KAYSVILLE -- Josh Brown is a biker. Not the leather and chrome kind, but the spandex and carbon kind. And although he's only 17, Biker Brown has more self-propelled miles under him than some people will put on their motorcycles in a lifetime. This week he's competing in his fifth Logan to Jackson race, and when he completes the 206-mile race, he'll be the youngest member of the elite LOTOJA 1,000 mile club.
And he has his father to thank, or curse, for his accomplishments.
The race begins on Saturday morning at Sunrise Cyclery in Logan and Brown knows the course well. He's been doing this race since he was 12 years old, when his dad, Gardner, first asked him if he wanted to ride with him on a tandem bicycle.
Gardner said that Josh worked hard and trained all year long to be ready for the all-day race.
"In hindsight, I wouldn't have done it," said Gardner. "He was too young for it. I kind of always viewed him a little older than he was. He's the oldest child. I thought it would be something fun we could work on together and he generally wouldn't say no. He'd say, 'Oh that's fine.' So in the beginning of the year I suggested that we ought to do LOTOJA together, and he had no idea what he was agreeing to. He did very well. He worked hard all day and he finished it. He's the youngest person ever to finish that race."
Josh, a student at Davis High School, said he has a knack for forgetting the hard times in cycling and remembering only the good.
"I remember it being a super long day," said Josh. "The hardest part for me was, being so young and stuff, the whole summer I had to do big Saturday rides -- four- to five-hour rides. That kind of got old after awhile, especially being 12 and you just want to sleep in. But doing LOTOJA paid off. I had a lot of fun doing it the first time. It was good."
For the next three years, the father-son team worked together to finish the intense race with their times ranging from 11:55 to last year's 10:36. Josh said he did get tired of riding, but he kept coming back for more and is looking forward to this year's race.
"When I started riding, I kind of just did it because my dad was asking me to, but then I got kind of burned out," said Josh who also races cyclocross and mountain bikes. "But two years ago I got super excited to get on the ride. That feeling of finishing a big race or climbing a big mountain is the coolest feeling in the world -- and then everything just feels better. I don't know why I keep riding, but I do. It's a lot of fun."
This year will be Josh's first solo LOTOJA ride and he hopes to finish in the 9:30 to ten-hour range -- the same time his dad and his uncle, Brian Lifferth, hope to finish on the tandem.
Both Lifferth and Gardner said the tandem makes riding a little harder and they'll have to work hard to keep up with Josh.
"You can't climb as fast on a tandem," said Lifferth. "They're just slower, but on the downhill and flats you can really motor and go faster. You have to stand up at the same time and keep the same cadence. It doesn't sound like a big deal, but if I want a little easier gear we have to agree on that somehow versus if he wants a slower, harder gear. We've got to talk through that."
The teamwork it takes to work together on the tandem is a testament to the kind of relationship that Josh and Gardner have been able to build over the last four years of riding.
"All my other friends don't really do anything with their dads. With my dad, I've done week trips, we've gone to Southern Utah and we're together doing fun rides and big Saturday rides," said Josh.
"We've become really close over the years through cycling, and I think it's been an awesome experience having my dad be with me that whole time. I think it's super neat doing these awesome trips together."
Gardner said he has been fortunate that Josh likes cycling and that they've been able to spend time together riding. But he's also wary of the challenges that LOTOJA provides.
With Josh accomplishing such difficult races at such young ages, (he was also the youngest racer to finish the 330-mile TransRockies mountain bike race last year) Gardner has walked the fine line of parenthood, with LOTOJA representing the challenges inherent in raising kids -- the balance of protecting Josh, and letting him learn on his own. He's cautious about Josh riding alone this year.
"He wanted to do it alone last year. He's certainly fit enough to do it, but if it were up to me I'd rather him not do it. I hate to see him go through what he's going to go through," said Gardner. "I know what he's in for."
"I'm excited for this -- riding it solo. I like solo a lot more than tandem," said Josh. "Maybe if I were in front, it'd be more fun; but in the back you just hold onto the bars and pedal. Solo, it's all up to you, so that's what I'm looking forward to."