Josh is someone we heard about in the rumblings of the outdoor community a while back, a local nurse who completed the Tour Divide by mountain bike in record time. We were fortunate enough to track him down recently and interview him for this Athletic Life series.

Question: Josh, please tell us a bit about yourself. Your hobbies, interests, etc. we heard you work as a nurse and are a crazy awesome bikepacking competitor as well?

Answer: I am indeed a nurse. Have been for over 20 years. I’ve been a life-long cyclist. In my youth, I would race more traditional single-day races. I got away from competitive cycling during my college years to focus on my studies and other hobbies. My other hobbies include fly fishing, backcountry skiing, backpacking and photography. Cycling has always been a definitive passion. Mostly I’m an outdoor addict. I spend very little time indoors except when I’m at work. I definitely feel more comfortable outside for days on end than inside the walls of a building.

Question: What do you love about bikepacking and how did you get started with it? How many years have you been bikepacking?

Answer: Bikepacking is amazing! You just load up your bike with what you need to go as far or as short as you wish. Head out the door to some beautiful places, sleep under the stars and just ride. It’s the simple joy of getting out and turning the pedals while leaving everything else behind.

About 10 years ago my wife and I got into bikepacking. It was a natural combination of our love of mountain biking and backpacking. Loading up the off-road bikes with camping gear and heading as far away from civilization as we could was super fun for us. You can travel so much farther by bicycle than by foot. Especially in our area where there is a seemingly endless network of logging roads, trails and old abandoned double-tracks. A person can get happily lost in the solitude of the outdoors.

Question: What kind of diet/nutrition do you keep while training? Do you have an off-season diet or regiment?

Answer: Training means you learn to endure these events. However, enduring isn’t enough. You really need to find a way to cherish the journey. During these races the typical food is procured at small gas stations as you criss-cross in and out of small towns. Sit down meals during the races take too much time to remain competitive so we grab and go. Eat while on the bike. Riding 200 miles day after day while subsisting off of Fritos and frozen burritos is definitely an art. Maybe bad art but definitely something you must learn to do. While I’m actively training for these races I try and simulate the diet I’ll encounter in order to learn how my body reacts to the steady stream of junk food. Most top competitors burn upwards of 10,000 calories a day during these races. It’s a fine balance learning what you can put in and keep in while pedaling at a very high level for most of the day. I’m not going to say it is healthy but it sure can be fun…The rest of the time I try to eat as healthy as possible.

Question: What do you pack for your long bikepacking races? How light do you pack? Do you skip the tent and take a tarp, or do you skip the toothbrush?

Answer: To be ultra-competitive in these events means traveling as light as possible. Most of these events involve vast amounts of climbing. More weight means slower speeds. Our “kits” (the supplies we carry on the bike) become highly specific and personalized. I do not carry a tent or even a sleeping bag. Basically, I carry an ultra-light down jacket and pants, a space blanket, ultra-light bivy sack, rain jacket and pants, gloves, hat and as much gas station food as I can cram on the bike until I reach the next town. I don’t carry a sleeping pad. I’ve found that I sleep the best laying directly on the ground. If it rains, snows or is otherwise very cold I get in my bivy sack (it’s actually a sleeping bag cover not designed for shelter but it is quite weather resistant) with all of my clothes on then wrap up in the space blanket. The lack of a tent and other supplies means I can quickly be back on the bike after sleeping for a few hours. I do take a toothbrush. I saw off the handle to save weight though.

Question: What has been the most memorable thing you have seen or experienced while biking in the mountains?

Answer: The wildlife and endless views are always quite memorable. On one occasion in Montana, I was descending a rather rocky trail with extraordinary views. I was gazing into the distance bouncing down the trail while eating a cheese stick, as I rounded a corner a rather large grizzly bear was directly in the middle of the path. I skidded to a halt, cutting my rear tire on a rock in the process. I stood there, straddling my bike which now had a flat tire, with a cheese stick dangling from my mouth. I was about 15 feet from a large grizzly who had now stood up on hind legs. I don’t think there is such a thing as a small grizzly. I pulled my bear spray out and pointed it at the bear. It lowered itself to all fours, looked at me and slowly meandered off the trail. I had to sit there for a bit and fix my tire. Let’s just say it is the fastest I’ve ever repaired a flat tire.

Question: What is your favorite ride to do around the Cashmere area and why?

Answer: I really enjoy Entiat Ridge. The ride up there offers a good challenge in the form of climbing and extraordinary views as you head along the high ridge near Sugarloaf. Plenty of options for routes from there too. You can head off to Ardenvoir, Chelan and beyond. You can head down towards great trails in the Mad River drainage, towards Lake Wenatchee, or Leavenworth or into Cashmere. Plenty of off-pavement riding to be had and some great trails and routes you can tie into from there. The views though, that’s the real reward for me.

Question: Since you split your time between living in Cashmere and the Methow, what is your favorite ride in the Methow region as well and why?

Answer: The one ride I enjoy more than any other is the gravel climb up Harts Pass to Slate Peak. The highest road in Washington State, up to over 7,000 feet with views that go on forever. A great climb followed by a fast, fast ride back down to the valley floor. The single-track ride on Angel’s Staircase is another favorite for beautiful views.

Interview questions were prepared by Sarah Shaffer.

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