Oh Chocolate Milk! A Conversation with Ryan T. Kelly

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Last week, we rode along with Ted King and Tim Johnson as they pedaled 200 miles on highway 100 in Vermont. Ryan Kelly joined the two pros for their 200 mile jaunt across Vermont, and got run over by a "dumptruck full of awesome." With the help of some chocolate milk, Kelly lived to tell the tale and ride his bike another day.

Who is Ryan Kelly anyway? I had the chance to chat with Ryan Kelly about life and bikes and what it's like to commute by bike in New Hampshire in the winter. Watch out for snowplows.

I also met his cross bike with the self-inflicted top tube dent and learned why chocolate milk is so awesome.

Not only did Kelly ride 200 miles with Tim Johnson and Ted King, but the 200 on 100 ride was Kelly's second 200 mile ride in the same week. He's from New England. He's crazy. Don't believe me? Read on, my friends.

Jen: Tell me about your day job. Do you work full time in addition to playing bikes?

Ryan: I work for the footwear company, managing a website and doing various tasks, like random internet stuff. I tend to be on the internet a lot.

I’ve never really had like a serious training schedule. I started racing and riding with regularly when I was in school at University of New Hampshire. I raced collegiately. I raced my freshman year, every year. Road racing and cross.

Most of my riding, what you’d call training is, well, I ride to and from work every day. I live 21 miles from work. I ride every day.

Jen: Even in winter?

Ryan: Even in winter.

Jen: You’re crazy. You’re one of those crazy New Englanders, aren’t you.

Ryan: Yes, I am crazy. It’s really funny, I was riding along one day. It was like 70 or 80 degrees, and it was sunny. And I started thinking about how during the winter when it was 15F, I get really excited. Like, oh man! It’s 15! It’s going to be so warm on the way to work. Because my cut-off over the winter for riding to work is usually like 7 degrees. Below 7F I don’t ride, above 7F I’d ride.

I try to get a ride in during lunch. My company is really nice with letting me ride. I ride during lunch and it keeps me a happy employee. If I don’t ride during lunch or I don’t ride into work, I basically am like tense.

So, I’ll get in a 42 miles to and from work. And during the week, there’s a training ride. ... So I do that. I’ll ride to work, do that ride, ride home. Then it’s like 90 miles.

Jen: I can’t believe of you people ride during the winter. I’m from California, so I’m a wuss. That pretty much goes without saying. I was in Vermont once in January, and it was nice out, blue sky, sun, beautiful. But it was 15F. And I’m thinking, as if I’m going to ride my bike in this. That was a nice day!

Ryan: That’s like the most demoralizing thing. You look outside and it’s clear and sunny? And your brain thinks, Oh! It’s sunny out! It must be 80F! But it’s like 3 degrees.

Jen: I had a hard time with that actually. My little California brain sees the sun and says, Yay! Sun! And then you go outside, and you’re like Oh, my feet are falling off. This is not my beautiful sun!

Ryan: Exactly.

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Jen: How do you know Ted King?

Ryan: I didn’t get to know him until around 2 or 3 years ago. I got to know his brother Robbie. They were doing a lot of the group rides. I got to know Ted through racing and stuff.

Sometimes during the winter, I’ll work from home and Ted or Robbie will text me and I’ll take my Blackberry out for a little ride.

Jen: So, what sort of racing do you do?

Ryan: I race road, I race cross. I race road for NorEast. I’m a cat. 2 on the road and in cross. I’m racing cross for crossresults.com. I know Tim just from racing cross a little bit. And just from being around the same area. We all start to know the same people.

My cross bike is my winter training bike. I started to work on it last week. My pedals and my cranks were all seized from riding outside all winter.

Jen: They salt the roads, right? So you’d have salty, crusty, snowy dirt in there, right?

Ryan: Yeah. I also started this website called The Rollercam and it’s this group video chatroom. My saving grace, during the winter. Riding alone sucks. Even if you just have someone watching you ride, it’s a little less awful.

