Get To Know A Blogger: Matt Gholson (Barn Door Cycling)

Bloggers everywhere are getting into the online interview business and I see no reason why my award-winning and highly influential blog should be any different.  I am always very impressed with the stories and advice to be found on other blogs and believe the authors would be outstanding interview subjects.  Therefore I am pleased to announce my Get To Know A Blogger interview series, where I will introduce to you, the massive audience of this blog, to some of the interesting personalities amongst the eclectic group of bloggers whom routinely contribute to this blog, have interesting stories, have properly bribed me, or perhaps have some incriminating evidence on me which I hope to remain hidden.

To start things off, I can think of no better subject than Matt Gholson, author of Barn Door Cycling.  Matt has the distinction of being the first person whom I did not already know in the Real World to comment on one of my posts (Post #5, May 22, 2010).  It’s safe to say he was there at the beginning.  Apart from this distinction, he has a great blog of his own, in which he details his cycling adventures in Southern Illinois and places farther afield.

A typical self-portrait of Matt, showing his pre-ride gesture and his affinity for cycling hats.

1.  What bikes do you own and which one is your favorite?

2010 Cannondale CAAD9, Nashbar Touring Bike, Trek Fuel EX, Vassago Bandersnatch.  The CAAD9 is my favorite on the road and the Bandsnatch is the ultimate mountain bike.



2.  Your blog is peppered with cycling stories from your youth.  Was there ever a break in your cycling or have you more or less been at this continuously?

I almost completely quit riding while finishing college.  Despite having summers off my first couple of yours teaching, I didn’t really get back into it.  Around 2004, one of my high school friends moved back into town from serving in the Navy and brought a road bike.  I got back to riding and never looked back.

3.  What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment on a bicycle?

Probably last year when I went alone to Chattanooga for the 3 State 3 Mountain Challenge.  Since everyone had bailed it would have been very easy to bail.  The hardest accomplishment was riding the million dollar highway from Durango to Ouray at 275 pounds.

4.  What is the least-advised (i.e., crazy) thing you ever did on a bicycle?

Once I grabbed the bucket of a back hoe and let it pull me across town.

5.  I’m impressed with your ability to build new bikes and fabricate parts.  How did you acquire this skill?

Well, I bought a scratch and dent special mountain bike frame and a bunch of junk parts from a bike shop and experimented a lot and nearly destroyed that frame.  It’s difficult at first and the only way to learn is to just do it.  Same way I learned to build wheels, the first one didn’t work but they progressively got better.  I bought tools as I needed them and spent a lot of time on the park tool website.

6.  You clearly enjoy the cycling scene in Southern Illinois.  What do you find most compelling about the area?

Well, we are a small but close community of riders.  My wife jokes when we see a rider while driving that they must have forgot to call and see if I wanted to ride.  Being an economically depressed rural area has its advantages.  We have lots of chip and seal roads that are great for bike riding with very little traffic.  The Shawnee National Forest provides hundreds of miles of excellent mountain bike trails.

7.  Your blog title pokes fun at your weight challenges and you have documented your successes in losing weight on the bicycle.  What advice do you have for others who want to drop some pounds?

I lost around 80 pounds and did it by applying discipline and routine to my life.  Up early to walk, replaced lunch with a protein shake, smart supper and nightly exercise.  Now if I could do that again and lose another 50 pounds I might be able to keep up with Luke.

8.  If you could do only one more ride for the rest of your life, what would that ride be and why?

Oh man, that is a hard question.  Probably just our standard route with Mom, Dad, and my wife.


SPECIAL FEATURE!   In an exciting twist to the usual interview process, I have allowed Matt to ask me any cycling related question that he may have.  Clever, eh?  I think it may shed some more insight on where Matt’s head is at and it allows me to talk about myself, which I always enjoy.  So here is Matt’s question:

You’ve done a very diverse amount of riding, brevets to charity crits.  Do you see yourself becoming more focused on a discipline of riding in the future?

Oooh, what an exciting question!  Thanks, Matt.  You have immediately demonstrated the coolness of this feature!

