What makes a man want to get up at 4 a.m. to ride his road bike in the cold and dark?
“Truthfully, it’s really the only time of day when no one wants my time,” said Brevard’s Christian McLauchlin, a graphic designer and owner of Loop Creative. “I have an 8-year-old and an 11-year-old son, I am married, we have a 9-week-old puppy and I have a full time job, and it’s the only time when people aren’t calling me on the phone. So, I ride.”
His favorite part of the early morning is the silence and the wildlife. He’s accustomed to getting up early in order to make a 5:30 a.m. spin class at a local gym, which, he says, will fill up if you aren’t there and ready to ride
Christian initially became an avid cyclist for health reasons. His doctor recommended he start taking medication for high blood pressure, and he said that wasn’t going to happen. His only option was to lose weight and get some cardio. Christian has lost 35 pounds and now he’s down to about 170, and he puts in 100 miles a week on the bike.
“Now I go to the doctor and they’re like, ‘What do you do, ride bikes or something?’ And, when you’re riding that much, you can pretty much eat whatever you want,” he said.
Preparing for these early morning winter rides has presented some unexpected challenges. With the wind chill, for example, sometimes his water bottles freeze.
Layering for weather that cold is kind of ridiculous, he said. He wears regular socks, neoprene socks and regular shoes, two pairs of wind proof booties, a neck gator, insulated bibs, a skull cap, an under layer, a jersey, arm warmers, a warm jacket, a windproof jacket and a vest. That’s more gear than some people own at all, let along wear at once.
“You can’t even feel the wind. I could probably wreck and be alright too,” he said, laughing. “It’s a lot of stuff to get ready for these rides. When you can actually sweat when it’s that cold, it’s pretty impressive.”
Christian’s favorite riding buddy is Matt Champion, a local resident about 18 years his junior. Champion works forthe city of Hendersonville and commutes most days on his road bike, unless it’s just outright raining.
“I just try and keep up with him when we get out,” said Christian. “Within the last few years I have been riding and racing more. This year, I hope to do 10 events, and I want to focus on gravel road events.”
Christian also enjoys riding with his wife, Maggie, and sons, Noah and Luke, usually in DuPont, and sometimes at the Biltmore Estate grounds in Asheville. By the time his sons were six, both Noah and Luke could ride 5 or 6 miles with him on Airstrip Trail.
Christian’s favorite area to ride in Transylvania is Macedonia Church Road off N.C. 215, where the cars are few and the views are stellar, followed closely by Glady Fork Road up to Sassafras, the tallest peak in South Carolina, just over the state line in the southwest corner of the county.
This year, he said he didn’t touch his mountain bike from December to March, which was true for a lot of Brevard folks. When the trails are muddy and in the freeze-thaw cycle, many people stay off them, and this winter was rough for North Carolina. His favorite bike is a Specialized Crux for most riding, where a cross bike is good for connecting the endless miles of gravel and paved roads in Transylvania County. But, for pure speed, he rides a Specialized Tarmac.
As the owner of Loop Creative, Christian does a wide variety of work, including logos, signs and websites. He’s been able to incorporate his love of cycling in some of his designs, which you might see around town. He’s designed jerseys for Sycamore Cycles, recreation-themed billboards for Brevard Insurance Agency, and Crank Coffee’s distinctive cycling-themed logo.