Jen: I suck at riding inside. And, since I’m in California, I should never really have to do it. But you get a little soft. Like, I don’t wanna wash my bike. I’m just going to ride the trainer instead of riding in the rain. But it sucks.

Ryan: Exactly.

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Jen: How did you get mixed up with this 200 on 100 adventure?

Ryan: So that ride was on Tuesday. On Saturday, I did a charity ride and rode 200 miles around here in New Hampshire, which is like really flat. I ended up doing that.

Then, Sunday, Tim jokingly asked me on Twitter if I wanted to do 200 on 100. I think he was like 80% joking. I was like, yeah, that sounds like fun.

Jen: So wait... You did 200 miles on Saturday? And then you turned around and did 200 miles on Tuesday?

Ryan: Yeah, that’s right.

Jen: So you are a crazy a New Englander. I kinda thought maybe you were? But now I’m pretty much convinced that you’re all batshit insane there.

Ryan: I don’t think everyone is, because there weren’t that many people that were out there on the charity ride. It was a 100 mile ride, a fundraiser ride for Mass. General Hospital. I rode to it, and then afterwards rode like 80 miles. I actually felt pretty good after it. Because I was like just riding on flat roads and I was like eating and drinking like a lot.

So I got to thinking in my head, "Oh, I can do 200 miles." I’ll go do 200 miles with Ted and Tim completely forgetting that they were going to go incredibly hard the entire time. I mean, not hard for them, but certainly hard for me.

Jen: Right, they’re going to do pro tempo, which is like really uncomfortable for normal people.

Ryan: It was like, you’re a junior varsity player playing against LeBron James. I was able to take it for a little while. Around like hour seven, it just started unravelling.

I would take pulls. I was actually timing the pulls. And Ted was taking like 15 minute pulls, Tim was taking like 12 minute pulls, and I was like okay, I’ll take a 10 minute pull. So I did that a few times.

But then as the hours wore on, I was taking like 8 minutes pulls, then I was taking like 5 minute pulls.

Then, I would do this thing, I did a thing like I would do during a race. When I didn’t want to pull, I’d like stop to check my bike, you know? And found myself doing that while I was riding with them, so I wouldn’t have to go to the front anymore.

Jen: They, of course, knew exactly what you were up to with that.

Ryan: Probably. I mean, I think at that point they’re like, they had to keep me moving, because they didn’t want me to die. Because it would be bad if I died with them.

Jen: If we keep him moving, the vultures won’t come and pick on his bones.

Ryan: I think they were mostly appreciative. I’m like 6’3" and Ted’s like 6’2". I think Tim benefitted the most from me being there, even though I didn’t take that many pulls later. It’s tough, because I’d be like pulling behind him, and there’s like nothing I can do. Like, he’s short and he’s in the drops, and what the hell man, sit up, think about the guy behind you. Cut him a little bit of slack?

Jen: I remember I was on a ride here, and I’m tall, I’m like 5’10" and I used to be a swimmer, and I’m sorta built like a swimmer. I have Winnebego shoulders, I have like the biggest draft you’ve ever felt in your life. And, so we’re cruising along, and I’m working, and Tim’s behind me. And I keep hearing his hub, because he’s coasting. Not fair!

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Jen: So you mentioned you had a song stuck in your head during the 200. What’s the worst song you’ve ever had stuck in your head?

Ryan: There was a period of time when, for a few months in row, where I’d always get Life After Love by Cher stuck in my head. For like two months. And it would be stuck in my head. And it’s awful. That’s about the worst I’ve ever had stuck in mind. I’m racing, and I kinda want to crash and get a concussion, and then I’ll forget about it.

Jen: It’s the only time you wished you could crash.

Ryan: The thing about having Cher stuck in your head, you get no sympathy for that. You tell people, and they just think you’re crazy. I don’t like Cher, and I don’t even know why it’s stuck in my head. I probably heard it on VH1 like fifteen years ago.

