The East Coast, from the Seat of a Bike
This summer, Speed and a few friends loaded their road bikes onto Speed’s kitted-out Volkswagen Atlas, complete with a VW Accessories bike rack, and plotted out a different kind of a race: 7 days, almost 200 scenic biking miles on the East Coast (including 70 on the Wachusett Fondo), and then 900 miles of driving for Speed to return home. It was a beautiful setting and the perfect vehicle for the journey.The trip centered around the Fondo event, created by cyclocross champion and Speed’s friend and cycling mentor, Tim Johnson, for the benefit of a variety of non-profit charities. On that part of the ride, bicyclists tackled nearly 5,000 feet of climbing, including five sections of gravel, as they traversed the less-traveled North Road up Wachusett Mountain.
Other bicycling miles took Speed and friends to scenic points from Virginia to Maine, from stadiums to secluded wilderness areas. The unpredictable weather ended up as the deciding factor as to where the group traveled and added to the adventure.
Scott Speed’s East Coast Biking Journal
Day 1: Fort Lewis Mountain — Outside Roanoke, VA
28.94 biked miles
When driving from Charlotte, North Carolina to Washington, D.C., you’re going to hit traffic. Why not ride while it dies down? Pulled off the freeway and there was a bike shop that we were able to park at. Ended up in a valley with a great road, not a lot of traffic, and beautiful scenery. Stopped on a whim, and it ended up being a great ride to kick off the journey.
Fun Fact: Part of the Appalachians, Fort Lewis Mountain was named after a 19th-century fort and rises to a peak of 3,260 feet. Speed climbed more than 1,500 feet on this nearly 30-mile segment.
Day 2: Lady Bird Park to RFK Stadium — Washington, D.C.
21.2 biked miles
Met up with Jon Rourke at a local coffee shop in Arlington, Virginia; he is the team manager for the Trek Factory Race Program. (“I like biking, he likes rallycross.”) He showed us around D.C., I got to do my first urban cycling [riding on D.C. streets], and then we stopped at Summit Point Karting at RFK stadium for a little on-track competition. I beat everyone.
Fun Fact: The ride around Boothbay taxed the bicyclists’ legs, with lots of ups and downs on a route that hugged the area’s waterfront. A break was much needed and the guys traded in two wheels for four.
Day 3: Heath, MA with Troy Fenderson
17.22 biked miles
Had to avoid a massive weather system, so we headed east to Heath, Massachusetts, a mecca for riding hills. The cycling was terrific — one of the most beautiful areas of the country. Slept in a hand-built cabin with no electricity and no water. Slept there in a sleeping bag on a small foam mattress. Was almost meditative; had a profound impact on me.
Day 4: Portsmouth, NH
24.35 biked miles
We drove to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and rode around there; an epic ride. A place on the coast where both my traveling buddies had lived within a mile of each other, but never knew each other. In the past, both have wanted me to check out the area and how great it is in New Hampshire; we finally had the chance to check it out. An epic ride along the coastline that was not to be missed.
Day 5: Boothbay, ME
19.64 biked miles
Rode in Boothbay, Maine with Ted King, who raced in the Tour de France. He now has a podcast, which he had me on. My first podcast ever. To be able to ride with a cyclist at the top of his game is truly inspiring and gave me the motivation to hone my own skill as a cyclist. I do not know if I will ever get to his level, but it’s incredible to see what can be achieved at the top of the sport.
Day 6: Acadia National Park
27.72 biked miles
Acadia National Park in Maine is the most beautiful place in the world. The most beautiful bike ride I’ve ever done in my life. It had everything: 5 miles of dual-lane carriageway, a whole lane to yourself as a bike rider, unbelievably pristine coast. Big rocks and cliffs. We lucked out with the weather, blue skies and gorgeous. Rode there for the day.
Fun Fact: While on the Acadia National Park segment of his ride, Speed likely saw the peak of Cadillac Mountain; it’s the highest point on the East Coast.
Day 7: Gran Fondo in Fitchburg, MA
70 biked miles
Rode and afterward drove home to Mooresville, North Carolina, the longest stretch of the trip. Overall it was great — rode with some fantastic cyclists; great VW for the journey. The Atlas was perfect, and after I rode Sunday, it was a great way to spend the next 900 miles going home from Fitchburg, Massachusetts, to North Carolina.
Fun Fact: Speed nearly tripled the original distance — the 70 miles of the Wachusett Fondo — logging about 200 miles on his bike with a changing group of friends and cyclists.
There’s a natural connection, of course, between race cars and bikes — the pursuit of speed and endurance is part of the lure for a professional driver such as Speed and for any dedicated bicyclist. Speed started to develop a two-wheeled passion when he was living in Italy, racing F1, because everyone else around him was doing it. The cycling culture in Europe is akin to that of baseball or football in the U.S. It’s a recognized sport with massive participation, both on amateur and professional platforms.
Challenges On and Off the Track
During his summer East Coast adventure, Speed had time to reflect on his racing journey and his time on a bicycle. Through the years, he has learned that managing a personal physical challenge — he has ulcerative colitis, a chronic bowel disease — means he must stay in tune with how he feels, what he eats, and his daily physical demands. Speed’s pursuit of health and his pursuit of speed go hand in hand. “I don’t see my body that much differently than a race car,” he says. “The inputs are just different. My food is my fuel, and learning about how to perform well physically is a lot of fun.”
Speed attacks everything he does with 100 percent effort but has to be careful about any stress his body may take during training. He’s continued to adjust his routine to maintain his health, seeking the advice of friends and experts to tweak his diet. For example, Johnson suggested he add simpler foods — oatmeal, rice, potatoes — and it’s a change that seems to work for him.
His physical condition hasn’t stopped him from staying on top in the racing world. Speed racked up national attention as a five-time karting champion while in his teens. He is currently the points leader in the American Rallycross championship, earning his most recent win in an Oberto Circle K Beetle Rallycross.
Always Ready to Ride
Speed’s confidence and experience racing cars at speeds upward of 200 mph still doesn’t adequately prepare him for the trials he finds while straddling 15 pounds of carbon fiber on a bike, shredding roads on two wheels pumped up to 100 psi. But he loves a challenge, including managing micro inputs (tiny adjustments in bike weight, for example) — very much on the mind of any serious cyclist.
While Speed isn’t ready to turn in his racing suit for a cycling kit full time, he still logs an average of 250 bicycle miles a week, and his bike has become something more than a mode of transportation. “My passion for cycling comes from physically being able to do it,” Speed says of the activity that helps him stay fit, enjoy the outdoors, and cultivate lasting relationships with fellow cyclists. “It’s a great community . . . full of great people to be around.”