McCulloch is proof nice guys can finish first

McCulloch is proof nice guys can finish first

Brian McCulloch is the longest running member of the Elevate KHS Pro Cycling Team and by all accounts as sweet as he is strong. 

"You won’t meet people in the cycling world any kinder, nor more gregariously friendly, than Brian McCulloch," said Ted King, former ProTour cyclist and two time winner of Dirty Kanza.  "He’s always asking how you’re doing, how you've been, what’s new, and so forth with a sincere interest to know truly how you’re doing. Plus, he’s obviously got a motor." 

As the 2019 season winds down, we took the opportunity to catch up with McCulloch to find out where the hell Yucaipa is, what it was like growing up there and what the future holds for this former moto racer, turned shaved leg roadie.

First thing we want to know is where in the hell is Yucaipa, CA?

Yucaipa is a small Southern California town at the base of the San Bernardino Mountains. We are the last city on the drive up to Big Bear. We have a good amount of open space in our town, perfect for gravel riding, mountain biking, horse riding, and other excursions into nature. It also happens to have a lot of great roads for road cycling. We are pretty spoiled here and if you like bikes, Yucaipa is a cool place to base out of.

You grew up racing BMX in Yuciapa, do you remember your first bike and can you tell us a little story about it?

I grew up in Northern California and spent a bit of time in Reno, Nevada as a wee-lad. At that time there was so much open-space and all I wanted to do was explore. So I did all the extra chores I could so that I could purchase my first "nice bike." It was a base model GT, an "interceptor," I believe. Me, my brother, and all our buddies would get together every day and ride from the moment we got out of school until the sun set and sometimes later. Bikes were our freedom, our way to explore the world and seek adventure. Although, my KHS Flite 900 carbon road bike and KHS Gravel bike are light-years better in the technology department than that old Interceptor, it is still two wheels which fuels my need for adventure and desire to see the world!

What was the BMX cycling scene like when you were growing up?

I don't even really know what the BMX scene was like because I was so intimidated by racing. I didn't think I was good enough for that. It's a bummer because I missed out. I rode my BMX bike and built dirt jumps everywhere I could ride. There was a whole posse of us. Each of us brought our own tools, so we would build and jump. Back then we didn't know the cool tricks to do, that is, until the X-Games came on the television. Then all we did was try and do bike-park stunts like the legends of the sport: Dave Mirra, Ryan Nyquist, and Matt Hoffman. That's when the injuries started. 

You eventually moved onto moto, was this a natural progression? And did your BMX skills translate to moto?

Sometime around my 11th birthday I found my way onto a buddies mini-bike, which was just a lawnmower engine in a homemade frame with minimal suspension. From there it was full-gas. I did extra chores and boosted my grades because my Dad promised me a new Honda CR-80 if I could get my GPA above 3.5. I crushed that, scored a 3.8 and went to the races. From then on, good grades were a requirement, but my passion was going fast and training hard. I did push-ups, sit-ups, and running in addition to my regular BMX smash-arounds to be fit enough to ride. When I would get to the track I would ride until I ran out of gas or I was too exhausted to continue. The skills from BMX to Moto were similar, but everything happened at higher speeds so there was less room for error. 

Maybe even more so than cycling, trying to earn a living in moto can be a pretty tough road. Did you have any luck breaking into the world of moto and what was that like? 

Racing Moto was my passion all the way until I had to quit in my mid-twenties. I raced as a professional and held an AMA Pro License competing in the MX National series and SX Supercross series. I was good enough to be there, good enough to get sponsors to support me on the journey, which I was so thankful for, but never good enough to make a living at it. It was just a break-even scenario, luckily I lived at home and stayed in school. I loved Moto. I loved the training. I loved going fast. But after about five of my friends and fellow pro racers became paralyzed (that was when freestyle and jumping was exploding so we were all 'going big') I decided I should focus on completing my degree in Business Administration.

Can you tell us a little bit about your parents and what they thought about all these “adventures” you were getting into?

As a young father myself I am gaining a greater appreciation for the sacrifice parents make. With that said, my parents divorced about the time I got into motocross. It became my escape from the stress, fights, and power struggle. I am thankful for the work ethic my Father instilled in me and the endless hours he would spend driving me to races, working on my bike, or otherwise talking racing with me. He did all of this after working two jobs. I thought I was thankful and appreciative then, but in reality, I couldn't even comprehend the sacrifice he was making for me. I owe him a lot.

So at some point you put away your full-face helmets and knobby tires, shaved your legs and transitioned to skinny tires. This seems like a pretty interesting transition for a BMX racer from Yuciapa? What led you done this road, so to speak? 

