"Get out there!"—an interview with Ryan Van Duzer
A Hammer Nutrition Exclusive
In June, cyclist and travel journalist Ryan Van Duzer (often seen on the Travel Channel, Discovery Channel, and National Geographic TV) completed the grueling Race Across America—his first-ever cycling race—as a member of an eight-person team. Fueled by Hammer Nutrition, Ryan went the 3,000+-mile distance in slightly more than 1 week. Recently we talked with him about the race, biking, and his hopes and plans for the future.
HN: How did you wind up doing RAAM as your first bike race?
RVD: It sounds crazy but it's true! I got involved in RAAM this year because back in 2009 I rode a New Belgium cruiser bike across the country and started my journey in Oceanside in conjunction with the RAAM event. I quickly became friends with the directors and came back the following years to work on the media team. I absolutely loved the spirit of the event while documenting riders in the race, everyone had their own inspiring story and cause they were promoting. At that point I said to Rick, the director, if he ever got a call from a team that needed a rider, please tell me. It all came together this year when he contacted me about a month before the race with a request from a British/Swedish team needing a rider. After a quick Skype call with one of the team members, I was in!
HN: Was the adjustment to a road bike difficult?
RVD: Before RAAM, I didn't even own a road bike, nor had I really ever ridden one. After committing to the team, I contacted a friend's bike shop in Boulder and they were nice enough to loan me a bike. I rode it up and down every mountain in Boulder to prepare for the race. I was blown away by the speed. I had only ridden mountain bikes before this. Needless to say, I was hooked!
HN: We heard about your scary hospital detour during RAAM—is everything OK? Any idea what happened?
RVD: My night in the hospital was interesting. I still don't remember exactly where I was when it happened; I think it was somewhere in middle of Indiana. Anyway, I had severe chest pain, and every time I ate, it felt like I was getting stabbed in the throat. I thought I could tough it out, but a quick call to my mom changed all that. "You better get to an emergency room right away!" Moms have a way of being persuasive. They gave me chest X-rays, an EKG, and blood work, and they monitored me as I lay on the bed. It was actually a lot more comfortable than our RV, so I wasn't complaining. They never pinpointed the cause of the problem, so they let me go at midnight. Four hours later I was back on the bike. My pain persisted until well after the race but the worst part was that I couldn't celebrate with my teammates in Annapolis. (It hurt too bad to drink anything, let alone the Jäger bombs they were trying to feed me :)
HN: Besides the hospital break, what surprised you the most about doing RAAM?
RVD: The biggest surprise was the lack of sleep. I thought being on an eight-man team would allow for plenty of sleep, but I was wrong! Between riding, navigating, driving, eating, shopping, and everything else, there really is no time to sleep. Our situation was a little more difficult because we only had two crew members, so every rider had to chip in - which actually made it a lot more satisfying at the end. We all tried to sleep when possible, but probably only got about 2-3 hours a day. We earned that finish line!
I also really enjoyed the camaraderie on the road with other riders. I met people from all over the world, as well as wonderful locals all across the country. Small town America is incredibly charming, and it's really the warm and loving locals that make it so special.
HN: Which Hammer Nutrition products did you use, and how did they work for you?
RVD: Perpetuem was my go-to fuel; I really like that there is an unflavored option - sometimes something simple like that is more appealing than a fancy flavor. Montana Huckleberry Hammer Gels were also a favorite of everyone on the team. Usually gels are kind of nasty and I have to force them down, but this flavor is really tasty.
Before this race, I'd only ever used the big name energy bars. What I love most about Hammer Nutrition is their organic products and their commitment to using real ingredients. My personal favorite was the Almond Cacao Vegan Recovery Bars - yum! I quickly went through my entire stash. Besides using the fuels, I made sure to pop Endurolytes Fizz into my bottles on a regular basis, especially when we were riding through Kansas, where the temperature was super-hot.
HN: You have a growing platform and audience. What key messages do you most want to convey to your fans and followers?
RVD: My main goal with everything I do is to inspire people to get off their couches and enjoy this beautiful world. I know that most people can't hop on a bike and take a few months to ride across the country, but they sure can enjoy their own backyards. Traveling, even in your own state, opens your mind more than anything else. I simply want to see more people out and about, and that can be as simple as going on a hike, or volunteering in an orphanage in a far off country.
HN: What's on the horizon for you, near term, as far as outdoor adventures, TV, or other projects?
RVD: My next exciting video project is a web series that will highlight micro-breweries across the U.S. It will premiere on Travel Channel in late September. As for cycling, I've always wanted to tour in Europe, and I've been drafting a route from southern Italy all the way to the tippy-top of Sweden. I'd obviously do this in summer and take advantage of the midnight sun. I also REALLY want to do the Great Divide trail. I like the idea of riding 2,700 off-road miles through pristine wilderness.
HN: What does your dream community of 2025 look like, and what role does cycling play in it?
RVD: Great question! The answer is bikes, bikes, bikes! I was lucky enough to live in Sweden as an exchange student and witnessed how cycling is so integral to everyone's lives there. The communities are built around bike paths, small shops on every corner, and safe roads. This experience 16 years ago has forever shaped my view on community. The U.S. is built on the highway system and caters to big gas- guzzling cars. This is slowly changing, as people are becoming more conscious, but we really need to incorporate more forms of alternative transportation - not only for environmental reasons, but because they build community as well.
My dream community has more bikes than cars, much smaller and more efficient homes, pocket parks where neighbors get to know one another, no fences (unless for dogs), small grocery stores scattered around so people don't have to drive long distances, farmer's markets selling local food, and a few crazy things . . . like zip lines, slides down main street, ball pits (like Chuck-E-Cheese), and designated areas for town festivals and concerts. HN