I first met Dejay and Fuzzy after I stranded myself at the Interbike Dirt Demo day last year and they let me cram into the back of their Sprinter van for a ride back to the Vegas strip, rockin’ out to Flight of the Conchords the whole way. Ã‚Â It’s the same Sprinter van they travel together in for about six months out of the year, going from race to race, spreading the Niner love and schoolin’ the singlespeed competition with an NUE championship and a 24 Hour National Championship under their belts.
When they’re not traveling, Dejay Birtch, 32, lives in Tucson, AZ, and Fuzzy (aka John Mylne), 34, lives in Arcata, CA. Ã‚Â We interviewed these guys about what they do, what their favorite rides are and what it’s like being on the road for half the year in a van with dirty chamois and a rack full of demo bikes…plus some totally random questions, like this:
BIKERUMOR: So, Fuzzy, what came first, the beard or the nickname “Fuzzy?”
FUZZY: The beard was first, but before I had the beard my nickname was Shaggy.
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BIKERUMOR: Does it get hot during the summer?
FUZZY: Depends where I am. Oh, your talking about the beard still… I don’t really notice, I have had it so long (13 years).
BIKERUMOR: What happens when you decide to get rid of it? Will you sell it for charity? Will your identity go with it?
FUZZY: Charity would be nice, but I thought if I ever got really famous 😉 Gillette might offer me a bunch of money to shave it off for a commercial. Truly, it will be hard t get rid of… the name “Fuzzy” is what most people know me as. I guess I’d have to start calling myself Curly.
BIKERUMOR: You’re sponsored by Niner bikes…do you work for them, too? If so, what’s your role with the company?
DEJAY: I have been riding for them for about 3 years. When you say work, do you mean sweat and blood or cash money? I guess you could say I do P.R., marketing with some product testing and most recently somewhat managing of the Niner Team we are trying to get off the ground. You know anybody with some money that would want to back a bunch of dirty mountain bikers?
FUZZY:Ã‚Â Mostly sponsored by Niner, though they are so great I help them out by taking bikes around with me for dealers/consumers to demo. I also help with new product testing and manning the booth at the Interbike show.
BIKERUMOR: How many bikes do you have? Which is your favorite and why?
DEJAY: I have collected a pretty nice stable of bikes from my Ciocc Fixie to the newest thing coming down the pipe from Niner. My favorite would have to be the one with the tires inflated in the morning and not riddled with cactus needles. I generally find myself on the S.I.R. or the O.N.E.
FUZZY: Bikes…. I have 3 single speeds, 2 geared mountain bikes(1 hard tail), one fixie and a road bike. Half are for sale right now. I think my favorite is the Niner One9 (shown above) single speed. After going through about 10 combos of single speeds this one just feels perfect, Niner got the geometry right, Stan’s/Dt Swiss got the wheels and front suspension right, Ergon made it comfy and it helps me to go really fast.
BIKERUMOR: Who’s your greatest competitor? In other words, what one person do you like to see on the starting line that makes you think “OK, this is going to be a good race?”
FUZZY: That’s tough, for me there are two races in every one. when I am feeling good there are only a couple Single speeders I worry about, the Legendary Dejay Birtch and someone I race very infrequently Dez Wilder. Usually after about the 2-3 hour mark I have found my groove and have taken the lead in the single speed category so I start looking at the pro geared men.
DEJAY: I would like to think that I am, every time I toe the line I know it is going to hurt and IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m gonna make it hurt a little more. Last year though, Fuzzy helped me push my limits for sure. I guess when you spend 6 months with someone and do the same rides together all the time it should be pretty neck and neck.
BIKERUMOR: What upcoming bike technology are you most excited about?
DEJAY: SingleSpeed and Hi Tech..HHHMMM. I guess it is all possible. I guess itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not new, but IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m always blown away with the effectiveness of StanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s sealant and tubeless rims. Back to that whole flat thingÃ¢â‚¬Â¦Here in the desert the chance to flat is everywhere. But thanks to StanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s I only find myself fixing a flat do to a sidewall tare.
FUZZY: Wings… I ride a single speed there’s not very much new going on there. though, I am excited to ride rigid again with the new Carbon Rigid fork that Niner is coming out with!
