Pacific Northwest born, 32-year-old mountain biker, skier, geographer, renewable energy project developer, connoisseur of obscure outdoor adventures, husband, and coach.
Where are you from and where do you live?
I grew up in Trout Lake, Washington (small town near Mt. Adams, graduated with 12 kids in my class). I now live in Bellingham, Washington.
Who do you ride for?
Going into my seventh year with Kona Bikes, which for 2017 will be known as the Kona Adventure Team. We work with many great team sponsors: Shimano, WTB, MRP, Fox, ClifBar, FSA, Giro, and Jakroo, along with some new additions including Jetboil stoves, Mountain House, Mission Workshop, Klymit, and Eureka! tents (we’re working with some new non-bike companies as we venture more off the beaten path). My personal sponsors include ClifBar, Stages Cycling, and Superfeet.
Where are you happiest?
At the bottom of a trail after an amazing ride, the finish line of a race after a good result or, mostly, just in the mountains with friends who share the same passion for being out there.
What’s been your favorite contest venue?
Hard to pick favorites – I always feel like I need to categorize things because so many events I’ve done are incomparable. Old school XC, World Cup XC, cyclocross, enduro, road, etc. MTB stage races are up there because they really plunge you into a place. I love the BC Bike Race because it’s my white whale - I’ve finished bridesmaid four years in a row! The Pioneer Stage Race in New Zealand this year was an unforgettable journey across the Southern Alps. I love the nerves at the top of Whistler at Crankworx, the refreshing irreverence of local cyclocross venues, and yes, I’m still a sucker for a good old spandex-clad XC race. If I could name a top-3 contest list of race venues they would be: Mt. Hood Ski Bowl in Oregon (where I grew up racing), Mt. St. Anne, CAN (my first elite world champs), and World Championships in Nove Mesto, CZE (the most epic crowd).
Where are your favorite trails?
I’ve been fortunate enough to ride on six continents, yet I love it most here in Bellingham – the trails here are one of the main reasons why my wife and I moved here back in 2013. But if that’s too biased, then let’s say anywhere in the Cascadia Zone, from the Sunshine Coast to the Kootenays to the South Cascades.
What are your strengths?
Long technical singletrack that goes down and up and down and up, reading minds and the fine print, Excel, my friends & family, patience, sense of purpose and achievement I get from pursuing a craft.
What are your weaknesses?
Fresh homemade bread.
What’s been your worst crash over the years?
A series of extremely foggy and inglorious events the evening after SSCXWC 2015.
What bikes are you riding right now?
This time of year I spend a lot of time on a Process 153 and Honzo Carbon, but have also been racing cyclocross on a Private Jake. I spent most of the 2016 season aboard my Hei Hei Race, which I got to play a role in developing.
What's been your luckiest escape?
Making it out in one piece after filming for four days with Aggy and Connor at Retallack. On a more earnest note, I think of my greatest “escape” as more of a “fortunate series of events” involving a cycling career amidst a full-time career in renewable energy, and eventually the opportunity to be a full time cyclist for the last two years (which I refer to as more of a “promotion”). The entire process since beginning a job in Seattle in 2008, signing with Kona in 2011, and leaving that job in 2014, has been a serendipitous series of circumstances and decisions, fueled by great support and my eccentric approach to seeing how well I can blend the things I love to do with the things that allow me to make ends meet.
I’m fickle; if we’re out sharing a good ride together and really into it, then you are my favorite rider! Seriously though, it would be hard to justify any single favorite. I’ve had enough deep experience in so many disciplines in the sport, whether it’s XC, trail riding, cyclocross, downhill, road, or ultra-endurance, there are so many inspiring individuals – that’s another reason why I love this sport.
Who or what inspires you?
People who do what they do really well because they love it. More specifically, people who learn, teach, invent, build and fix things that make life better for themselves and others, who pull it off while having time for their friends and family and are still fast af on the bike.
What do you enjoy doing away from bikes?
Love me some backcountry skiing, enjoy writing, playing piano, and have been into Wim Hof.
What are you listening to right now?
The sound of the dishwasher running. Hmm, last five songs on the shuffled queue: Damien Jurado, Whitney, Schoolboy Q, Boards of Canada, Eric Clapton.
What’s your favorite movie/TV show?
I remember liking The Right Stuff when I was a kid. Haven’t ever owned a TV, so not much to say there…
What’s your favorite non-bike website?
To me, a site like www.stephabegg.com is super cool. It’s a combination of inspiring adventure log, creative analysis, and photography, all blending professional and recreational life together purely for the love of it. I also enjoy Mr. Money Mustache for financial and lifestyle inspiration.
What’s your favourite motto or saying?
“Live your life by design, not default” – something I remember from a TED Talk that stuck with me.
What grinds your gears?
Gravel. I’m a pretty chill guy because I get to ride my bike so often - keeps the gears running smoothly through thick and thin.
What makes you happy?
My friends & family, a well-tuned bike, loud-ass music, coffee before everyone else wakes up, meeting new people on trips and getting to ride the trails they are stoked on, poring over a map to chart out a new route or trail I’ve never ridden before and then recruiting a friend for the adventure and making it happen.
If you weren’t a pro mountain biker, what would you be doing?
I’d probably be doing a combination of what I’ve done over the last several years, just with fewer bikes in the garage and fewer stamps in the passport. In all honesty, I considered myself an “elite amateur” rider until the end of 2014 because cycling wasn’t how I paid the majority of the bills. I’d be living in an “outdoor town”, ideally working remotely for a company or managing my own business, getting out in the woods and mountains as much as possible.
If you were in charge of the sport, what changes would you make?
If I were in charge I’d get lots of people to help me first. With regards to racing and organization, I would upgrade the approach of the national governing body (in the US, at least) so that its agenda would prioritize the grassroots, “common-rider” programs first, which in turn would make the governing body relevant to more riders in all spectrums of the sport. This would hopefully provide resources that could be used more strategically for the small percentage of riders with an elite trajectory, which would all be a sideshow (albeit a very inspiring one!) to the valuable opportunities available for the majority. I would also make sure that programs would not be exclusive to racing, but that they would be coordinated with equal importance alongside education and resource stewardship programs.
When you hang up your riding shoes, how do you want to be remembered?
I don’t plan on hanging up the racing or riding shoes, ever! I plan on eventually being the gristly old guy on dated equipment who can still keep the young guns honest. I also don’t anticipate being remembered by more than my close family and friends, but if I am somehow remembered as an athlete I’d like it to be consistent with what I value as a person. I’d feel good about being remembered in a way that inspires others to go after the things they care about in an earnest, give-it-their-all, for-the-love-of-it approach.
What does the future hold for Spencer Paxson?
For near term, I’m preparing for a rad 2017 season with Kona Bikes. We’re prepping for a schedule of high-profile North American marathon XC, stage races, enduros, and applying our spandex-endurance acumen to the “adventuring” realm…big backcountry missions – things like back-road curly bar traverses, circumnavigations and speed-record attempts. I’m also launching a new coaching service, which I’m excited to build out in the coming years, in addition to getting my foot back in the door of the energy industry as a consultant. On the home front in Bellingham, there is an exciting amount of trail development in the chutes, and the prospects are tremendous. I’m excited to be involved as a member of the local riding community, and some coaching, guiding and digging. Life in Bellingham is the future and it’s looking good!