Jen: So you’re out there, and you’re trying to pedal, and there’s Cher.

Ryan: Yeah, it’s not enough that I’m getting my ass kicked in this bike race, but I also have Cher stuck in my head.

Jen: That’s really insult to injury. That should be against the Geneva Convention, really.

What’s the oddest thing you’ve ever seen out on the road when you’ve been out riding?

Ryan: There was a time, I had a messenger bag and I had my laptop in it and some clothes, and so my messenger bag weighs like 15 pounds. So ordinarily, I can go uphill fast. So, I go down this hill, and I go around a snowplow and I forget that the hill goes up.

So I start going up the hill, and I start going slower, and the snowplow starts gaining on me. I’m like, it’s terrifying. I’m on a cross bike and with cross tires with a messenger bag. And that was like probably the hardest I rode all winter, trying to stay ahead of the snowplow on this hill.

Jen: I wish I could draw, because that story just begs to be a cartoon of the evil snowplow coming to get you, and the snowplow being a total monster.

Ryan: I think it’s maybe not a common occurrence for too many people. You think yeah, I can outrun a snowplow. I can go faster than that snowplow and you forget it’s winter and you’re legs are slow and you’re on your cross bike and you’re carrying your bag.

Jen: You know, that just doesn’t happen to me on a regular basis here in California.

Ryan: I didn’t think the snowplow would have hit me, but they aren’t really expecting to see cyclists in the road.

Jen: He’s not really expecting to see you out there. Because you’re a crazy bike rider in the winter.

Ryan: I rode all winter, there was no yelling out of car windows. Because everyone is cold. And they probably figure if I’m riding in the winter I’m crazy? And if they yell at me, I might chase them down and drag them out of the car and beat them senseless.

But the first warm day? I got yelled at. People yelled at me three times out of car windows.

Jen: That’s annoying.

Ryan: What’s that?! Where were the hell were you pansies when it was friggin’ 5 degrees? You’re staying warm, while I was freezing my ass off. As soon as it’s warm, you start yelling at me.

I would appreciate it if you’d yell at me when it’s cold, because then you’d have to put the window down and appreciate how cold I am. But when it’s warm? You’re just a weather pansy.

They should stick to their guns. If you’re going to be a jackass, be a consistent jackass. Don’t be the fair-weather jackass.

Jen: Don’t be the fairweather jackass. Because that’s just lame.

Ryan: Just stick to your guns, people.

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Jen: Tell me about your bikes.

Ryan: I have a Rocky Mountain road bike. It has Dura Ace 7900. It was the first year that that came out. I had Cannondales before that, it was my first carbon bike.

The thing that’s funny about that, is that Rocky Mountain, they make mountain bikes, and they’re from Canada. I’m the only person I’ve ever seen racing on one in New England with the exception of the team that’s sponsored by them. It’s a nice bike, and I like it.

My cross bike is a 2005 Cannondale cross bike. I race elite cross on it, which means that I have the oldest bike of anybody that’s racing cross.

It has a huge dent in the top tube because it fell off my girlfriend’s porch and dented itself. I bought it while I was in school, because cross nationals were in Providence that year, and I decided I’ll buy it and race cross nationals. I’ve had the frame ever since.

I sort of get a lot of flack for having a really, what they say, is a shitty bike. I’ll get a new bike like next year or something. It works fine. And I’m not really interested in spending any money at it, because I’m kind of a cheapskate. It’s good.

I do all the winter training on that. I ride that bike with like some training wheels. And I ride cross tires and then I line the cross tires with a road tread, so it’s double thick. Then I put in tubes that have Stan’s in it.

Jen: So like does it weigh like 200 pounds? And then you add like ice and snow and mud crusties to it?

Ryan: My bike has to weigh like 25 pounds. My bike in the winter is like a tank. So the first time I rode to work on my road bike, I ended up cutting like 10 minutes off my fastest time.