DEJAY: Oooh. New. I have been riding a very sweet rigid full carbon fork that should become available to the everyday folks someday soon. I believe Niner is still trying to come up with a name for it, then itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s show time Baby!!!
BIKERUMOR: What’s your favorite time of day to ride and why?
FUZZY: About 2 hours after I’m done with coffee. That has gotten pretty early since my son Ian (17 months) wakes up at 5:30.
DEJAY: What about the night? Come summer time in Tucson, I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t wait for the sun to fall and the temp to drop. During the day, it can get 110 or so. So being under the sun then may not be a good idea. Besides after sun sets all the creatures of the desert come out and play. Just a bunch of beady eyes looking back at you. Pretty cool and sometimes scary, depending on the shape of the eyes!
BIKERUMOR: Where is your favorite place to ride and why?
DEJAY: There are so many places with so many reasons. The woods of Germany with 2000 year old stone roads, all the trails that I have ridden in BC, slaloming the rocks and Cholla of the Sonoran Desert, Tucson Mountain Park (I guess that is one in the same), Ft. Collins, CO, Colorado in general, Red Ridge on Mt. Lemmon AZ.
FUZZY: Favorite Mtb ride: there are so many good ones that’s hard to say. I always go back to one near my home town, Arcata California. Tish Tang, It starts with a long climb and has a great mix of technical to supper flowing single track all the way down. It is where most of my early epic days occurred.
BIKERUMOR: What do you consider your single greatest cycling-related achievement thus far?
DEJAY: I biked from Ft Stevens Oregon to Bar Harbor Maine. Self-supported via the BOB Trailer with a few friends. We started as 5 and finished with 3. 4008 miles in just under 2 months, man I wish it would have taken longer!!!
FUZZY: I don’t think it’s any one event, but the combonation of many great singlespeed efforts. Taking racing to a new level, one in which people have come to realize singlespeeding is a legitimate part on mountain bike racing and they are taking us seriously.
BIKERUMOR: What do you consider your biggest cycling goal for the future?
FUZZY: I want to win a national ultra endurance event (it would be great to do it on a single speed too).
DEJAY: To let riding be fun, adventurous and never ending.
BIKERUMOR: You spend a lot of time on the road each year…how long were you on the road in 2008? Similar plans for 2009?
DEJAY: The life and the road, how they blend together. 08 brought 6-7 months of traveling mostly behind the wheel of the Sprinter. 2009 looks like it will bring the road into my life again. As of now IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not sure which direction IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll be headed in first.
FUZZY: The family and I spent about 6 months on the road in 2008. Similar plans for 2009? the plan is about the same for 2009. We moved out of our house in Arcata, CA in Dec 2007 and have been looking for a place to settle since then…
BIKERUMOR: With all that travel, you must hit a lot of events…which are your favorites?
FUZZY: Favorite races, Dirt Sweat and gears 12h, Vision Quest, Singlespeed World championships, Wilderness 101, Cactus cup, Tahoe Sierra 100.
DEJAY: Lots of races, clinics, festivals all things bicycle. Well I keep going back to the 24 OlÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Pueblo , BC Bike Race, SingleSpeed Arizona, SSWC where ever it is, Estrella AZ State Race, Squeeler and a bunch of things that I havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t done yet.
BIKERUMOR: Do you hit the same events every year, or do you mix it up?
DEJAY: I try to keep it fresh, new and a bit unknown.
FUZZY: One of my original goals was to find 10 events that I could do every year. I think I have about five. but 2009 will only be my second year on the racing circuit, so maybe half the same but still looking for the real great races.
BIKERUMOR: Do you hit any international events or stage races?
DEJAY: I did the BCBR and 24 Of Finale Italy. Both were great. Again new and fresh along with amazing riding.
FUZZY: I raced in Italy at the 24 hours of Finale. it was one of the top experiences of my cycling carrer to date. the Italians know have to put on a top notch cycling event! As far as stage races go, I have started one the Guana Ride in Costa Rica. I got pretty sick on the second day and was unable to finish. I plan on doing one this year, maybe something in Canada.
BIKERUMOR: Road miles compared to ride miles?
DEJAY: Do you mean driving? I commute to work does that count?
