If I ever needed to hire a guy to convince people that riding a bike was awesome, Chris Eatough would be the guy.
Want to see a resume? It begins with a few accomplishments, namely being one of the most renowned and heralded professional mountain bikers of all time. That's all.
Six-time 24 Hour Solo World Champion. Five-time 24 Hour Solo National Champion. 2007 24 Hours of Moab Champion, National Ultra Endurance Champion and BC Bike Race Champion. The man has his own Wikipedia entry. He's like a one-man Gatorade commercial.
But after retiring from the sport in 2009, rather than basking in his considerable glory Eatough (right) has set about bringing the joys and benefits of biking to more people. As the program manager for Bike Arlington in Arlington County, Va., Eatough now focuses his energy on what he calls "education and encouragement," making sure residents have the maps, advice, support and resources they need to make biking a regular part of their lives.
"We're lucky here in Arlington in that we have for a long time had very supportive leadership, committed to making transit and biking and walking a key part of the transportation system," he says. "It's a progressive place, in that way. Biking is seen as more than being just a recreational thing. It's right there in the transportation planning, and the county knows it's a huge part of how we make Arlington a better place to live."
When I spoke with Eatough yesterday, he was winding down from a screening of the acclaimed documentary, 24 Solo, which features a climactic moment in his professional mountain biking career. But his focus was very much on what's ahead --namely, Bike to Work Day, which thanks largely to Bike Arlington's promotion is a huge deal each year in the county.
"We've got some nice competition going to see which sites have the most registered riders," he says. "I think Rosslyn had 900 or so at last count. It's neck and neck between them and the Reagan building."
The promotion of Bike to Work Day is just one example of Eatough's mission to further establish riding into the regular transportation choices of residents of Arlington County. His office is working with big employers in the region to provide bike parking, showers and lockers for bike commuters. And the popular "Two Wheel Tuesdays" events, featuring bike tips, guest speakers and movies, has further encouraged what is already a strong grassroots biking community.
As they do for me, rail-trails play a big part in Eatough's own day-to-day routine--we both travel on the Capital Crescent Trail each morning and afternoon to get to and from work. (I will admit, it is possible he gets there faster than I do). But Eatough says that rail-trails are also a critical part of Arlington's transportation infrastructure.
"The W&OD is a heavily used commuter trail--it's like a bike highway," he says. "And the Bluemont Junction Trail in the center of the county is part of an important triangle loop that gives riders a nice recreational option, too. Rail-trails here are a critical part of how we get around."
If you're after a bit of inspiration to get you psyched for riding to work more often, check out Eatough in action in the 24 Solo trailer. And if you're riding in Arlington County, do yourself a solid and wear a helmet. Cause you know you're probably not going to be able to outrun this guy. Not unless you have at least two engines strapped to that bike of yours.