By CHELSEA ANDERSON/Montana State News
From my seat in the coffee shop, I see him approach on his commuter bike. Despite the rainy weather, I’m not surprised to see Kyle Rohan show up to our interview on a bike. He sets a bright helmet on the table, asking, “What would you like to know about biking?”
Rohan is a graduate student at MSU who got into road racing when he was earning his undergraduate degree in Florida. Rohan was first interested in biking for the commuting aspect. “One day when I was riding the bus, I saw a guy on a bike pass the bus, and I was like, ‘That. That is who I want to be.’”
After initially getting interested in biking, Rohan found himself interested in competitive racing. “Road racing is a lot different in a concentrated place like Florida than it is here in Montana. For one thing, more people are involved in it,” he says.
Rohan joined the cycling team at his university and began seriously training for races: “When you’re taking racing seriously, you have to spend around 25 hours a week on your bike training.” In addition to the large number of hours of training required to be successful in the sport, collegiate racing involves a large number of hours traveling to races.
“It’s really a selfish sport because of the amount of time you have to put into it,” Rohan explains. Throughout the years, he’s had issues with the amount of dedication that is necessary for the sport. “At one point, I was on a bike ride and my girlfriend at the time called me and said if you don’t turn around we’re over… and turning around just wasn’t an option for me.”
When Rohan moved to Montana to continue his studies as a graduate student, biking opportunities opened up for him. Rohan says, “Biking in Montana is so different from other places where there’s less open space. So many people bike here, whether it’s mountain biking or road biking or a mix of the two.”
He also illustrates that the biking mentality is quite different around Montana. Many people bike recreationally and even participate in races, (whether they be mountain biking races, cycle-cross races, or road races), but there aren’t many people who think about biking professionally around here, he said.
Since coming to Montana, Rohan has moved away from his goals of professionally racing, admitting, “With graduate school, there simply isn’t the time to do it right, so this year I’m riding for pleasure and not racing.” Despite not being active in races himself, Rohan is still involved with MSU’s cycling club.
Even though he hasn’t traveled with the team to any races this season, he helped with the annual road race the team hosts at the Lewis and Clark Caverns. “Putting on a race can be very hectic, especially when it’s all students, so having as many hands on deck as possible makes things go. Well not perfectly, but better.”
As someone who’s been involved in the racing scene for eight years, Rohan is an indispensable asset to the team. Kyle Olson, the club’s president, says, “He’s been doing this for so long, he’s got a wealth of information about things to do and things to stay away from, and inevitably something is going to be forgotten at the last second, so having a seasoned rider on the team to help out is really great.”
In addition to his involvement with MSU’s Cycling Club, Rohan is also the founder of Bozeman’s newest bike team, Project X. According to Rohan, Project X is more of a community for people interested in biking than an actual competitive team.
With the variety of biking that people are interested in here, first getting into biking can be overwhelming: “Depending on what ‘genre’ of biking the group is interested in, bikers around here can be very cliquey. Project X is all about getting people into the sport and being a space, for people who want to, to learn about biking in a really relaxed environment,” Rohan says.
Along with providing a community for people interested in biking, Project X is about community outreach and trail access advocacy. “We try to do a lot of work with the community, getting people involved, working on trails. We want to give back to the community at least as much as we take.”
When asked about the name of the organization, Rohan says, “Well, a group of us had been talking for a long time about starting another team in Bozeman because there aren’t really any diverse teams that are interested in multiple biking disciplines. We couldn’t think of anything to call it, so for fun we called it Project X. Eventually we had just been calling it that for so long, changing the name was kind of out of the question.”
While Rohan has spent the greatest amount of his time in the biking community focusing on bike racing, he has found interest in several different biking disciplines through his time in Montana. In fact, he owns five bikes, a full suspension mountain bike, a hard-tail mountain bike, a fixed gear commuter bike, a cyclocross bike and a road bike.
Throughout the years, Rohan has become pretty handy with bikes, mostly out of necessity. Rohan says, “You know when you race and you’re in college and you’re really dedicated to racing, things tend to break on your bike but you don’t have any money to have them fixed, so you eventually have to learn how to fix things yourself.” Rohan has spent hours working on his bikes, “When you’re learning it’s a lot of spending time in friends’ garages learning what to do and what not to do.”
Eventually, Rohan got proficient enough with working on bikes that he was able to work at bike shops as a mechanic. “The best thing about working at a bike shop is the discount; places where I’ve worked in the past are the reason I have the number of bikes I have today.”
Rohan’s favorite thing about biking in Montana is the surrounding area. “One of the really amazing things about biking, in Montana especially, is that the places where you train are beautiful. And so you get to enjoy gorgeous landscape even while your thighs are burning from exertion.”
– edited by Cullan Staack