I like variety, so I doubt very much I will ever focus on a specific discipline.  I think sampling different things and taking on new challenges helps to keep me interested and on the bike.  I find myself attracted to touring and distance rides, thus the interest in centuries and brevets.  I hope to push the envelope a little further on those next year and perhaps take on a 300k brevet.  I also enjoy unusual events that are not necessarily tremendous athletic feats such as the Vasaloppet Ride and Bike DC (assuming they can get their course directions straightened out).  Cycling around new (to me) cities is always fun and anything with a history angle will get my attention!  I can see an occasional triathlon in my near future and some overnight touring in my distant future.  The mountain biking bug has yet to bite me.

Thus concludes my first ever Get To Know A Blogger segment.  A special thanks to Matt for being my guinea pig and for reading and commenting on my drivel for over two years.  If you are not already a regular reader of Barn Door Cycling, I encourage you to stop by for a visit.  I have learned a great many things from Matt’s blog and it’s always an entertaining read!


A Worldwide Cycling Snapshot

Note: This photo was not submitted by a reader

On this weekend, December 3rd and 4th, the Earth hurled through space at a speed estimated at over 400,000 mph while rotating on its axis at a speed of 1,042 mph (again estimated).  On Earth’s surface, approximately 6.978 billion people went about their daily business.

Some of them were riding bicycles.

This is their story.

Some people rode alone.  In France, Gerry enjoyed a solo pedal on his Bianchi out of the Gordon Gorge, which is situated on the north side of a little mountain range behind Nîmes, near his home.  The grade was “only” 5-6%, which is precisely how someone who regularly climbs Mount Ventoux and has logged 10,000 kms this year would describe it.  Since the RVs have departed with the summer weather, the road is reportedly quite enjoyable.  It takes a certain kind of person to scale hills on roads like this and describe it as enjoyable, and Gerry is that kind of guy.

Others rode in groups, like Brian and Team MK, who held their weekly club ride near Milton Keynes, about 50 miles Northwest of London.  You can see many of the club riders wearing the team kit of blue, white, and orange.  Brian climbed Ventoux on holiday this summer and laments the lack of an Alpine range in England.  This sort of attitude probably explains why he regularly drops riders 30 years his junior.

Others rode with family, as Clive did with his son near Birmingham, England.  Although he owns a road bike, Clive can most often be found zipping to/from work and elsewhere on his mountain bike.  His son is quickly following in his footsteps, or should I say pedal strokes?  Apart from getting his son hooked on cycling, Clive has made great strides losing weight while pedaling about the West Midlands.  We (and by “we” I mean “I”) could do well to follow his example.

Keeping with the family theme, Lloyd set out to circle the inexplicably named California-in-England in Berkshire.  Originally part of the Royal Estate of Windsor Castle, the property has been subdivided and sold several times.  No one seems to know what the connection is to a western U.S. state.  Lloyd taught his son how to cycle on this route and has a pedal with him here on most weekends.

Others explored the elements, like Tom, who lives near the border of Scotland and England.  Tom took time from his excellent bird photography to enjoy a quick pedal to Wauchope after a sleet storm to take in the scenery.  I highly encourage you to visit his blog for some excellent photography of this part of the world.

Not everyone was recreating and not everyone was experiencing winter.  Valentine used his bike to ride into town to buy a chicken.  Since he lives in the Southern Hemisphere (Brazil, specifically), he ran his errand on one of the longest days of summer.  Valentine did not mention how he secures his chickens to his bike, so that shall remain left to our imaginations.

In North America, things were chillier than in Brazil.  Chris made a regular trek to Gathland State Park in western Maryland to enjoy one of his favorite views.  The park is named after a Civil War correspondent who owned this land and wrote under the pseudonym, “Gath.”  His name was George Alfred Townsend (care to guess how he picked his nom-de-guerre?) and he erected the monument in the picture’s background to war correspondents.  Chris will soon make this journey on new wheels for his 1999 Marin San Rafael hybrid bike.  The wheels are due to arrive on Monday.

