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Road Biking Champion Alex Howes on Exploring the World by Two Wheels

Photos: Courtesy of Casey B. Gibson, USA Cycling

Current U.S. Road Cycling Champion Alex Howes shares his biking journey and some tips for new bikers.

Alex Howes currently holds the title of U.S. Road Cycling Champion, thanks to his victory in Knoxville, Tennessee in 2019. But his interest in cycling didn’t derive from a goal to don gold medals around his neck or race on the world stage. Instead, the 33-year-old Colorado native, who has been competing for 10 years, said the bike was foremost a means for him to explore the outdoors.

“I just loved being outside and seeing where the bike can take me,” said Howes. “I realized pretty quickly that I had a lot of freedom on the bike.”

What began as a perusal of his neighborhood, town, and then the area around his town ballooned into an adventure into his broader hometown county and state — and now, the whole world. This summer, Howes is slated to compete in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo as part of Team USA. Below, he shares his advice to newbie bikers and reflects on his accomplishments.

Preparing for a long ride

For new bikers, Howes suggests watching free tutorials on YouTube to learn how to fix your bike chain in case it’s in need of repair, and then hitting the pavement for some firsthand experience. “You can get the gist before you get out there, and then just use trial by fire,” Howes said.

To be on the safe side, he recommends packing a cellphone with a ride service downloaded, in the event that your bike breaks down and you need a ride to safety.

“The big thing is just layers,” Howes said regarding clothing, adding that you’ll want to wear an inner sweat-wicking layer and a rain-repellent outer layer. Opting for reflective clothing when visibility is limited and always wearing a helmet are also key. Plus, he recommends ample sleep and a large meal with carbs the night before a long ride.

Reflecting on his achievements

Howes considers his greatest achievement getting to the start line of the Tour de France in 2014. “It was a lot of hard work to get to the start line there. It was incredibly satisfying and, I guess, scary at the same time,” he said.

Although his competitions have taken him to numerous new countries with different terrains, Howes’ favorite place to bike is the mountains. “It’s big, it’s empty, it’s quiet,” Howes said. “It’s unpredictable in a lot of ways with the weather, and it always keeps me on my toes. I love it.”

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