Although he didn’t originally start the website, Chris Reichel is more or less the president and chief stoke officer at DrunkCyclist.com, which since 2001 has become a trusted Internet source of information about bicycling on dirt and roads, competitive and more leisurely pedaling, smack talking, and partying afterward.
Reichel was a New Yorker (upstate, then the Bronx) until a few years ago, when he decided he couldn’t stand taking public transportation two hours to ride his bike on dirt, so “one day I just freaked out, gave all my stuff away and moved to Arizona with two bikes and $700 in my pocket. The goal was to live in a place where I could ride my bike every day on dirt and still have a career. Phoenix fit the requirements.” Now he’s a high-achieving weekend warrior and starting to write for publications other than DrunkCyclist.com (most recently Mountain Flyer). He’s also Drunk Cyclist’s most prolific contributor, under the name “Dirty Biker.”
We asked him our 10 Questions, which he says took him two cups of coffee and five beers to finish.
1. How do you explain Drunk Cyclist to people who don’t know what it is?
I usually tell people that it is like the Rolling Stone of the bike world. You know, back when Rolling Stone used to be cool and actually report on stuff you cared about. But in reality it’s more like a bunch of people just sitting around in a bar after a big ride talking shit.
We have a decent-sized readership and try to report on the seedy underbelly of the cycling world. The stuff the mainstream cycling media tends to overlook. We have minimal ads and we answer to nobody and that seems to give us an advantage. Our goal is to always be straight shooters with no filter.
Big Jonny started DC.com back in 2001 and built a huge following. Then he got hit by a car and broke his back. He wasn’t riding and focused on recovery so he recruited a bunch of friends to help out with the site. I already had little blog that Jonny dug, so he asked me to be a contributor.
I quickly found my voice and got a reputation as the traveler on the site. Eventually Jonny decided to focus more on going back to school and raising his kids so he handed me the keys to the site a couple years ago. He is still the king and it’s still the empire he built. I just act as the president.
My personal agenda with the site is to be a fun enabler. I am just a normal guy but I just happen to like being outside by myself a lot. I want to tell my stories and have them get people stoked to go outside. I want them to read my post and go “Shit, he did that so I can definitely do this…” The best emails I get are the ones that say “Hey man, read your post last night so this morning I got up an hour earlier and rode my bike.”
2. Why do people call you “Dirty”?
Growing up I used to sit for hours in my buddy’s basement listening to hip hop cassette tapes: Public Enemy, KRS-ONE, Slick Rick, and anything we could get in the early ’90s. Then one day we got a dubbed tape of Enter the Wu-Tang 36: Chambers and it blew our minds. I have always been slightly obsessed with lyrics and for some reason I gravitated to ODB’s style. I must have listened to that tape a thousand times and memorized every lyric to the point I could perfectly recite them all. One day my friend said, “You are like the second ODB but we will have to call you the Old Dirty Biker instead” It got shortened to Dirty Biker (because I was only 16) and eventually to just Dirty. It was the only logical choice for me to use it as my DC alias.
3. You’ve done some pretty out-there things on a bicycle. What’s one of the most interesting?
That is like trying to pick your favorite child; it’s not really a fair question. But I would have to say that the most interesting trip in recent memory was riding a fat bike for five days along the east coast of the Sea of Cortez. Myself and three friends took the bus down to Mexico and rode home to Arizona using as much of the beach and sand roads as we could. Testing the limits of what this new breed of bicycle could do combined with a remote location and harsh weather made it one of the hardest rides I have ever completed. The video is here.
4. Okay, what’s the second most interesting?
The one thing that stands out in my memory has less to do with actual riding but more to do with the experiences you have while on a long ride.
I was on a three-week tour of Basque country when I pulled up to a bar in Bilbao, Spain, for a beer and tried to track down a cheap (free) place to stay for the night. I struck up a conversation with some cute ladies at the bar with my broken Spanish and they invited me to go to a concert with them. Being a sucker for both pretty girls and live music, I just followed right along. When I get to the venue I realize that it is Patti Smith performing. I am a big fan and had never been able to see her perform in New York. But there I was, 6,000 miles from home, in a warehouse in Bilbao with a plastic cup
full of wine in my hand, getting my socks knocked off by the godmother of punk rock.
5. What are you working on over the next 12 months?
This next year is going to be a big one for me. In September I leave for six weeks in Nepal with the sole purpose of riding remote singletrack that has seen little to no bikes ever. I going to try and be as self-supported as possible. All of my time and energy lately has been focused on making this trip a reality.
That being said, I haven’t even left for Nepal yet but I already have some irons in the fire for next summer. But I can’t show all my cards here.
6. You tried to ride your fatbike along the U.S.-Mexico border fence. How did that go?
I went down there to observe and to learn. I have a problem with that big metal fence in the desert and I couldn’t really put into words how I felt. So I decided to go down there and have a look by bicycle. To me, the desert and all of its harsh beauty is the definition of freedom. The open spaces and lack of people call to me. All politics aside, putting a giant fence there just seems wrong. I wrote about it on DrunkCyclist here.
7. Fill in the blanks: Most people think I’m _______ but I’m ________.
Most people think I’m a trust fund kid but I’m really a nerdy scientist who is terrified of adult responsibilities.
8. What’s one event every cyclist should do once in their life?
Ride their bike off of a ramp into a large body of water.
9. The best recovery drink is:
It is known by a few different names but I go with “beermosa”: One part cheap beer mixed with one part orange juice. If it is really hot out, maybe throw a couple ice cubes in there. I prefer Tecate, but if you really want to turn it up a notch try something like an Anderson Valley Summer Solstice or an Oskar Blues Little Yella Pils.
10. What are Americans doing right with cycling, and doing wrong with cycling?
I think we are doing a lot right. We now have bike lanes in all major cities. There are even “bikes may use full lane” sharrows in Los Angeles and Phoenix now-two of the least likely places I would expect to see that.
There is more legal mountain biking across this country than we have ever seen. New trails are popping up all over the country, and they are more sustainable and have more flow then ever before.
Bonus: How do you define adventure?
I have noticed that everything I consider adventure after the fact has originated from three words: “I don’t know.”
What is around that bend? What is down in that canyon? Do we have enough water? Where are we? Do we have enough beer?
If you answer I don’t know to any of these, you are usually in for one hell of an adventure.
Photos by Ryan Thibault (top), Devon Balet (bottom).