I’m surrounded by adults all the time and we love talking bike gear, training, events and the state of cycling. I decided it was time to get an unfamiliar fresh perspective to mix things up. Samuel is the son of Victor Gurel and you can find these two riding together year-round all over NWA. Road, mountain or gravel, they are super involved in our local cycling scene. Shining examples of how cycling is good for family. I checked in with the 15 year old up-and-comer to get his take on a variety of bike stuff. Check it!
OCA: How did you get your start cycling?
SG: I have loved riding since I touched my first bike. My family would go on rides together and it was really fun to feel the pavement move beneath me, and to watch things fly by when I was pedaling really hard. My competitive career started after seeing my dad come home from group rides, with just the biggest grin on his face, telling “Big-Ring Tales”. I just sat down with him and said, “I want to be a cyclist.”
OCA: What is your favorite discipline?
SG: It has to be road. The sound of the wheels spinning on a fast downhill, the painful euphoria after a tough climb and exploring new roads far away from home.
OCA: What bikes are you currently riding?
SG: I have a carbon Cannondale Super Six Evo. That is a bike I do not deserve, but dang I love riding it! For my gnar shredding needs, I have a green Salsa Spearfish.
OCA: What are the challenges in your opinion for a young person who wants to get involved in cycling?
SG: The biggest challenge with young people getting into cycling is the intimidation of all the other people who are faster and just a better rider than you. It can be difficult and embarrassing to find a group that will take you in and teach you how to ride smart. The learning curve is not steep but finding the start is very hard.
OCA: Longest ride?
SG: It was 102.4 miles. It was an incredible trip to the wild wild west with my Dad and Stephen Sabo. We went up Gem Rd, and I have never regretted a route choice more in my entire life.
OCA: What is it about riding that you love the most?
SG: Climbing. I dread it before I do it, I hate it when I am doing it, but afterwards, when I reach the top, and I see how far I have come, and I look back down the road, nothing is more satisfying.
OCA: What are your favorite local events?
SG: The Buffalo Headwaters Challenge is an incredible endurance MTB ride. Hot dogs, strawberries and bacon at the rest stop combined with some of the best trails in the state. The Highway 71 Classic is an awesome road ride. It isn’t a race so it is a nice break from the regular intensity. With so many people riding, you can always find a group to ride with down one of the best stretches of road I have ever ridden. They also have a ton of food at each rest stop, which is nice, because it means that I don’t have to eat some smashed up cold energy bar. As far as races go, The Battle for Townsend Ridge is a super fun mountain bike race. The course is a roller coaster with sections of rip-ready flow in between the tight downhills and the steep uphills. My favorite road race has to be the State Championship Time Trial down in Little Rock. The course is exposed to the wind, pancake flat, and a pure test of ability.
OCA: What is your favorite thing to eat after a long ride?
SG: McDonald’s. I get a double cheeseburger with medium fries and a medium sweet tea. Sometimes I splurge and get an Oreo McFlurry. I’m not currently sponsored by McDonald’s, but I would gladly accept if the opportunity came about. Shred Ozark gnar!
Sam is such a great young man! His perspective and humility (and strength!) really set him apart from others his age. I agree that we can do a better job as a cycling community welcoming new riders. We want more people to join the sport, but it’s pretty intimidating and unwelcoming when you roll up to a new group ride and no one says a word to you. Just a friendly hello and introduction would make all the difference.
I started cycling a year ago at 42 yrs old and it’s intimidating for us older folks as well. However, In my experience cycling is full of riders willing to help out with anything a new rider may need. It’s a great sport for anyone to participate in offering a genuine, fun loving community and culture.
I second what Jessica has to say, as a relatively new rider to a lot of our groups locally, it is very intimidating to show up! You would be surprised how many people in large group actually don’t say a word to you when you are new . Even if you are a solid rider !