By Sue George
US Olympic mountain biker Travis Brown (Trek/FRS) was among three men inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame at a ceremony held during Interbike on September 28, 2006. He was honored for his career accomplishments along with Chris King and Bob Gregorio.
"The proudest moments of my career were making the step up to the national level by winning my first NORBA National event in 1996 and becoming an Olympian in the 2000 games," Brown said after receiving a welded steel trophy of a mountain biker on a mountain and a jacket from Gore Bicycle Wear. Brown also won the NORBA cross-country series and title in 1999.
The 37-year-old Brown, who recently moved back to his hometown of Durango, Colorado, after fifteen years in Boulder, reflected on his fourteen seasons racing pro, "When I look back, the memories of the good races overshadow the tough races, which is interesting because while racing as a professional, the ratio of really tough races to good races was about 9:1." Although Brown returned to Durango because his wife landed a job as Executive Director of the local Trails 2000 organization, Brown finds the location perfect for his new role in cycling. "Now that I've shifted toward product development over racing, having a good trail network close by is a huge advantage to me." Brown tests cross country and all mountain bikes and components for Trek, Fisher, and Bontrager. He also tests clothing for Descente's DNA line.
In sixteen years as a professional, Brown raced all but two for the same team, Trek/VW but at the end of the 2004 season, Brown retired to local competition with the exception of a few key national events. His "retirement" didn't slow him down though; he successfully defended his 2005 national marathon title in July. "I don't travel as much for racing now," he says. "I'm fortunate that there is a lot of high quality racing nearby. The pressure on me has shifted to product development away from race performance. It's made the racing I do more fun again, like when I first started." Brown says that as long as he stays motivated to use the races as a testing platform, he'll continue his product development work.
When asked how Brown juggles the added responsibility, he says, "I'm able to get the same fitness with less training. Having some new responsibilities is actually complimentary to my training. I spend less time overtrained."
Brown plans to continue racing cyclo-cross with at least two US Gran Prix of Cyclo-cross races near Boulder this year. He's still undecided about Nationals in Rhode Island, but he will be testing new cyclo-cross products at the races he does attend. "Trek is putting more life and energy behind their cyclocross models this year and is looking to produce something more high-end for the next few years."
Brown's career spans a period of time in mountain bike history that has fostered incredible innovation, but his favorite development is tubeless tires. "I think the ability to run a lot less pressure is significant." Suspension is his second favorite development although he still regularly rides rigid forks to keep his handling sharp. "Suspension and rigid forks have their place. When I spend lots of time on a long-travel fork, it takes me a few days to get fast again on a cross country bike."
Brown thinks mountain bike technology is still in its infancy and we'll see plenty more development. In what areas specifically? "We look to boutique builders in the industry for new ideas," he says. "The quest for lighter bikes with more travel and suspension with more control will continue. Everyone is working on suspension that's efficient to pedal, but still really plush through rough terrain."
The new inductees were voted to membership by a panel of cycling journalists and current Hall of Fame members. Thirty years ago, Chris King changed cycling’s approach to components when he founded his component company, now famous for its high-end headsets and hubs. Coloradoan Bob Gregario has served as a trusted mechanic for racers like John Tomac and advisor to manufacturers like Cannondale and Miyata.
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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews. She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.
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