Todd Wells, Biker with A Cause

Reinventing the Outdoors contest: Championship racer Todd Wells talks about the Sonoran Desert Mountain Bicyclists.

UPDATED! Launched on Monday April 4, GOOD and the 2011 Ford Explorer will be devoting six weeks to the Reinventing the Outdoors Contest, which showcases amazing organizations like this one that are redefining the way we live, work, and play outside. Check in every day for a new story about the people, celebrities, and programs behind each organization. Help your favorite group win the $50,000 grand prize by voting for them starting Monday, May 16 through Friday, May 20.

Championship bicyclist Todd Wells dominates both mountain biking and cyclocross. He’s won numerous titles and awards all over the world but considers Tucson his second home. He cares passionately about local trails and the work Sonroran Desert Mountain Bicyclists (SDMB) is doing with outdoor conservation.

GOOD: How did you become a championship bicyclist?
TW: I started riding BMX bicycles when I was five years old, then I transitioned to mountain biking in high school. Since then, I’ve gone to both the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. In addition, I’ve won three national cyclocross championships, a mountain bike national championship, a short track national championship, the Pan-American championship, and the ProXCT Series. I live in Durango, Colorado and I spend winters training in Tucson.

G: Why mountain bike?
TW: For me, it’s all about being outside. I’m an active person, and after being cooped up for even a day or two, I go stir-crazy. Mountain biking and being outdoors are things I’m really passionate about, and I’m lucky enough to incorporate the two for a living.

G: What’s your favorite biking trail in Tucson?
TW: Bug Springs off of Mount Lemmon. The trail starts at about 6,000 feet, then drops down to 4,500 feet, so the trail starts in aspen trees with a dirt ground, then you pop out lower on the mountain in a typical desert environment with all kids of cactus. You see coyotes on the trail, and road runners—it’s rich with vegetation and animals.

G: Do you think mountain bikers care about conservation?
TW: Preserving the outdoors is crucial, because without that, there would be no place to bike. We’d be out on the roads, dealing with cars and trucks. Groups like Sonoran Desert Mountain Bikers (SDMB) help create and maintain trails for mountain bikers. They give me a place to go to work every day and other people a chance to get out of the city and get a different perspective of the area—even if they’ve lived here a while, there are always new trails to discover.

G: How important is SDMB’s work maintaining trails?
TW: It’s a pretty harsh environment out here in the desert, with cactus and rock. So when you work on a trail, you’re not just raking a trail through the woods—it’s serious excavation! They are experts at doing that and need the right tools to deal with issues like erosion from the heavy rains here and cactus in the middle of the trail.

G: What’s your bike of choice for the desert?
TW: My sponsor makes the Specialized Epic 29er. It’s a full suspension racing bike, and more innovative than a traditional bike with 26-inch wheels. Riding here is rocky and you hit high speeds because you’re going over hard ground; it’s not like riding on soft dirt and leaves. So suspension bikes take the sharp lava and big boulders well.

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