Few people have the history with, insight of and influence on cycling culture as Rebecca Rusch, her palmares are legendary and as a rider, she’s found herself at the intersection of every major movement of the sport for the last fifteen years. This year, she rejoins Velocio in a full time ambassador role. Learn about her background, her signature event Rebecca’s Private Idaho and what to expect in the coming year.
Name: Rebecca Rusch (@rebeccarusch)
Current Locale: Ketchum, Idaho
Hometown: Downers Grove, Illinois
Rebecca, you've carved out a unique space in the bike world. For someone just learning about you today, what (from your extensive resume) would you tell them to explain what you're doing and how you came to do it?
I am a lifelong endurance athlete. I’m a 7 x world champion in various sports and recently inducted into the International Mountain Bike Hall of fame.
I’ve taken part at the elite level in rock climbing, running, whitewater paddling, adventure racing and for the past 15 years, cycling. I have “firsts” to my name, have competed and explored around the world and a pile of trophies fill a closet in my house.
In cycling I’ve competed in 24 hour solo racing, 100 milers like Leadville, multi-day stage races and ultra endurance bike expeditions like the Ho Chi Minh trail and Iditarod Trail. The common thread through my decades long career in sport is that I’m an adventurer and explorer with a curiosity to see what’s over the next hill and to find out what lies inside of me.
You're an icon in the culture of riding and you have a committed following. How does the bike community inform your life and what are your goals for contributing to it in the future?
The bike community has become my tribe and provided more gifts in my life than I can list here. Through the bike, I’ve found the tool to fuel my curiosity, my wanderlust, my motivation, to form human connections and build a meaningful career. The bike is an iconic tool for exploration that is understood and embraced world wide. I found my husband through the bike, my family, myself and my purpose.
One of the biggest gifts of my athletic career is that what began as my personal passion to explore has blossomed into a platform to be able to help other people get outside and use the bike and nature as a catalyst for healing, empowerment and evolution.
My goals for contributing to the bike community in the future is to continue to get more people on bikes. I’ll do this through my events, by sharing my cycling expeditions, through the Be Good Foundation and by being a voice in the industry for growth and evolution.
The reason I will continue to give back to the bike community is because I’m grateful for the gifts that cycling has given me and I feel a strong responsibility to pass those gifts on.
Gravel is everywhere and everything in 2020. Rebecca's Private Idaho was an early event in this space. How has it set the tone for other events and what can folks expect if they're just doing it for the first time?
Each time I’ve pivoted in cycling, I’ve done so because of my own personal passion to explore, not because I was following a trend. This happened with 24 hour racing, stage racing, gravel exploration and now bike packing.
I launched Rebecca’s Private Idaho, an endurance gravel road event, in 2012 for two reasons: to show people the magical, remote terrain in my home state of Idaho and to support my local community and the cycling community. I was already riding and exploring around my home area, seeing places for the first time that were right outside my door. It was so obvious that other riders would love being there too and that I had the opportunity to show it to them.
The event is meant to be a gift to the individual rider and to the cycling community as a whole. I did not launch the ride to make money, get exposure or follow a trend. In fact RPI has always been a fundraising ride that contributes to local, national and global cycling charities.
8 years later with the explosion of gravel events and participants, my mission with Private Idaho has not changed. The event is there to celebrate remote places, getting off the beaten path, pushing your personal limits, connecting with your tribe and giving back to the cycling community. The course and the type of riding mimic what appeals to me and obviously to lots of other people. Is it a race or a ride? It is whatever you want it to be. I provide a platform, a place and the people to push yourself, connect and celebrate being outside. First time guests (pro to beginner) can find any distance to push themselves, a multi-day festival in the most beautiful place on earth, laid back friendly people and you probably won’t want to go home. Riders should expect to be challenged (after all, they do call me the Queen of Pain), you can expect to have your breath taken away by the beauty and then you can expect a hug from me at the end. My goal is that everyone who comes to my hometown feels like a local and leaves appreciating nature, impressed with their own strength and like they belong to the cycling community.
Ostensibly you could partner with any apparel brand. Why Velocio? What makes it a good pairing for you?
In 2014, I undertook the biggest ride and expedition of my life, riding the entire length of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, Velocio supported me with Signature Jerseys and Signature Bib Shorts. I was on this 1200 mile jungle expedition for a month with only two jerseys and two pair of shorts. This was my first exposure and test ride and I was sold. The performance, durability, function, fit blew me away. In 1200 miles, I didn’t get one saddle sore or pinch or pull from my apparel. This is one pretty impressive test ride. 5 years later, I’m so lucky to join the Velocio roster full time.
Not only is Velocio founded on solid principles and by people that I admire and respect, they are never satisfied to rest on their laurels continually push and evolve. I’ve also built my career on core principles that I have stood by for decades, but continue to evolve, grow and change. Joining with Velocio feels like the absolute perfect fit for all of those reasons.
What's in store for 2020? Where can folks expect to see you and what is on your plate?
2020 will be filled with a more dedicated return to bike expeditions, bike packing and ultra endurance rides like the Iditarod Trail and other iconic trails in the world. I’ll do my best to document and share these stories from the trails. I’ll continue to build the Be Good Foundation that hosts rides and projects using the bike as a catalyst for healing, empowerment and evolution. Private Idaho will celebrate year #8 and Rusch Academy training camps are also on the agenda.
I’ll also connect with community with events like Sea Otter, speaking engagements, Blood Road film screenings, book events and industry gatherings.
My riding, events and expeditions will be focused around off-road (mountain bike and gravel) and I’m super excited for some of the new expedition projects I’m working on. I hope you’ll join me out on the trail somewhere.