"Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness"
A road trip through the USA
The American Way of Life. Fascinating or incomprehensible. America polarises, but for our Bavarian Pushbiker Wolfgang Brandl one thing is certain: he loves this country. And he loves cycling. In his own kind of way: as an opportunity to get to know the world and many people, to challenge oneself without thinking exclusively in terms of performance and victory.
His summer was a very special one. A summer that shows what cycling can do. What freedom can mean and how little you actually need for it. A road trip in the American West, over 8,000 kilometres from Texas via New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Colorado to Oklahoma and back. Accompanied and surrounded by rays of sunshine, wide landscape and segregated cycling tracks – although the cycling races became a secondary matter.
Road Trip & Cycling
“I flew to Milwaukee. At the very beginning of my trip, there was indeed the Tour of America`s Dairyland with a total of 11 race days. On the plane, I still didn’t know where I would be staying for the next two weeks. But since I have many friends there, I always found a great host family who welcomed me and my bike to stay. I went to the races on my bike with my lights on and a backpack, hitchhiking there or driving in a borrowed car.
Wolfgang finished in the Top 15 in every stage of the Tour of Americas Dairyland, in the first week also once on the podium, in the overall Omnium ranking of both weeks he was sixth. Thus his American summer began on the bike and in race mode before the real road trip began. In a certain way, these first days already explain Wolfgang’s enthusiasm for America: “It is indeed the case that anything is possible in this country. If you want something, you can do it or achieve it here.”
Almost 20 years ago, as a teenager, Wolfgang became friends with an American whose parents were stationed in Hohenfels in the US Army. When they moved back to the US, he visited him in Colorado Springs. After that, the contact faded away. Initiated by social media, the two met again in Colorado this summer after 17 years. “Back then we were teenagers, now we are adults,” Wolfgang says while shaking his head. And there it is again, the aspect of “everything-is-possible”. In 2016, Wolfgang spent half a year in the USA, racing a lot with an elite cycling team. He has returned every year since then. “I am fascinated by the extreme contrasts that characterise the country, its inhabitants and the landscape. And how quickly you make friends and acquaintances here, You simply can’t compare America with Germany.”
5.293 Miles of travel = 8.518 km
1.567 km on the bike
21 Road Races & Crits
15 National Parks
1 SUV. 2 People. Many friends.
The goal: Experience America.
Cut. From Milwaukee, Wolfgang flies his Wiawis bike to Dallas and switches from racing to road tripping with his girlfriend Sydney. In the Ford Edge SUV, the bikes and luggage are stowed in the boot during the day, and in the evening everything is moved to the front seats and they both sleep on a special mattress in the boot.
“On our road trip, completely different things became important than what one is used to in everyday life. Where do we sleep today? Where can we get food and drinks? Which route shall we get on? Where can we cycle tomorrow? We often drove for hours straight on a highway and had no internet – that’s when you can really switch off and slow life down.”
A life with sunlight: waking up in the car at sunrise, going to bed at sunset.
Their itinerary was mainly determined by the choice of national parks. Everyone knows the Grand Canyon from photos, but you can hardly imagine how big it actually is. “We were lucky enough to be able to cycle into the park as early as six am and we were basically the only ones there. The roads are closed to cars and the buses don’t leave until later. ” Wolfgang and his girlfriend didn’t notice any of the hotels and shopping centres around the park when they were cycling alone. He was particularly enthusiastic about the state of Utah: “Utah has by far the most beautiful and varied landscape in the USA. Salt lakes, high mountains or various canyons. The colours of the mountains are just great!”. In Monument Valley, a photo was taken at the famous “Forest Gump Spot”, the point in film history where Forest Gump ends his walk, surrounded by dry, red desert.
Wolfgang also rode his Wiawis bike up the legendary Pikes Peak with its 4302 metres in the Rocky Mountain range. In 1987, Walter Röhrl, also from Regensburg and a road cycling fan like Wolfgang, stormed the mountain in record time with his legendary Audi S1 – 36 years later, Wolfgang rode downhill in the fastest time ever recorded on Strava (see here).
Living with sunlight:
Waking up in the car at sunrise,
going to sleep at sunset.
Over 20 races,
1 Victory, several podium positions
A quick look back at the secondary matter: racing. Because even during the road trip and in the last weeks of his trip to the USA, Wolfgang represented the Pushbikers in the American racing scene in six states. Summer, he says, is when the best races are held in the US, and the weather is just consistently good. “I can’t remember if I’ve ever worn long trousers in 10 weeks”. He was able to build on his performance from the Tour of Americas Dairyland. At the Memorial Crit in Houston he finished second, and at the Driveway Series Criterium in Austin, Texas, Wolfgang celebrated a victory at the end of his US summer.
“At the races I have actually always met the same riders who have become friends over the years. The racing circuit at this level knows each other and almost every weekend, you bump into each other again.”
Riding not for points and prizes, but for making memories.