Rich Pierce started riding later in life, but he sure has made up for it. “I used to run and play soccer, tennis, even some volleyball, but then I tore up both my knees,” he explains. “My surgeon said I should probably pick a sport that’s not as damaging to them.” He was turning 40 and wanted to do something to stay in shape, so he got a bike. “At first, I thought it was really boring because I was just riding to and from work, but then I won a mountain bike through a raffle. Once I got on a trail, I felt like a kid!”

Now 63 with thousands of miles and hundreds of races under his belt, Pierce rides with the club. While he does both road and mountain biking, he prefers the latter. “I like to say that riding on the road is like watching a feature-length movie, and riding a mountain bike is more like playing a video game,” he says. “You’re constantly encountering new terrain and having to adjust to it. I’m totally engaged, and it’s a great stress reliever.”

When he first started riding, others noticed that he always wanted to be in front and suggested Pierce start racing. He was 43 at the time but decided to try it out. Since he had broken his first mountain bike after just a few rides, he purchased one that could handle his adventurous, competitive spirit. “That’s when I got into the great community of mountain bikers. They are just super cool, laidback guys who are out there to have fun.” He did more than compete, however. Pierce has organized around 50 races over the years. “I learned from watching a couple of good race promoters, and then it’s been passed on from there,” he says. “Younger guys watched me and have expanded on what I did, so the local racing scene is really healthy right now.”

His biggest event was the Ozark Trail 100, a 100-mile mountain bike race he completed in 2014, its inaugural year. “It is known as one of the more difficult 100-milers in the country because it’s all single track and very technical and challenging,” he explains. “I had never done anything of that length before, and it was a fantastic race.” One of his favorite trails is Greensfelder, maintained by Gateway Off-Road Cyclists (GORC). “They have built a great, sustainable single track out in Eureka, and you can pick trails that are medium to intermediate grade, as well as really technical ones.”

While he says his speed is not quite what it used to be, Pierce still participates right alongside his younger counterparts. “When I’m next to a young guy during a race, I like to ask him how old his dad is,” he laughs. He’s currently getting ready for the cyclocross season this fall, a specific race course with obstacles that require bikers to dismount and carry their bikes for short distances. “It’s another great community of riders,” he notes. “The social aspect of biking is really big for me. Cycling is more than just fitness and adventure. Any time I ride a trail in the area, there’s a great likelihood I’ll run into a friend doing the same thing.”

the routine
I try to commute to work two days a week on my road bike, which is 14 miles each way. It’s a great way to get in some miles, and it doesn’t take that much longer than driving. I always try for a midweek mountain bike ride, and I’ve been doing the short mountain bike races every Thursday night at Castlewood in the summer months. On the weekends, my club likes to get in longer rides on the mountain bike, usually around three to four hours.