Late in my MX career I was introduced to road cycling for cross-training. I didn't know anything about 'roadie' culture or care for the shaved legs and dweebie costume. Oh, how times have changed. Back then I wore MTB baggies, a helmet with a visor and a t-shirt that I cut the sleeves off of when training on the road. I use to do three hour rides after a day at the MX track and didn't think twice about making dirt-bike noises while trying to jump curbs on my road bike: BRAAAAP! Once I understood that a strong work ethic would translate into legit-itness, it was easy to ditch the motor-driven form of cycling where max speed was closely related to how much money you could spend on your bike. Road cycling allowed me to invest in myself and see results. I loved it.

You came to road racing pretty late, relatively, to most of your teammates, how has this hurt you and how has it helped?

I did get into it all late. I'm 37 and I am much older than my teammates, who are generally in their early 20's. Without a doubt it was easier when I was younger to be fit as I had less responsibilities and potential distractions. But, I see my age as a good thing. Road cycling is a sport for the mature athlete. Yes, youth is a physical advantage, but road racing is about tactics, strategy, and situational awareness. Those all come from experience, and that's something I have a lot of. I do wish I was better at caring for my body when I was younger. I see many young athletes that feel ten feet tall and bullet proof, but ignore this crucial parts of their regimen. Our bodies are our vehicles, we must take good care of the chassis if we want to perform at our best.

You’re known for being a team player, a positive influence and all-around good guy or in a bicycle parlance a dedicated domestic, but you’ve also tasted victory atop the podium at the Belgian Waffle Ride. Is winning fun?

I love the process of training for a goal and working to be the best version of myself. In cycling we will race in a peloton of 120 or more riders, that means that my chances are 1:120. Those seem to me to be gambling odds, so I learned that I could get more wins, so to speak, by being a part of a winning team. I sacrifice my own chances in the support of others and it feels great. Cycling is not known as a team sport, but I can tell you that it is and has the potential to create incredibly strong bonds amongst teammates who watch out for each other. The short answer is that winning is fun and it's contagious. With that said, I'm not fired-up if we have to put others down to make that happen. I want to battle it out, with each team at their very best. If you don't know what I mean read the Theodore Roosevelt passage titled, "The Man In The Arena" and you'll get it.

If three of your friends were sitting around talking about you, what are the words they would use to describe you?

I don't know. You would have to ask them. But I would hope that they would know that I've got their back to the end. I hope to have the level of trust with them that they know they can call me at 2:30AM when their car breaks down. 

It seems like gravel racing is helping to prolong some riders professional careers, do you see yourself doing more of these types of events?

I get asked this a lot. A few staunch roadies even told me that "gravel is where old pros go to die." That couldn't be further from the truth. Gravel riding and racing is incredible and I will be doing as much of it as I can. You see there is something about these races that doesn't exist at the big pro races, everyone rides the same course. So when I won the Belgian Waffle Ride I completed the 135-mile course in 6.5 hours, but there was still people riding the same course after 11 hours. Each of those people have tasted what it is like to be a champion, but maybe they just don't know it. And to me they are champions. Relentlessness, resiliency, and commitment, those are qualities of a champion. Those are trainable qualities in each of us. So yes, I see myself doing a whole lot of these as my schedule and finances allow.

You run a coaching company with your wife in Yuciapa. Can you give us the three things most cyclist do wrong and the one thing every cyclist should know to make them a better athlete?

At Big Wheel Coaching we believe the following:

Common Mistake 1: 90% of riders spend 90% of their time at 90% of their Max HR. That means you get good at one type of riding, which is not good.

Common Mistake 2: Not understanding the power of posture. Bicycles are tools that should be adapted to humans. Not the other way around. A good bike fit and understanding of your unique physiology is important to help you "get it all out."

Common Mistake 3: Train slow to race fast. Most Athletes won't ride slow, as in very slow. Recovery is key to performance and that requires very easy rides as well as hardcore interval sessions.

How To Be A Better Athlete: Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, then systematically target your weaknesses and improve them. Often some of our weaknesses are merely undeveloped strengths. And when thinking about strengths, reinforce them and make them legendary.

You are the longest running member of the KHS Elevate cycling team and you’ve raced all over the world. What does the future hold?

The future holds more racing, competing, and testing myself, but also more focus on family. I am thankful to say that I have been with Elevate-KHS for nine-years and I am the only remaining member of the original team. That journey has brought me in contact with many great people and driven companies. I've learned a lot, but I am still seeking mastery in all I do. The journey is not over. It's just going to look different going forward. In the future I want to continue to be a part of a winning team and help those around me to be their very best. Because when they get better I have to elevate my game too and that gets me fired-up.

In closing, I want to thank the Kali Krew for the chance to talk bikes and for the incredible helmets. I've crashed plenty over the years and I am thankful many of those impacts have been minimized by a Kali helmet. 

The Elevate KHS Pro Cycling Team wore Kali Tava and Phenom road helmets during their 2019 campaign. 

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