Among Velocio’s earliest high profile ambassadors, Ted King has seen the brand grow and evolve in the same time cycling has undergone a transformation to more things gravel. We chat with the Vermont resident as he readies for the coming season, fatherhood and the next steps in his prolific and multi-faceted career.
Name: Ted King (@iamtedking)
Current Locale: Richmond, VT
Hometown: Brentwood, NH
Talk a bit about your plans for 2020, where things landed for you in 2019 and what you're most looking forward to experiencing.
To mix things up in a big way, Laura and I are as excited as it gets to be parents! With a mid-March due date, the prospect of parenthood takes a top step above any result I’ve had on the bike.
The gravel scene continues to boom. There are some events that have become standards with their ten-plus year history, that I’ll be attending — the Kanzas and Belgian Waffle Rides of the calendar. I’m excited to head overseas again at The Rift in Iceland and defend the number one race plate at SBT in Colorado. Then there are a bunch of new ones like Sugarcane 200 in Florida or Gravel Cup in Canada — new events that have already done some impressive work to put themselves on my radar. Of course Rooted Vermont is a huge focal point of the year, and I’m definitely not competing there. The full schedule can be found here.
Cycling in general and gravel specifically are fluid. 2019 was a really solid year for me personally and definitely represents the year with the most professionalism behind it as a sport. Professional riders with professional coaches doing professional intervals with professional wattage numbers. That’s still strange to me and resembles a previous lifetime. Somehow amid that I ended up winning a couple of great races to close out the year, SBTGRVL and unPAved Pennsylvania. From a results standpoint, I was consistent throughout, often on the podium, which I certainly can’t complain about since 2019 was also the first winter I’ve started from the Vermont tundra. I took the number one ranking of Pure Gravel’s 2019 power rankings so that speaks to a solid year.
Dad watts being a thing, what plans do you have to balance the forthcoming parenthood experience with staying on the scene?
Some of the strongest cyclists I know are spewing out dad watts. Velocio ambassador and a once-upon-a-time collegiate friend/foe of mine, Kevin Bouchard-Hall is an icon of balancing family life with a very full cycling calendar with frequent trips to the winner’s circle. It’s hard to say specifically what will change, but I anticipate things slowing down quite a bit, where I'm crossing a lot fewer items off the daily to-do list. By nature I’m type A. Efficiency puts me at ease. So I know I’ll adopt a lot more patience in tandem with trying to be as methodical as possible… if that’s possible. I also trust I’ll be under slept for most of the foreseeable future.
You're now somewhat of an elder statesman in the gravel scene. What does being first into this pro-tour to gravel life transition mean and what advice do you have for the folks making that jump now?
It’s nothing short of fascinating to see people migrating to gravel. Let’s take a quick step back, 2016 was my first year of post-ProTour cycling and that year was much more about working with sponsors amid product development and hospitality events, leading rides, hosting camps, and so forth. It was relatively infrequently that I had a number on my bike. Then I was asked to do Dirty Kanza on a whim and the rest is history. Now fast forward to the present and gravel definitely isn't the retirement tour. There are riders consciously wrapping up their professional road, mountain, and CX careers to come to gravel. I’m fielding questions by juniors looking to make a career in gravel. It’s wild.
As much as gravel is a genre of cycling, I think it goes hand-in-hand with a lifestyle. Therefore my first bit of advice, which is as requisite as it gets, is to have fun. We’re not meant to take ourselves too seriously riding on dirty, muddy, grassy terrain with bright, tight clothing. Results — win, lose, or draw — should not define success at an event. There’s a finish line and that’s a place to embrace community with the entire event and all the participants. But there’s the entire rest of the day where you’re also meant to be in community with the immediate riders around you. Talk to each other, cheer each other on, egg each other on!
The sport of gravel is scrappy. If people really want to make a future in it, as much as I usually encourage a dive-all-in strategy, there needs to be something else going on. The King of the Ride podcast and video series represent a ton of hard work. Staying on top of social media, you end up being your own travel agent, constantly being on-call. UnTapped represents a huge portion of my time too, so whether it’s college or a job or teaching yourself computer code, I suggest staying active and diversified to people coming to compete in gravel. And to not take anything too seriously, for anyone just coming to dip their toe and experience gravel.
Who are the people on the scene that you draw inspiration from in 2020? Beyond just the broader participants, who as an individual do you see making great moves / evolving the sport?
The term "pro gravel racer” makes me anxious. So I look to a guy like Geoff Kabush and really appreciate what he’s doing. He’s no spring chicken; he’s raced a mountain bike with tremendous success at the highest level for years, so I really appreciate his byline, “Just keep riding until the fun stops!” He’s a ripper, still notches plenty of wins, but seems to ride for all the right reasons.
My wife Laura gives me huge inspiration. She’s incredibly driven and motivated towards anything she puts her mind towards. What she’s done to get Rooted Vermont off the ground with such a successful year one is incredible. She juggles a lot and embraces our crazy jet setting lifestyle gracefully.
I really appreciate people who hustle. Folks who recognize that the job won’t be done until they buckle down and do it. So I look at someone like Rebecca Rusch who has had a prolific career, yet she stays fluid and always moving, on the bike and off. Kristi Mohn juggles three jobs, a really fun family, and was early to help push female participation off-road at these events. Ansel Dickey is my videographer. He was lightning fast on the bike but instead of pursuing a fickle career in professional cycling has started a great media company. His eye for content creation is in a league of its own. All of these people have hustle and drive and an inherent desire to push forward.
You were Velocio's first high level partner / ambassador. How has the brand changed and evolved? What can you talk about, both on the product side, but also on the brand side that's evolved in the years together?
It’s been an honor to be part of Velocio since late 2015. I’ve seen peripherally how much hard work has gone into the development, progression, and success of this company and it’s awesome to be part of it.
The tenants of Velocio have been strong from the beginning. Taking an active role in sustainability with environmentally conscious production, coalescing and broadening community from an ethnic and gender standpoint, and maintaining a clean, simple, highly functional design — these are the foundational points that have been obvious to me from the very get-go. With the company’s growth comes a responsibility and Velocio has only expanded these concepts in my time with the brand.
Ha, life is certainly easier for me now; people are inquiring how I like it, not what is it! With that growth, it’s exciting to see Velocio (and Rosie!) at more and more events. There’s more activation, there’s more drawing together of community which is so core to cycling in general.
As for product, I’ve ridden Velocio in -40 degree James Bay in February and the scorching sun of Kansas in June. There is literally nothing else I could ask for in terms of performance, the design is so well done and has only gotten better, and the Velocio team grows as a family. It’s so cool to be part of this project.