Photo Courtesy of Chris Stindt
It’s hard for Christopher Stindt to believe that there was a time when he was not a fan of being on a bike. In fact, the 35-year-old who has completed the grueling one-day, 240-mile Day Across Minnesota endurance challenge (not once, but twice) says he spent more time couch surfing than cycling growing up. Sure, he’d go for fun rides around his 300-person hometown of Fairwater, WI. “But there was a pretty good gap in my adult life where I did not ride a bike for about 10 years,” Stindt says.
Times have certainly changed. From winning local races (he has the wooden ax from the Lucifer 99 to prove it), to time spent cruising around La Crosse, WI, where he currently lives with his wife and their 10-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter, Stindt has developed a genuine love for the sport. All you need to do is check out his Twitter bio to understand exactly how much cycling is a part of his life. It reads: “Bikes and e-bikes, cargo bikes, commuter bikes, road rides, and hitting the trails and going out with my wife and kids and friends and… bikes.”
One of the biggest reasons that Stindt fell back in love with cycling: the community of riders he gained. “When we moved to La Crosse, I was not very connected, and did not know many people,” he says. “I had heard about this early morning group ride, and so I emailed one of the guys. He sent me a super nice, welcoming note explaining what the route was, and how the ride worked, and where to meet. ” Stindt went — and it changed his life. “Joining that crew and getting connected with those folks on that ride — which is held together by a Google sheet and tradition — I just absolutely fell for it,” he says.
Within this community, Stindt has found community, one where he routinely gets up on Friday mornings at 5:30 AM for an hour-long road ride followed by fellowship and coffee; one where he and his family ride with their friends; and one that provided him with much-needed comfort when his father became ill (and ultimately passed right before the start of the pandemic).
“It does not matter if someone’s the head of surgery at the hospital or if they’re a landscaper — you all go out there together and have this great shared experience,” says Stindt. “And because you’re all doing something that you enjoy, you end up spending a lot of time together. There’s no other group that I think I’ve ever spent this much time with voluntarily. ”
The shared passion of the cycling community is what keeps Stindt completely engaged. “You know, there’s other things you could do, but when you’re three hours deep into a ride in the middle of nowhere and you get a flat tire, or someone bonks and does not have anything to eat, you’re there for each other, and when you do that, you build this bond, ”he says.
This close-knit group also opened up job opportunities for Stindt. Through a cycling connection, he became coach of the newly formed mountain biking team at the local high school. He also accepted a job as programming director at the Outdoor Recreation Alliance (Ora Trials,) a non-profit established to create, enhance, and protect trails within Wisconsin’s Driftless region. He’s also in the process of putting together a road cycling race and two-day mountain biking race.
To pay it forward, Stindt is using these opportunities to foster the type of community that he has now but wishes he had found earlier. For him, the chance to get people on bikes and to let them experience the sport he loves is at the heart of what he does. He’s currently working to put together a women’s social ride for female mountain bikers in the area.
“Riding a bike is whatever it means to you,” says Stindt. “If that means sporting cut-off jean shorts, doing tricks on the bike, awesome — fantastic! If that’s riding a mountain bike on the road, great, whatever — it just does not matter to me. But give yourself the space and time to find your cycling community — because when you do, you’ll understand how life-changing it can be. ”
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