The Cycling Bon Vivant. A new leisure class.

Ted King, Pleasure King

Today, Velonews posted a story on a subject that’s been on my mind the last few months. It’s the rise of a new creature, the cycling bon vivant, a jet setter on two wheels.

In the article, writer Fred Dreier chronicles the retirement lifestyle of Jens Voigt. It’s a pretty good gig the popular German has going. Voigt is a paid endorser for Zwift, Trek and Fitbit.

Australia’s Tour Down Under and the Tour of California both employ him as an official “race ambassador.” He has his own gran fondo just outside of San Francisco. He’s flying off in all directions, traveling over 200 days a year. Not bad for a guy with six kids back in Germany.

Basically, Voigt took his fractured English and his signature call to action “Shut Up Legs” and created the Jensie brand. People in the United States are eating it up.

The rise in popularity of cycling — it’s now considered the new golf — has fostered a new class of retired pro cyclists who float from event to event, from bike touring company to exclusive winery tasting weekend to artisanal food experience, the new brand evangelists for health and fitness and a slice of euro-cool.

Velonews also mentions retired American pro rider, Ted King. He has mastered the lifestyle of the cycling bon vivant. One minute he’s in Italy riding and dining with high end tour company InGamba, the next he’s in Tahoe, for a culinary experience and the Sierra Prospect ride, just launched by Peter Stetina.

King’s schedule, posted on his own website, reads like a dream vacation bucket list for the serious cycling hedonist: rides in California (Santa Barbara, Napa, Sonoma), Austin, Texas, Ketchum, Idaho and Hawaii along with jaunts out to France, Portugal and Canada’s Whister, B.C.

King summed up the cycling bon vivant ethos perfectly on his homepage: “Is he a superhero? Nobody knows. Ted does some other cool stuff too. A two-wheeled philosopher and supremely culinarily adept.” There you go, the whole thang, codified.

It’s a cycling hedonists’ calendar: events like ChefsCYcle, Haute Route Pyrenees, CampoVelo and InGamba. He’s got his UnTapped maple syrup business, he has a book in the works and there is a smile on his face that won’t quit. He is a one man jealous generator.

King and Voigt are hardly the only retired pros working the jet setter on two wheels lifestyle. Former Garmin domestique Phil Gaimon even plays with the irony of the situation, calling his youtube series Worst Retirement Ever. Hardly. On his website, he’s listed as cyclist, author, entrepreneur and lover of cookies. That sounds like bon vivant to me.

To this group of pleasure pioneers we could add cycling photographer Jared Gruber (and his equal talented wife Ashley) and even perhaps a guy like Craig Lewis of Boulder, Colorado. A man of state and style, he immediately went into the wine importing business. You can throw in every ex-pro that’s opened a boutique coffee shop in Girona, Nice, Park City, Utah, Mill Valley, California wherever.

We’re looking a a whole demographic group about ready to explode. Voigt, King and Gaimon are just the vanguard of what will be an army of people in their 50’s and 60’s wanting to join the party. They want to rub shoulders with these ex-pros, eat at their tables, share a bottle of reserve pinot, sleep in the same impossibly cool new boutique hotel and generally pretend they once took a stage in the Tour.

I says triple chapeau to this new breed for cycling bon vivants. It’s a beautiful thing, a sign of cultural awakening, the evolution of the species. Allez, yes Amis. And please, if I you could just hook me up with a discount price on the InGamba Strada Bianche trip in February, that would be so cool.

 

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