to get. This was around 1993 and mountain bikes were HOT. Suspension was brand new. John Tomac was the poster child. Missy Giove rocked a pirahna. All the high end parts were anodized aluminum. My first bike was a GT Pantera. It was purple and stiff aluminum. It was rigid and I loved it. Ft Worth TX wad zero trails to ride (probably still doesn't) - so I had to drive a solid 45 minutes to the nearest trail. Didn't bother me. I was in love with mountain biking.
I wore a fanny pack, cotton t-shirt, and some of my Dad's hand-me-down lycra shorts.

Chapter 4: University of Texas at Austin...
I was incredibly excited to bust out of Ft Worth and head to the live music capital of the world. I had a lot of friends going to school at UT - but I was more excited to explore life from a whole new perspective. The dorm where I was living didn't allow bikes inside and I was not about to let my precious GT Pantera weather the elements. I went across the street to Discovery Cycle - where I was hired. My 1st bike shop jobby job.  I wrenched on bikes, I sold bikes, I worked the store alone on Sundays. Sunday was the day when all of my friends would come in (very hung over) to hang out and so that I could work on their bikes.
I got REALLY into the cycling lifestyle. I soon sold my Pantera to afford a Gary Fisher carbon bike (above). It had a RockShox Judy and I thought it was the shit.

Later that year, I visited a friend going to school at CSU in Ft Collins. I borrowed a bike, we rode Horsetooth, I went to my 1st REI (which blew my mind), and to cap off the weekend, we saw a Grateful Dead show.  After the show, a friend handed me a beer with a bike on the label - my 1st Fat Tire. I was in love with life - riding in Colorado, beer named after a bike trip, and my 1st (and only) Dead show - Jerry Garcia died a couple months later :(

Chapter 5 - Lajitas
I heard about this race in the Chihuahuan Desert in Texas. Lajitas was a ghost town close to Big Bend National Park - a 7 hour drive from Austin. I didn't know anybody going, but I knew a guy who knew a guy....
So late one night, I was picked up by a bunch of dudes in a Suburban and a trailer. I gently placed my precious OCLV ride into the trailer and climbed into the Suburban to introduce myself. They were blasting Black Sabbath, Metallica, and a had a keg sitting in the back seat. I was just about in heaven. However, I soon learned that sipping off a keg for 7 hours meant stopping every 30 minutes to pee. A great drive nonetheless.

Lajitas blew my mind. Mountain Bikers absolutely took over this little town. Every hotel room, every bottle of Gatorade, every 6 pack was consumed. I saw things I'd never seen - trials bike riding, lots of cool shiny anodized parts, log pull contests, ghost riding contests....and some incredible riding through the desert. My experience at Lajitas was life-changing. I loved the riding, the camaraderie, the atmosphere of the after party, and the ability of my fellow riders to converge in a place and take it over. This is the atmosphere I strive to create with the Urban Assault Ride.
Sadly, Lajitas was 'purchased' by a wealthy Austinite who tried to turn the whole place into a very hi-end luxury resort. The resort is still around, but struggling (last I heard). The bike race is now Mas-o-Menos - a marathon event - rather than a 3 stage race. You can't camp by the river and there's certainly no Clay Henry - the beer drinking goat (and previous mayor of Lajitas).
Chapter 6. I like to go fast
Racing was my life. I didn't want to stay in college - I just wanted to ride. I raced and raced. I travelled with and on my bike. I was an advocate of bike transportation before it was cool.
One winter, I toured from Flagstaff, AZ  to Manhattan Beach, CA. Although it was not all that long ago, we didn't have a cell phone, GPS, or anything you'd take on a tour today. It was a killer trip with many many memories. I highly recommend a bike tour.
I took many bike trips - primarily for racing - but always for fun. Here's JohnnyBoy, one of my best racing buddies making his mark on the Cadillac Ranch.
Every summer, we'd leave the heat of Austin to hit the mountains of New Mexico and Colorado. We rode Santa Fe, Durango, Telluride, Crested Butte, Vail, Fruita, and many more. In fact, on 9/11/01, when it all hit the fan, Sol and I were riding in Fruita - not a soul in sight. It was hard to conceptualize what we were hearing on the radio.
Bike trips are what make the world go 'round (if you ask me). You'll get to see things like this trail - part of the Colorado trail between Silverton and Durango

Then a say day - my Dad shut down my professional cycling hopes by telling me that I'd have no financial support for college unless I kicked racing to the curb. It's true that my GPA wasn't close to a 4.0....but bikes were something I truly loved. How many people ever find that, right? He told me, "Work hard, retire early, and then you can race your bike." I was not very happy. I had a great sponsorship with Cannondale/Wheels in Motion and only got the chance to race 1/2 the season. Still feel bad about that one - but I was still under my Dad's financial hold. But I did buck up and work hard at the University of Texas.  Hindsight is 20/20. It was a hard lesson - but I'm happy I hit the books after all.
I found that I really enjoyed studying Marketing. I liked that creativity could be applied to business. The college advisors all said that internships were important so I did a couple. One was with a company called NetSolve - a network management company. Boredom was plentiful - but I saw the opportunities becoming available in the internet industry. I decided that I wanted to take my shiny new marketing degree into the exploding world of DotComs.

