Athlete Spotlight: Bobby Thompson aka The Casual Cyclist

Gravel Worlds 2016. photo by Gravel Guru

This week we interview Bobby Thompson creator of the The Casual Cyclist blog and host for The Gravel Guru show "This is Gravel". Recently this year, we welcomed Bobby on as one of our gravel ambassadors. Hailing from Emporia, Kansas home to the Dirty Kanza 200, a 200 mile gravel grinder, Bobby has a playground of remote gravel roads intertwined within the locals' beloved Flint Hill region. He is out to finish his 5th Dirty Kanza next weekend on June 3rd. We talk to him about gravel riding, Dirty Kanza, and finish up with some of the fun, spontaneous questions in true Casual Cyclist fashion.

Cantu Wheels [CW]:  The Casual Cyclist, where did it all start?

Bobby Thompson [BT]:  Ha!  The Casual Cyclist.  I was worried that "Super Cool Old Dude Riding Bikes" would be really hard to fit on a t-shirt when I became famous. I was also afraid people would call me out on being "super cool".  I have a very casual take on cycling.  I only recently rediscovered my passion for being on a bike.  I know there are many more people like me who got caught up in the wave of "life" and forgot about bikes.  I wanted a way to spread my gravel cycling passion that was non aggressive.  Show me...don't tell me.  I love to show my passion for cycling through words and pictures.  I tend to be casual in this approach so it fits. When I'm at my best...cycling...working...being a dad...being a husband...I'm casual.  

CW:  What inspires you everyday to get on your bike?

BT:  When you ask about being inspired everyday then I have to think about my wife.  She's the foundation of our family.  No matter what drama is going on in the world around us...she keeps moving forward.  She keeps the family moving forward.  I've adopted this thinking in my life and the way I get through the dark times of an endurance ride.  Just keep moving forward...even if it's slowly at the time.  Move forward.

Bobby and his wife at the 2017 Dirty Reiver gravel grinder in England.

CW:  Describe a perfect day of riding in and around Emporia, Kansas?

BT:  Perfect riding around in Emporia.  Gotta have wind.  Wind gives you a sense of determination when you're fighting into it, a sense of accomplishment when you've made it to a turn around point and a sense of "I could be in the Tour De France" when you are racing with a Tailwind. 10-15 mph.  Sunny and 70's.  80's gets hot quick with a tailwind on that white gravel.  Dry and white hard pack when you wanna go fast and chill.  Bombing the Flint Hills chunky downhills when you want some thrills and are ready to focus.  Sunny with a few wandering clouds for the occasional shade.

CW:  Advice to people curious about or interested in gravel riding?

BT:  Stop thinking about it and just go ride.  Treat it as an adventure.  Explore.  Find out why it's a dead end road.  Is the bridge really out or can you walk across? Minimum maintenance road, travel at own risk?  Challenge accepted.  Go play.  Bring water.  Bring a snack.  Have an alternate way home if something breaks you can't fix.  Don't make that call for a pick up though unless you really need the help.  Challenge yourself a little.

CW:  Top 3 tips to tackle the Dirty Kanza 100-200?

 BT:  1.  Stay hydrated.  2.  Race it Checkpoint to Checkpoint instead of thinking about the whole day.  3.  Keep moving forward.  You are capable of so much more than your mind is telling you.

CW:  What has been your most memorable travel experience for a gravel event?

BT:  A hard one but I have to saying driving the 20+ hours the past two years to Rebecca's Private Idaho.  That's a long drive.  A lot of time spent with friends on the way there.  Not so much on the way home when you are exhausted but talking strategy, bikes, nutrition...on the way there is a blast.  

CW:  Favorite songs or playlist to listen to while training or warming up?

BT:  Soundtrack to Footloose.  Seriously.  How can you not wanna start running around jumping off the walls??  Long steady state intervals or climbing intervals...angry music.  Rage Against the Machine, Disturbed, Korn, Rob Zombie, Bodies by Drowning Pool.  My radio station is country, I grew up loving big hair rock and late 80'is hip/hop and rap.  Lol.  I'm all over the place.

CW:  What is something “If you would’ve known then what you know now?”

BT:  Can I say everything?  I mean my first endurance race was the Dirty Kanza 200.  I just jumped right in...and failed.  Maybe not though because the failures are what drives me to this day.  I do not like to fail.  So to make it a simpler focused answer...spinning up a hill because mashing. Using you gears.  Really understanding how gears can lengthen your day.

Bobby's Salsa Warbird equipped with a lauf fork and our Cantu Gravel Rebel Wheels.

CW:  What is your super power?

BT:  I'm the Casual Cyclist.  It's being "casual".  Okay, yeah that's just lame.  I never call myself the Casual Cyclist...except when I'm signing autographs.  No um, you know the superpower I wish I had is Wolverines regenerative power.  I'm getting old and the hills aren't getting any smaller. The superpower I actually have is the ability to adapt to a situation.  Don't judge my initial reaction.  Let me think and I'll adapt and figure it out.

CW:  How long would you last in a zombie apocalypse?

BT:  Oh dude I'd rock in a zombie apocalypse.  I'm not much of a fighter but I know I could run...or ride...circles around them.  Wait are we talking slow historical zombies or new age advanced zombies??  Let's go with the old school casual clumsy zombies...cause in the end...being casual is the best way to be.  

Bobby and his Co-host Lelan Dains on "This is Gravel"

Check out Bobby's adventures on Instagram, Facebook, The Casual Cyclist, or through The Gravel Guru. Be sure to connect with and follow us on Cantu Cycling Wheel's Facebook Instagram.