Interview with Professional Mountain Biker Payson McElveen


By Anthony J. Nocella II, Ph.D. — Anthony Nocella: I met you a few times quickly in Durango, Colorado when I lived there, and follow you via Instagram. I must say you are one of the most engaging Instagram professional cyclists in the world. How is it training and living in a small town such as Durango, Colorado as a professional mountain biker?

Pro mountain bike Payson McElveen. Photo courtesy Payson McElveen
Pro mountain bike Payson McElveen. Photo courtesy Payson McElveen

Payson McElveen: Personally, I feel Durango, CO is the best place to live as an endurance off-road racer. First and foremost, the community is incredible. Durango has a long illustrious history of racing, but the riding community as a whole, whether competitive or not, is so healthy. Beyond that, the terrain is incredible. I’ve never been anywhere that has so many incredible, diverse trails so easily accessible from town. 

AN: What are the three best races in the Four Corners region that you have participated in and why?

PM: Somewhat ironically, the Four Corners area doesn’t have many races. We’re so rural and isolated in this area that there just aren’t that many people to support a large number of events. That said, the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, 12 Hours of Mesa Verde, and some of the collegiate races are all local events that have a special place in my heart. 

AN: In your opinion, what are the five best places to ride in the Four Corners region, and why?

PM: Well, certainly Durango. Phil’s World near Cortez is also a special place. The Colorado Trail between Silverton and Durango, and the high mining roads around Telluride are also very unique.

AN: Earlier this year, we lost an amazing cyclist and kind person when Ben Sonntag, a professional mountain biker with Team Clif Bar, was killed by the driver of a pickup truck while riding on the road outside Durango, where he lived. Since you knew and rode with Ben, what is something that you would like to tell the world about him?

PM: Ben was a true professional, incredibly dedicated to his craft, but still put people first. He was one of the fiercest competitors on the circuit, but one of the nicest individuals at the races as well. I admired him as an athlete, but even more so as a person. 

AN: What is the most difficult part of training during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, and what are a few training tips for other mountain bikers?

Pro mountain bike Payson McElveen. Photo courtesy Payson McElveen
Pro mountain bike Payson McElveen. Photo courtesy Payson McElveen

PM: I miss group rides! I honestly love the process of training and haven’t had too much trouble staying motivated. We have some great competitive group rides here in Durango that I often utilize as a training tool, and it’s a bummer that those are on hold. That said, it’s definitely the right protocol right now.

In terms of training tips for mountain bikers, I have two top recommendations: first, ride with folks that are better than you. That’s the best and fastest way to improve. Another key tip is consistency. Even five short 45-minute ride per week is better training than two long 3-hour rides. 

Payson McElveen’s Bicycle Specs:

  • Trek Top Fuel 9.9, size Large (19.5”), with custom Orange Seal Off-Road Team Project One paint scheme
  • SRAM AXS Eagle drivetrain with 36T chainring and Quarq power meter
  • Bontrager Kovee XXX wheels
  • Maxxis Ikon 2.35 tires
  • Orange Seal tire sealant
  • Rock Shox SID Ultimate fork
  • RockShox Deluxe Ultimate rear shock
  • Rock Shox Reverb AXS dropper post.

Anthony J. Nocella II, Ph.D. is a full-time professor at Salt Lake Community College, author of numerous books, trail runner, triathlete, competitive cyclist, and in his free time works at Hangar 15 Bicycles Millcreek.

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