Leo Rodgers, one with the bike
What does a bike mean to you?
By Oskar Scarsbrook
Few cyclists come as inspiring as Leo Rodgers, a rider who thrives on showing the full capabilities of what a bicycle can do for each and every one of us. Rodgers is at one with his bike and talks about his machine and cycling in a way few others do. For him, the bike represents freedom, an extension of himself and a tool for inspiring others to get as much out of the sport as he does.
Rodgers spoke with us from his new home in California after dropping his young son off at daycare, to discuss – among other things – his mission in cycling, his goal to compete at the Paralympics and a particularly wild experience he had at Grinduro.
Who is Leo Rodgers?
That’s something that changes. I feel like I am someone that can inspire, get you through life, help you see the real side of things, and give you that extra push. That’s why I cycle so much and refuse to buy a car; because my goal in life right now is to inspire, so I need to be seen on a bike so I can fill these voids in people’s lives. That’s who I am right now and that’s where things are going for me: I’m continuing the mission.
“The bike is my means of transportation, it’s my wheelchair, it’s my prosthetic, it represents me.”
What does the bike mean to you?
It means a lot to me. As a kid it was my sense of freedom, something I could do by myself, but now it’s become a lot more, it’s become part of me. It’s my means of transportation, it’s my wheelchair, it’s my prosthetic, it represents me. I feel like I’m that kid from How to Train Your Dragon; he was an amputee, the dragon had to kind of get to know him and he adapted to the dragon… That’s how I feel right now with my bike. I’m one with it. When I’m not with my bike I feel awkward and weird.
Your new sponsors Crust Bikes and Ronsbikes/Ultradynamico were recently announced for 2021. What are you looking forward to next year when hopefully everything starts to resemble normal?
Getting out there, vibing with people and interacting with people and just getting back to the culture of it. I feel like that’s who we are as cyclists, we just like to challenge ourselves and put ourselves through something brutal and just survive. I feel like that’s what we’re kind of hungry for. Chasing that big epic ride.
Is it a goal of yours to compete at the Paralympics in Tokyo?
It was pretty much the main reason why I moved [to California]. I’ve just been so focused on trying to get everything in line, because I know how to train now. When I do, I have to have the little man on the front of my bike and there are some hills around here and I feel like he’s been my biggest trainer. I just put him on the front of one of my bikes and take him for a ride, so I’ve definitely been prepping for that. I feel like this is the shot now, they held it back and I’m like, “Oh, I’m not out yet.” A new fight.
Now that I’ve moved to a location where I can actually get to a velodrome and get track time, I can really get used to the speed and figure out the gearing, be in it a little bit more and actually go to track days.
The Paralympics is such a huge deal, the pinnacle of sport.
The world. You’re racing against the world and its global. I’ve never just thought about this as something small, I have always thought global. That’s it man, I want to be known worldwide.
In our earlier blog ‘Team Brooks at Grinduro’, the author Jason Norton talks about you refusing to be pulled out the race, I was wondering what your side of the story of that whole ordeal was?
Grinduro was a trip. When we got to the halfway point, they were about to cut us off, but they were still letting people through. I started going along, but after a while I thought, ‘Wait a minute? Where’s everybody at? I don’t see nobody. Where are the riders at?’ I’m just cruising for literally a good 10 miles, 15 miles before I realised, ‘wow, I think I’m the only one out here. Now shit’s about to hit the fan.’
“I was like, ‘I ain’t getting on that motorcycle so I guess I’m going this way.’ I just got back on and kept rolling but the dude didn’t know about my leg so he kept pulling up but then he realised, and he couldn’t say anything after that. I wasn’t going to get on that bike, that’s for sure.”
I remembered from Dirty Kanza to keep hydrated. I just kept going, but the elevation, oh my God. I’ve never had to hike that much in my life, it was ridiculous. The grades just kept getting higher and higher. I’ve gotten to a point where there were others behind me that were starting to catch up. I’m like, thank God, there’s somebody here. I’d never experienced bears or anything like that and I start seeing bear poop around. Nope, I’m not even stopping. I don’t care, we’re rolling, this ride is difficult but we’re going, don’t worry about it.
All of a sudden we hear dirt bikes and we guessed that meant the race was over. They came and told us we were the last ones on the course and could hop on the motorcycle and we could get a lift back. I was like, ‘I ain’t getting on that motorcycle so I guess I’m going this way.’ I just got back on and kept rolling but the dude didn’t know about my leg so he kept pulling up but then he realised, and he couldn’t say anything after that. I wasn’t going to get on that bike, that’s for sure.
What bikes are you’re riding at the moment?
Right now, I’ve got my Crust Bombora, that’s definitely my favourite, it’s my little go-to daily bike. She’s also a ‘looker’, she is pretty. Then I have my little fixed gear Specialized Langster steel frame with wide bars and a little 20-inch wheel in the front and a 700 in the back, but with a cargo fork. I call that my little pickup truck. So, when I drag my son around, I throw him on that and we go for a little stroll. I do also have a Crust Scapegoat frame and a Crust Lightning Bolt fold-up frame that I’m getting ready to build up. I’ve always been into buying and selling bikes, but my first Specialized track bike was the one that never left the stable. She definitely lived a lot of different lives. She lived a lot of racing lives for sure.
How are you using your missions as a force for change?
They keep continuing. I feel like I do so many different things. I feel like people look at me more as this rider but I’m not just a rider, I’m also a mechanic, I enjoy tinkering. Pretty much all the bikes I have, I built them myself. I’m certified in Suzuki and Yamaha, so I’m always going to tinker on something and deal with something new.
I just love riding and going out and trying different things. My main background is mountain biking. I have to have some kind of single speed mountain bike, or some kind of mountain bike because that’s what I enjoy doing. Just being on a bike in general helps my sense of freedom, my independence. Just to be a little bit more mobile and get away from things and hop on my bike and free my mind. Just enjoy life, and that’s what bikes kind of bring to you.
I get a lot of people who have got some kind of health issues and it just always leads to some kind of bike. Even if they did other sports they would just get on a bike and it buys their freedom back a little bit. Or they haven’t been on a bike in a long time, it’s like, ‘thank you man for showing me how to get back on a bike. I didn’t think it was going to be like this again, but I’m actually enjoying myself just watching you and your kid just riding. I never thought I could just go out there and do it like that.’ You ain’t got a ride far but you just got to ride. Ride out to the park, we’ll make it fun.
That’s your kick?
That’s is pretty much it, that’s kind of like my end goal. I just want to see where it goes you know and just see like, hey, just go for a ride, go do something. You don’t always have to drive your car, why not go for a ride instead. Sometimes you can ride there and have more fun. You got to put yourself through that little pain and that discipline.
What does ‘boundless journeys’ mean to you?
Sounds like a never-ending ride, like there’s no limit. I definitely feel that when it comes to cycling. There’s no limit to what you can do, you can just do whatever you want. I feel like Brooks has kind of that feeling, anything could be endless no matter where you’re going on, what you want to do, just do whatever you want. Just go for a ride.
Follow more of Leo Rodgers adventures on his Instagram and make sure to check out the Leo Rodgers foundation where he aims to inspire and motivate others through cycling and motivational speaking.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
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