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ROUGH TERRAIN Beck races on a hilly and rocky course on his mountain bike. “I like longer courses because of the terrain and how it’s not just the same thing over and over,” Beck said. “On these courses, it’s about navigating the hills and maintaining a good pace because the course is so long.”
Tour de Beck
December 7, 2023
Curtain call
Curtain call
December 7, 2023

Tour de Beck

Sophomore pursues an unconventional sport, competitive cycling
ROUGH TERRAIN Beck races on a hilly and rocky course on his mountain bike. “I like longer courses because of the terrain and how it’s not just the same thing over and over,” Beck said. “On these courses, it’s about navigating the hills and maintaining a good pace because the course is so long.”
ROUGH TERRAIN Beck races on a hilly and rocky course on his mountain bike. “I like longer courses because of the terrain and how it’s not just the same thing over and over,” Beck said. “On these courses, it’s about navigating the hills and maintaining a good pace because the course is so long.”

In high school, students often find themselves searching for a way to relax or let loose outside of the academic environment. For most kids, this means sports like basketball, soccer, and more, many of which the school offers. However, this is not the case for Henry Beck ‘26, who has chosen a more unconventional sport. As a competitive cyclist, Beck spends his free time traversing rough terrains on his mountain bike or simply biking on roads or indoors.

Many people enjoy biking as a hobby. Riding on trails, roads, or even biking as a mode of transportation can serve many purposes. However, competitive biking is not as common in the local community. Beck has been competitively biking for three years now. He first got involved with biking when his friend, Huck Ellis, invited him to bike at the DTE Mountain Bike Trails in Chelsea. 

“I introduced Henry to biking because I love the culture of the sport,” Ellis said. “I just went to a bike race called Ice Man, where at the finish line there will be thousands of spectators cheering for you when you finish. The energy is amazing, and I love the community and the support of the sport.”

Beck races with the Wheels in Motion racing team and travels all over Michigan to compete in races. There are about 20 high schoolers on the team in total, along with adults of many ages.

“The farthest I drove for a race this year was six hours to the UP, to Marquette, and I biked in the Ore to Shore Mountain Bike Race,” Beck said. “The closest race is in Vet’s Park, but usually the races are at least 45 minutes away.”

The races can vary by distance, surface, and structure. Courses can range from long trails that traverse through rough terrain to short racetracks on gravel. This requires different types of bikes with different features.

“Mountain bikes have wider tires, flat handle bars for more leverage, and you basically ride it on rough surfaces, trails, things like that.” Beck said. “The main difference between those and gravel bikes is that gravel bikes have narrower tires, you use it on dirt roads, regular roads.”

The difference between competitive cycling and other sports is the mental challenge that comes with biking. It requires repetition, perserverance, and stamina.

“If you want to be a good at biking, you have to put in 20 hours a week, and you sometimes get on the bike for, like, five hours at a time.” Beck said.

Beck’s close friend, Ajay Purohit ‘26 says that Beck shows his dedication to the sport and spends a lot of time during the week training and working to get better at cycling.

“He spends a lot of time training,” Purohit said. “When we try and make plans, a lot of times they don’t work out because he says he has practice or he has to train for his races.”

Aside from competitive biking, Beck also bikes in other states while he is visiting on vacation. 

“I biked in Sedona last year, but I’ve yet to travel out of state to bike competitively,” Beck said. “I also biked in California, and that was really fun.”

Among the benefits of the sport, Beck says one of his favorite parts is the social aspect. It allows him to meet and learn from all different types of people.

“I’ve met so many new people from biking,” Beck said. “And it’s cool because people come from all age ranges. Some of the rides we go on, I’ll talk to someone who’s 70 years old, and then I’ll talk to someone who’s, like, ten.”

Beck’s mother, Kara Bloom, also says that the wide variety of ages and backgrounds come with many benefits. 

“The older people are really helpful, they teach him how to ride safely and how to fix their bikes.” Bloom said. “It’s a really close-knit community.”

The sport also comes with its challenges. One of the major obstacles is the fact that competitive biking is self supported. Bikers are essentially biking solo, even if they do race for a team. They travel to races themselves, and the team component only comes in during the race.

“You have to pay for all the equipment and travel,” Beck said. “The team doesn’t pay for it. But you can totally sign up for races and just ride without a team and compete by yourself.”

As a parent, Bloom takes on responsibilities to make sure that the race goes off without a hitch. She has to make sure all the equipment is prepared and ready to race, among other things.

“We have to get him there and make sure that his bike is in working order,” Bloom said, “which is harder than it sounds. Because you’re riding the bike hard, they do break down a lot, so a lot of times we’re rushing to get something fixed.”

After the race starts, Bloom’s next job is to find a spot to watch the race. Depending on the type of race, she’ll either watch as Beck races on a track or wait for him at the finish line of an 80-90 mile race.

“The parents cheer with cowbells, it’s really fun,” Bloom said. “They’ll have food trucks there and music playing, it’s a fun sport to spectate.”

Biking has become an integral part of Beck’s life and allows him to relax outside of his academic life.

“Even though biking can be really tough sometimes, I really enjoy it,” Beck said. “It’s different from other sports I’ve done, but that’s what I like about it.”

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