I don’t want to like get up and work out in the morning. If I drive to work, it’s an hour round trip. So rather than driving I can ride for 2 1/2 hours. Save on gas and whatever.

Jen: It makes sense except for the part where it snows. So you started racing when you got to college?

Ryan: I got into riding big time when I got to college. I talked to Ted about this and all the guys I went to school with. And I have a lot of friends who raced collegiately. It’s a great experience.

And everyone I talk to like who is in school or who is younger who is thinking about riding or racing, I always encourage them to race collegiately, because you learn so much and you’re in an environment that encourages learning.

If you just start racing as a cat 5 when you’re like 28, there’s no one to teach you to all the stuff all you need to know.

When you’re racing collegiately and you’re a freshman, you have however many seniors on the team or people who’ve been racing a while and they’ll want to share their knowledge with you and they’ll want to get you involved and get you active in cycling. That was what got me really excited about racing and it just went from there.

Jen: Everyone I’ve talked to who’s raced college has said that collegiate cycling is just the bomb and it’s totally the way to go.

Ryan: I think any collegiate sport has that camaraderie. Also, the cycling team at UNH, we had to do our own fundraising and sponsorship and stuff. So, it makes everything more important to the athletes because we have to keep the program running.

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Jen: What song would you most want to hear before you go out for a race?

Ryan: Oh, probably anything by Justice. If that ever comes on the PA at a race, I don’t know if you’re familiar with Justice, but they’re electronic band, if that ever comes on while I’m racing, I’d probably go like 1000 miles an hour.

Jen: So, you’d go on the suicide headbanger attack if Justice comes on during a crit.

Ryan: Yeah, exactly.

Jen: Why is chocolate milk so awesome anyway?

Ryan: First of all, it’s delicious. It’s readily available everywhere. And there’s been tons of studies that it’s one of like the best recovery drinks.

Jen: So it’s like the best ever.

Ryan: Maybe it’s psychological but it seems actual. And one other thing that’s groundbreaking, I started eating a lot more chocolate ice cream too. I started referring as a frozen recovery drink.

Jen: It’s actual food, which I’m a fan of. Stuff that comes out of tube is kinda scary. They like draw the little molecules and they put it on the label, and I’m like, you’re just not winning me over with the little molecules.

Ryan: I get really sick of that stuff, you know, the recovery drinks. I like bike racing to be fun, and I don’t like to overthink it too much. I try to eat healthy like a healthy person, and not being like super concerned with nutrition and getting the exact ratios of carbohydrates and proteins in my diet.

Jen: I’ve never been very good at that either. I just want to eat food and go fast, you know?

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Jen: Looking ahead, you’re going to race cross, is there a race you’d especially like to win this year?

Ryan: Well, I don’t really win races. I haven’t won a race since I raced collegiately. I don’t really win races, I get dropped from breaks a lot. I just get dropped from the winning break. Every break I’ve gotten dropped from this year has ended up being the winning break.

Jen: Someone has to have that role, right?

Ryan: Right. Also, I want to get one UCI point. Honestly? I’m not sure I can pull that off. I don’t really win races, I like to beat specific people.

Jen: Do you have their pictures on their wall? Like, your wall of guys you want to beat?

Ryan: No, I just talk smack on Twitter a lot. All day Friday, I talk smack on Twitter, and then I end up not beating anybody. You’re going to win if your goals are narrowly defined. If I get my ass kicked by everyone else, as long as I beat those people, I win.

Jen: I was talking to a guy a month or so ago about racing. And he said he never really thinks about winning. Because you go to a race, and there can only ever be one winner and a hundred losers.

Ryan: I think if I thought about winning, I would get really depressed. Because it’s just not going to happen. So I’m just content with beating the people I want to beat and having as much fun as I can.

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Ride bikes, have fun, drink chocolate milk. I feel like this could be the foundations for an entirely new religion. Where can I join please?

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