At this point, I figured that since I had a direction for my career (and a means to make a living) I'd get back in to racing. I took one of my Cannondales to Ozone Bike Department since I heard they buy used bikes. Ozone was owned by a couple of crazy characters - Andrew Dugas and Vytis Vardys. They started the store pretty much out of a closet. They'd lock the doors when the riding was good. They were having a lot of fun. I thought I'd put my marketing degree to use and I worked with them to develop some kick ass race teams. It was a damn good set up. I put together sponsorships for the team so that my friends and I were totally hooked up. We had top of the line bikes to ride (for free), spare wheels, tires, heart rate monitors, clothing, shoes, helmets, burritos, birkenstocks, ice cream, coffee...and a TON of fun. Looking back, the sponsorship we had was better than a lot of pro MTB teams in Colorado.
I raced hard almost every weekend. At this point the DotCom industry was doing great. I bought my 1st house at 22 years old and I was high on the hog.
 I did some road racing too. I got up to a Cat 2 on the road and was racing Semi-Pro on the dirt.

Chapter 7: The implosion of the interwebs...and a new beginning
Around 2001, the DotCom I was working for (and just about all others as well) ran out of momentum. I found myself without a job, with experience that nobody needed, and a mortgage to pay...but I was fit.
I figured that I loved to ride so I might as well try to give it a go. There was not much money racing professionally (and who was I kidding - I was no Lance). I decided to get creative and start a new venture: RIDE Personal Training
Working with bike shops for referrals, I'd train new cyclists on how to use their new steeds, where to ride, and pretty much all the cool things about two wheels. I'd meet them at their house, fit them on their bikes, then show them a ride from their doorstep. It was quickly very popular. Particularly with guys who wanted their wives or girlfriends to ride. As we all know, for some reason - it's next to impossible to give your spouse riding instruction. That's where I came in handy. I was training up to 5 people a day - that was up to 7 1/2 hours on the bike. I was still racing too...but it was really hard to I figured it was time to scale it up.
There was a gym in town called Powerhouse (now it's Pure Austin). I worked with them since they had a killer spin program (Lance himself was known to drop in on early morning classes). Instead of doing one-on-one sessions, I taught cycling clinics to groups. This worked out pretty well and I enjoyed meeting all the people that worked out at Powerhouse.

At this point, I was racing around the country. The photo above was at Sea Otter where I was racing the 1st 29er production model. I was a guinea pig for the piggishly heavy bikes that Fisher was putting out at the time (they've come a long way.)

I also started doing some adventure races around this time. I loved the team element. My team was winning every race we entered. We even won the USARA National Championships in 2002

Since I was getting into all sorts of different sports: climbing, running, kayaking - I figured I'd moved past all of the opportunities inside a gym. So...I left Powerhouse to start a new business called, Evolve Fitness.

At Evolve, we did all sorts of outdoor training and clinics.

We became Austin's Outdoor Gym - training people for all sorts of sports - generally enjoying all the trails, lakes, and urban workout opportunities that Austin provided.

My good friend Sol Frost and I even taught a high school mountain bike program (again - before it was the 'in' thing to do). St Stephen's School had their own trail system, a bunch of loaner bikes, and vehicles for road trips. We took all sorts of kids racing and for remote MTB trips.
 We even arranged for a custom bike for our student Sam - who ended up rocking a hard tail 16"

Soon, we needed to add instructors...and my world was quickly rocked. I met Jackie.

We didn't date right off the bat. We trained clients, did trail runs, and worked out together. Jackie has just moved from NYC to Austin. She had been a modern dancer and was my dream girl. 
We soon eloped in Santa Fe - we've been married for over 6 years now.
Jackie, for better or worse, got roped into the family business.

The evolution of our clinics was to combine all of our sports and interests into one event - the Urban Assault Ride was born.
The 1st Urban Assault Ride was in Austin in June of 2003. We had 120 riders, 10 obstacles, and a live band. Michelob Ultra was our 1st beer sponsor - but I'm pretty sure everybody drank Chango's margaritas instead.

Over the past 8 years, I've put all of this life into the Urban Assault Ride. If you look at the race, you'll see everything from punk rock, to big wheels, online marketing, mountain bike festivals, and hanging with friends.

It continues to be a great journey and never one that was fully planned from the get go. Every season, the UAR evolves. Hopefully the UAR has provided a memorable experience for you with a thing or two that'll change your life - maybe a new favorite beer, maybe bringing back the experience of riding a big wheel, maybe your 1st time riding mini bike. Whatever it may be, I hope you take away some of the love for a life of Beer, Bikes, and Big Wheels.

Thanks for reading.


  1. That kicks ass! Thanks for telling the story.

  2. I am looking forward to tackling this event in 2011 because I heard so many stories from the ride in Des Moines in 2010-FUN!FUN! was the BUZZ......

  3. I am so happy and proud to have been a part of the UAR since the beginning. You guys have created a great event that we model our events after. I also realized recently how much UAR gear I have... half the clothes in my workout drawer have UAR on them :)

    Keep up the great events! I'll be back next year for my next UAR adventure. I have now done the event with a coworker, my dad, my mom and my husband... who is next?