At 26 he has worked as a sous chef for several restaurants and participated in the opening of several Portland destinations before moving up to Seattle and switching food with drinks a few years ago. He works till way past midnight; gets up at dawn to go biking, and captures the lifestyle beautifully in photographs. It is nothing less of inspirational mixed with the familiar angst of “what the hell have I been doing with my life?”
- I think I’m in the middle of figuring that out, he answers when being asked “Adam, who are you and what do you do”. He takes a sip of his cappuccino. Thinks.
- It has been an insane couple of years.
Growing up in Detroit and seeing everyone around him working long hours, Adam got the bug to do stuff. And the only way he could do stuff was by making money. Somehow he ended up in the kitchen. At 19 he sat his eyes on working for Detroit chef David Gilbert, who has been working on five of the world’s top 10 restaurants. He spent two months working for free, begging for a full time position and preparing to do “anything to work with him”. In the end it paid off.
- David is one of the worst, and one of the best people I have met. He is a terrible person, but he made me who I am today and thought me all of these life lessons and gave me all of these tools. I would be much, much further back in my career if it wasn’t for him. He would also be without the love of his life: biking.
- David was the executive chef and I was the sous chef so he was like “you need to be me, I’m going to show you how to do this”. Part of that was being out on the road. He is the one who introduced me to road racing.
Riding was a way of escaping from the stress that comes with working in a high-end kitchen. What attracted Adam even more was the opportunity to be out in the woods. As a kid he grew up hiking, but as so many mountain bikers before him has said: “why walk when you can ride?” The beautiful surroundings of the North West were simply too good not to take advantage off.
- Just to have that quiet place… It was about being able to breathe. The distractions were gone. It became a huge part of me.
Bikes are incorporated in every aspect of Adam’s life, to the extent that he hasn’t owned a car for three years, sleeps with bicycles surrounding his bed and can blame a divorce on how not getting to ride affects his mood (the last part he confessed while laughing, deep and heartfelt, so we’re not sure how much can be blamed on the bikes).
- For me, the bike serve every single purpose: from getting to work, to racing and exploring, to riding to the coffee shop, stopping by the grocery store and taking the dog to the park. It is literally the only way I do stuff. I think I use the bike and the culture surrounding bikes as a community. You build up a group of people and create an environment where everyone feels included, like they can be themselves and do what they want to do – and then you go out riding bikes together. You talk about nothing and everything at the same time. It’s just beautiful.
On a day like this, with the fog creeping down the hills and with rain in the air, Adam describes that everything comes to life “out there”. “There” being the great mountains of the North West, an area that “is pretty much unfair to the rest of the country” in terms of facilitating for the ultimate biking experience. You can feel everything expanding and contracting. It is indulgent, and just being in Portland is motivation to get out.
- The dramatic side of cycling was something that drew me to it. The struggle and how quick you can go from being out in this beautiful place and being overjoyed about that, to “this is getting hard”. You go through this progression of emotions, especially if the weather is against you. You get pretty low points, especially on bigger rides. You are miserable. You actually hate it, and it feels like the worst thing in the world. It is really what got me into road cycling: the emotional experience. The drama. The struggle.
If you want something you have to work for it. It is all or nothing; Sink or swim; in over your head. It may cross over to stupidity, irrational behaviour. Watching a cyclist struggle to conquer that clime, it is written all over his or hers face: The pain. The suffering. But you need to continue. You need to finish, not only for the sake of finishing, but because not doing so is simply out of the question. Determination.
- I don’t like not being able to do things, especially in public. That forces me to dive into stuff and improve as quickly as I can. When I first came to Portland and started riding it was defeat, just every day. Every clime. I was suffering through every group ride, and it made me furious. I had watched Rapha videos for so long, and for the first time outside of my professional career I had the opportunity to become what I had admired in the people in those videos. Where I was from it was flat, but I would show up for the Rapha group ride every Thursday. It was this irrational behaviour of “you have never done this before, the people you are doing it with has been doing it for years” and I continued to show up being like “hey guys”. I had no idea what I was doing. I guess it is stubbornness. I don’t want to say it but yeah I guess I’m stubborn.
Through the Rapha rides he befriended Jeremy Dunn and eventually became a part of a group. Where Portland has a big community and a culture for cycling, Seattle is resident for “dentists with expensive bikes”. Upon moving up there, Adam got together with photographer and cyclist Andy Bokanev and they started riding together. Wanting to participate in changing the bicycle culture and facilitate for other cyclist to have a group of fellow riders that they could meet up with and find good rides with, they got together with Kelly Nowels and decided to organize in order to get more people over to the good side.
Named after the area they all love, they call themselves “Cascadia Bicycle Team”. Together they try to embrace and appreciate the area they have been given the best way they can. At the end of the day it is all about having fun. That being said cycling in the North West does involve serious moments, when they have to stay determined in order to survive and when they need to push themselves to the end. Other times, the mood leans more towards “sweet, who’s got the whiskey?”
- Riding like we do involves a lot of sacrifices. I run bars, and I get up at five in the morning to go ride with these assholes. It is so stupid and I’m so sleepy, but everyone on the team has stuff to do and everyone sacrifices little things and do stuff they are not necessarily motivated to do. Nonetheless you are almost always better off doing it, because you may feel like death, but people you care about and who care about you are surrounding you. You can breathe crisp air and watch the sun come over the hills. That stuff isn’t just handed to you. If you want to be a part of these amazing experiences you need to sacrifice something for it.
One thing that is not being sacrificed when out riding is the camera. If you follow members of the Cascadia team on social media you will be well acquainted with their moody, beautiful imagery. One can of course debate on the realness of images on social media: “was it staged?” “Has it been edited” “It never happened as long as you didn’t get a good photo of it” and so on. Does taking out a camera in the middle of a ride spoil or in some way interrupt the experience?
- Some times it does, but other times it is so much a part of it. There are certain times you want to be able to recall and see in photographs. Having the skills that we have, not using them would be an offense to both photography and the place we are at. It is about finding a way to balance and to bridge the gap between stopping and appreciating and then not have the camera being disruptive. There have been rides where the camera doesn’t come out, but there have also been rides where we go “OMG this is so cool, I need to take a photos of this”.
In the end, cycling is for Adam a way of keeping the balance. It’s woven into the daily routine: Get up, make coffee, go riding. Not getting to ride makes him crazy and leaves him with the all-to-familiar feeling of laziness and not taking advantage. If you fuck with the balance the spinning plates starts to wobble.
- Being on the team has made me say yes more. It has given me the faith and motivation to keep pursuing it. A huge part for all of us is that shared experience. You want to be out there with someone. There are definitely times and days where you feel like you need to be out there alone and work some stuff out. There have been so many rides where we just forget to take pictures, and those are the awesome times: The team who pull you out of your own head and into this shared space both physically and metaphysically. We all come out on the other end much better off.