As part of a series highlighting riders that biked an incredible amount of miles during Team Bike Challenge and National Bike Month, we are publishing a series of questions from top riders throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Jeff Knowles of Vacaville made Team Bike Challenge a family affair by biking with his son, Michael, and daughter, Amanda, as part of the Vaca 5 team. With the Knowles family more than half of the team; Vaca 5 took first place in Solano County's TBC with 291 points and 1,952.3 miles. They almost doubled the mileage of their closest competitor.
Knowles personally put in 665.7 miles during the Challenge, burning 28,626 calories, and racking up an impressive 81 individual points in Team Bike Challenge.
Is this the first time you've participated in the Challenge, or something similar? (Please elaborate.)
Before last year, I had ridden to work only once. But as City Traffic Engineer I decided to participate in the Bike Team Challenge and formed Vaca 5 when I found that the City and School District had no team for me to join and contribute point to. Our team formed during the first week of the competition and we ended up Solano County’s overall point leader (not most miles, but most points), and I ended up being the County’s leading individual point scorer. I had second thoughts about competing again, but my two kids (9 year old Michael and 11 year old Amanda) and my co-worker Marc, who formed the core of our team last year were anxious to compete again with or without me, so I joined in again expecting even more competition than last year from the riders in Team Budweiser. But it seems like our strategy to have a very strong first week worked as planned and all of our competition faded away.
What type of bike do you ride?
A Bottecchia I bought on EBay last year after my bike from last year’s competition was stolen (later recovered by PD). Nothing too fancy, but a nice bike for under $600.
Did you bike every day?
My teammate Marc York led our team in miles and points most of the month and he was working so hard, and had contributed so much more to the team than I excepted last year and this year that I told him I would let him win on points if he kept up the hard work. So I intentionally skipped riding that day we drove to Nevada for the Annular Eclipse and had one other 2 point day so I would not be able to compete against Marc for miles if we were tied for points at the end of the year. (I know how competitive I can become.) I let him know the win was his for the taking and I skipped another day when I had all-day meetings in Sacramento. But then Marc missed a few days and I felt that although I had set him up to win, I was not going to just give it away, and so I started riding extra miles in case we did end up in a tie for points. What was the question again… yes, I skipped two days but would not have, and neither would my kids if there had been bonus points for riding every day as there were last year. This year all of Vaca 5 rode on day 1 because we were all set to earn every bonus point available, and were disappointed to learn that all bonus points had been eliminated from the competition.
Do you have a fitness/cycling motto?
My motto transitioned over time along these lines, “Man my butt hurts, was it this bad last year, another flat, I hate this, I can’t let my team down, (to my kids: If you can think of a way to win a bike competition sitting on the couch, please let me know, but until then, we need to do another 10-mile ride), I can put up with anything for a month, we’ve come too far to quit now, I’ll double my miles and if he lets up just a little I’ve got him beat, good-luck Marc, I won’t know who won until midnight.
It should be noted that at the beginning of the 4th week my daughter and I decided we would not compete in 2013. My mottos can definitely be firmly in place, but with a predetermined expiration date.
What do you attribute your success in the Challenge to?
Not getting hit by a car? My competitive nature, my refusal to grow old (I may be fat and 53, but not OLD), and my desire to show my kids how to compete with good sportsmanship to the end. They’d ask why I still wanted to ride when we had twice the points of the 2nd place team and no one could catch us, and I’d tell them we should finish with style.
Plus it was our last year competing, so what the heck!!!
How did you keep up your motivation this month?
First Day, flat tire coming home from work with no spare. Just got walked into bike shop before closing. It was a sign to quit right then. Walked a bit that week during rides because my seat hurt so bad. Hadn’t been on a bike in 10 months and started the competition riding more than 20 miles a day. Rode to school with kids each day and then on to work. Most days rode with kids for their 10+ miles after riding home from work. 9 flat tires on 3 bikes during month, but lots of quality family time riding to parks, movies, McDonalds and the City faire. Kept sending out emails encouraging the rest of the team and leading weekend 20+ mile rides with the three younger cyclists.
No one fully understands their subconscious. Motivation: stupid, stubborn, competitive, something to prove? Great family adventure, learning experience and good exercise? Who knows?
What is the best thing about being #1 in your county?
It’s over!!!!! I would have preferred to see Marc score a perfect 93 for himself and the team. Now that it’s over, do I go for 93 points next year plus every bonus point available? Can I make my kid’s schools more competitive in the Company competitions? I know that was not the question, but when you win and know you could have done better, you wonder who will be the competition next year, and can you do it all again and then some…
Congratulations on racking up the most individual miles in Solano County, as well as winning Team Bike Challenge Jeff! We hope you'll reconsider participating in TBC before 2013 rolls around.