In New Jersey, it was very chilly (25 degrees, in fact) as Iron Rider headed out with the Pennsylvania Randonneurs on a 200 km brevet up the Delaware River.  The group started just after sunrise and pulled into their final stop with their lights on as the sun was setting.  This was hardly a novel event as Mr. Rider has already earned the coveted R12 Award, meaning he has ridden a 200 km event every month for 12 consecutive months.  He is also a Super Randonneur, with rides of 200k, 300k, 40ok, and 600k in one season.  Yikes.

Back in Maryland but closer to DC, Justin travelled the Anacostia River’s Northwest and Northeast branches up to College Park (so named after the University of Maryland, which is located there).  DC has many miles of pathways and this pic is a fine example of this type of riding.

In DC itself, John took the group project to another level by documenting his entire journey throughout DC.  John is a recent transplant from New England and seems to have taken nicely to the urban cycling environment in his new city.  For several excellent photos of his day, I commend to you his blog.

In Northern Virginia, another person named John was using his bike for yet another purpose – an investigation.  He has been searching for a gold Cadillac which seriously injured some cyclists in October.  He has cycled over 50 miles through the neighborhoods of his home in Mount Vernon without finding the car.  He continues his search and I wish him well.  In the meanwhile, he stopped and posed his bike for a pic in front of this interesting home.

30 miles south of John, Yours Truly was circumnavigating Prince William Forest.  I left at midmorning and the 45 degree temperature made it the coldest ride of the winter for me so far.  I checked in on the US Marine Corps Museum and took a picture.  I finished my ride at 2,923 miles – still short of my 3,000 mile goal for the year.

In central Ohio, Roger found time to squeeze in a quick ride.  His work currently has him in Jacksonville, Florida, and he had flown home on Friday to be with his family.  Sunday night, he was back at the airport to continue his work in Florida.  In the meanwhile, he hopped on his Raleigh and pedaled with friends through some covered bridges with temps in the low 50s.

While the riders in the Mid-Atlantic tended to ride on asphalt, the cyclists of Illinois seemed to prefer dirt.  David certainly did and he took his Gary Fisher Big Sur on a trail near Lake Michigan on a rainy day in the Northeastern corner of his state.  This ride put him over 6,400 miles this year.

Illinoisans were not only riding on dirt, but they were tinkering as well.  Matt had traveled from his home in southern Illinois to Land Between The Lakes, Kentucky, and was bringing his new Gopro camera.  Here we see him before his group ride, making sure he knows how his camera works.  If you’re the sort that is curious about how to make your own modifications to your bike, check out Matt’s blog.

It was raining at Ron’s house as well.  He decided discretion was the better part of valor and opted against cycling in the elements.  His bike remains in his garage, ready for the next adventure.  If Ron’s blog reports are any indication, I do not believe it will have to wait very long.

The rain in America’s Midwest fell in Canada the previous day in the form of snow.  Keith enjoyed a snow-covered trail ride on the way to the Strathcona Farmer’s Market in Edmonton.  That’s right, Keith rides his Iron Horse Commuter bike through the snow to the market.  It takes a special kind of attitude to cycle through a Canadian winter and Keith has more than enough of it!  If Matt’s blog doesn’t satisfy your craving for DIY cycling modifications, then Keith’s certainly will.

Still in Canada, but much further East, James took some time off work (please do not tell his boss) for a quick 30-minute pedal.  His single speed Konia is pictured in front of Lac St. Louis (that’s LAKE SAINT LOUIS for those who don’t speak French) near Montreal.  The Union Flag on the seat post belies his status as a British expatriate.

So there it is – my attempt at capturing cycling around the world on a single weekend.  To everyone who submitted a picture, thank you very much!  Obviously, there were a few areas on the planet that were not properly covered but it is evident from the submissions that cycling around the world can be quite varied yet quite similar regardless of the weather, surface, or type of bike.  I thoroughly enjoyed putting this together and hope you enjoyed perusing it as well.  We may do this again next summer.  Until that time, I suggest we all follow the below example of James and continue to get on our our bikes and pedal!