From flat tracks to Superbikes and Supermoto machines, Ben Bostrom’s championship success on heavily horse-powered motorcycles is undeniable. But as the Southern California resident says, he loves anything with two wheels — including bicycles.
So it’s no wonder that Bostrom has taken to self-propelled machines as he did to motorized ones. Shortly after getting hooked on mountain biking, Bostrom found himself last year racing La Ruta de los Conquistadores in support of ShoAir-Specialized teammate Manny Prado. Bostrom did his job, as Prado won the grueling four-day stage race. At the same time, however, Bostrom finished fifth ahead of some notable mountain biking names.
When we at Singletrack.com saw that Bostrom was signed up to race the Singlespeed World Championships — an event known for its sheer brutishness (take a look at the guys in dresses — ugh!) — we tried to track him down to see what was up. No luck then, but we finally did catch up with Bostrom to ask a few questions.
Singletrack.com: Ben, you got bit by the mountain biking bug relatively late. How long have you been riding seriously?
Ben Bostrom: I’m 36 and been at mountain bike racing for two years now. Just wintertime play. Been fortunate enough to hook up with ShoAir and Specialized — two awesome companies that keep me well supplied with pedal weapons and make it fun. Then back to my real job on motorcycles from March to September. I love all forms or two wheels.
Singletrack.com: You started out riding 24-Hours of Moab, then cyclocross, you hooked-up with Sho-Air and raced some big events like La Ruta — and then last weekend you took third place at the Singlespeed World Championships. You ramped up real quick as far as cycling: How much of that was influenced by your background in motorcycle racing and knack for competing at high levels?
BB: Moab was my start. Rode that race solo because we had one too many, so I took the bullet and went 24-hours solo with one bike and one set of lights. Disaster really, but we finished fourth despite all the problems at night. Been hooked every since. Tried cyclocross and found that to be a gas as well. Now I got to get my butt to Oregon for the nationals. I haven’t done Sea Otter because it’s during my season, but that and Leadville are on my checklist.
La Ruta was another last-minute decision. I was asked to go help Manuel Prado win and thought it sounded too good to pass up. Had a blast down there riding and finished well (Fifth place). I love the endurance events!
The Singlespeed World Championships was an idea formed by my brother, Eric, and figured a New Zealand trip with friends would be awesome until we both got hurt. Eric almost died from a leg injury and I busted my ribs two months before, so we canned the trip, but my teammate talked me into it last minute. Beer and bikes was an easy sell.
Singletrack.com: With motorcycles we’re talking horsepower; with most mountain biking we’re talking lots of gearing options and suspension. Riding a singlespeed is about as a minimal two-wheeled machine as you can self-propel. What is it about 1x that you like?
BB: I really enjoyed the fact that upper body strength played a big role in climbing on the singlespeed. The super bike builds strong muscles and that came in handy. Plus, the singlespeed crowd is some cool cats.
Singletrack.com: As you were doing laps in the middle of the night out Behind the Rocks in Moab in that first 24-hour race, could you have imagined yourself slogging through Costa Rica in one of the toughest mountain bike events around, or traveling halfway across the world to New Zealand to race a bike with one gear? Did you even know of those races then?
BB: I was usually going around Prostitute’s Butte in the pitch dark. My only set of lights did not last too long and I was cold and half-scared. The temperature that year was in the 20s. I had no idea that other great events existed until I got home on the computer and started lining up events like a kid with new toy.
Singletrack.com: You raced La Ruta last year. Are you in this year? Knowing what you know now, how will you approach it differently? Or do you think the first-time, ignorance-is-bliss approach was the best?
BB: I am probably skipping La Ruta this year because it requires a lot of help. Last time I learned a lot and realized this is a great event for me. Long and tough! I love it! I got left the first day when my rear tire exploded and rode that flat tire 50 miles — character building to say the least. Hardest day ever on a bike! Thats when I found out how important good help is. I was itching to win stage 3 — nasty climb and down hill, but Prado was having a bad day, so I stayed with him to help. I was there to help him win. He had been trying for several years and it was nice to help and see that happen. If I go back, it will be for myself though. I love the feeling of the fight for first. Live for it really.
Singletrack.com: I’ve seen some Indy Car and F1 drivers say they use cycling for conditioning. How does riding and training for mountain bike races translate to your motorcycle career at this point?
BB: Motorcycles are 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical, but that 10 percent usually determines the winner. The bike also gives you time to clear your head. Just spin your sticks and let the mind go or race your friends up a hill and enjoy the pain. Either way is brilliant.
Singletrack.com: You travel a bit for motorcycle racing, do you take a bike with you?
BB: Almost never get a chance to ride the bicycle when you’re on the road. Just read and hang at the airport it seems. Hoping to change that this year.
Singletrack.com: Where are your favorite places to mountain bike, either around your home or places you’ve discovered in your travels.
BB: Home in Malibu, California is quite good. We have the Backbone Trail. Seventy-five miles one way with 15,000 feet of climbing. You can hurt yourself here. I really enjoy Colorado and areas around St. George, Utah. So much to see. I am only two years into it; lots of ground to cover. Rotorua, New Zealand was amazing!
Singletrack.com: What bicycles are in your garage?
BB: All of ‘em! Well, a lot. Specialized. Three roadies, a tandem, dog hauler, CX bike, 26 Stumpy, 29 Epic carbon and aluminum, 26 and 29 hardtails and now a singlespeed. My girl Nik has a couple roadies. I have several vintage Evel Knievel bikes. It’s ridiculous. I love bicycles and ride all of them.
Singletrack.com: What motorcycles are in your garage?
BB: Jesse Rooke HD, 1963 vespa w/sidecar, 1974 ducati scrambler, Super Moto and moto bikes. Too many little bikes to list. Again, ridiculous. Did I mention I love two wheels?
Singletrack.com: Who handled the Kiwi beer best: You, Ross Schnell, Travis Brown, JHK or Heather?
BB: I would say Ross. He was one up on us when we missed the beer cut, but I believe we made a late come-back!