FUZZY: We drove about 16,000 miles (plus flew to Italy) and raced about…2000. I was a little shy on race mileage, my season started late due to the broken Collar bone from 2007.
BIKERUMOR: What do you think is the most valuable part of your training?
DEJAY: The 6:35am wake up calls from Rudi telling me that I am already late for the ride. Letting my bike take me some place I have never been (sometimes it is mentally). Riding with friends and just letting the laughter happen.
BIKERUMOR: What did you learn about yourself while on the road?
FUZZY: Living in tight quarters is nothing new to me, I have always lived with a bunch of people… no less than 4 others in the last 12 years. Part of it in a bunk house with 15 others. The one thing that I learned about myself and racing is the importance of being mentally prepared. I can’t just throw my stuff together, get on my bike and race for seven hours. Big things need more thought and planning. While still living in the now, I have come away from the whole experience a little more prepared take on the rest of life challenges. you could say a little more grown up (but not much, I’m still a big kid).
DEJAY: A crying baby keeps me awake. My chamois donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t smell so good after 3 days of riding.
BIKERUMOR: Fuzzy, you won the National Ultra Endurance (NUE) series finals for the single speed class…what’s life been like since then? All champagne and caviar, fame and fortune?
FUZZY: More like PBR and fish sticks. but a lot more fame, the media has really started to take note of my accomplishments. Also, It has truely motivated me to work very hard in the off season so I can have another great season.
BIKERUMOR: Do you ever ride geared bikes anymore, or is it SS all the way?
FUZZY: This time of year I always say I am going to race geared bikes more, but it rarely pans out. I am planning on doing my first 2-3 races on a geared bike, hopefully that will give me time to figure out how they work. My preference will always be to ride a single.
BIKERUMOR: Dejay, You won the 24 Hour National Championships Mixed Duo category with one of your niner associates, Rebecca (above, centered on podium), on a single speed, but I noticed on your blog you’re rockin’ the new fully geared, fully suspended Jet 9 (shown below)…have you given up on single speeds? Why the change?
DEJAY: Whoa, you look at my blog? The 24 was pretty great, we had a good battle with last years champs Heidi and Mario. As far as the JET goes I like to look at as 27 single speeds and that reminds me I think I need to switch the 18 tooth cog on that cassette. Next question.
BIKERUMOR: Got any tips for those that are thinking about or just starting out on a single speed?
DEJAY: ManÃ¢â‚¬Â¦there are still people thinking about it? Or are they just saving up some money? PedalÃ¢â‚¬Â¦CoastÃ¢â‚¬Â¦Pedal againÃ¢â‚¬Â¦DrinkÃ¢â‚¬Â¦PedalÃ¢â‚¬Â¦Enjoy the viewÃ¢â‚¬Â¦Flick a rock at your buddyÃ¢â‚¬Â¦Laugh. Repeat
FUZZY: Not in any order…
1. Start small, do some short rides and find the right gear, it will depend on the terrain your riding. the steeper hills the easier the gear…
2. it’s OK to walk, we all do it. some just more than others.
3. Keep your momentum, learn to keep your speed coming out of turns and into hills.
4. Find finger puppets for your thumbs, they might need something to do during the first few rides.
5. A wider handlebar can help give you a little more leverage for climbing.
6. Open an Ebay account so you have some place to sell your neglected geared bikes.
BIKERUMOR: Dejay, from your blog, it sounds like your helping scout and/or build the course for the SSWC09…any truth to that?
DEJAY: I think youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re mistaken, easy to do. I believe youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re speaking of the one and only SSAZ09. 2009 will be the fourth running of the event. Just a little give back by yours truly. (pic above shows some of Dejay’s riding buddies checking out the final bits of the SSAZ09 course)
BIKERUMOR: Do you guys hang out when you’re not racing or traveling together, or do you need a break from each other in the off season?
DEJAY: Distance makes the heart grow fonder. If I could get him to get off the road bike and do some mountain biking in the winter, I think we would see each other more often. He is a family man, I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have a car and he lives in Riverside, so I guess that is another excuse.
Dejay’s Blog: singleswizzle.com
Fuzzy’s Blog:Ã‚Â fuzzyjohn.blogspot.com/
Thanks to Heidi Volpe for contributions to this interview.