Josh Wray VAAST Journal - Meet the Collective
The “Meet the Collective” series serves up interview style conversations with VAAST riders all over the globe. At VAAST we are driven and inspired by our community of riders, whether they are grand tour pros, first time bikepackers, experienced long-haul cyclists, Strava KOM hunters, or casual riders in it for the mid-ride café stops and post-ride suds. No matter the amount or type of distance you cover, there is a story here for you. And, perhaps, the story is yours. After all, we’re all on this wild ride together.
VAAST: Tell us about yourself and your earliest riding experience(s). How/When did you learn to ride a bike? Do you remember what it meant for you?
Josh: This sorry is kind of funny and sad at the same time. I must’ve been around the age of four or five when I learned how to ride a bike. I was at a family friend’s house for the day. There were two boys in that family that had a few years on me so naturally I was always playing keep up with them. I’m thankful for that because they not only were the ones that took my training wheels off my bike, but they also got me into skateboarding which is another sport that has consumed much of my free time. I’m guessing Luke probably said something about how lame my training wheels were and how I should ditch them. You know, something a typical 10-year-old boy would say. It didn’t take long. With a little assistance I was off and ready to hit the open road on my flamed-out Kmart bike sans training wheels. Here comes the sad part of the story. Being the only son in my family, my dad felt very passionately about teaching me how to ride a bike and being a part of that special moment. Later that day after ripping around the streets of San Diego with Luke and Matthew I couldn’t wait to show my dad my sweet new skills when he got home from work. To my disappointment, my dad wasn’t actually as stoked to see me without training wheels as I had expected him to be. I didn’t know it at the time, but he wanted so very badly to teach me that he was saddened to see that he wouldn’t get that chance. Looking back, I would’ve loved to have given my dad the chance to take my training wheels off. One day I hope to have children and specifically a son so I can bring my dad into that experience and give that one back to him.
After that my bicycle meant freedom. It’s how I got around and it gave me yet another reason to be outside with my friends. It must’ve been my 9th birthday when my uncle took me birthday shopping and I came home with the SWEETEST matte grey Specialized BMX bike. I cherished that bike for years. I vividly remember sitting on my bike in my living room, glued to the TV watching Matt Hoffman, Kevin Robinson, and Ryan Nyquist soar through the air at X Games thinking they were the coolest!
Not much has really changed since then. I still use my bikes to get around and explore, to hang with my friends, and... I even still sit on my bike in my living room watching the TV. Although now I’m watching savages effortlessly pass me on Zwift.
VAAST: Tell us about a recent ride/race/adventure. What was the hardest part? What was the most exciting part?
Josh: So recently I thought it’d be a good idea to ride every paved/named public road in the Mammoth Lakes City Limit. With my birthday nearing I felt like this would be a great opportunity to bring all of my friends that would do this type of dumb activity together. At 6 am we rolled out. I loosely projected the ride to be about 100 miles and had no idea about the elevation gain. Initially I thought the navigation would be the crux of the day, but that ended up actually working out really nicely with the help of an android app called MY TRACKS. When turned on the app will track all movement and draw a line for where you’ve been in real-time. That made the day move seamlessly. Ride a road then BOOM there’s a line meaning it’s been ridden then off to the next street. After the ride, I’d say the biggest issue was never feeling like we could get into a rhythm. Usually, big rides offer long sections to find your groove and hammer but since there were so many circle backs, courts and cul de sacs to ride we were all over the place in terms of rhythm and flow. The total numbers for that day ended up being 101.09 Miles, with 9,072’ of gain.
You can check out the hilarious route here.
VAAST: How did you feel when you hit gravel or trail for the first time on your VAAST bike?
Josh: I was blown away. At first skeptical, especially after coming off a carbon road bike. I kept hearing about gravel bikes but early on I didn’t quite understand the buzz about it. Could it really be that fun? And the short answer is YES! Being able to do a ride that’s mixed between road and gravel is so sweet. It opens up a whole new world of route options and adventures. Plus, it’s an incredible option for bike packing! I was so surprised at the A/1s ability to eat up chatter and make what is even a bumpy ride on my MTB a very pleasant ride.
VAAST: Describe your process behind training/riding. Are you preparing for races or big events, riding for fitness, just spinning around town? What inspires you to ride?
Josh: So, I’ve never really taken my riding too seriously although I really do enjoy seeing progression in areas like speed and power. Being a naturally competitive person means I have a hard time not putting up numbers on Strava. But that being said, I simply just love riding bikes whether it be in the bike park, on singletrack, gravel, or road. Last winter I bought an indoor trainer and that helped me keep my cycling fitness through the year. I feel like I’m getting to a point where I’d like to move the tick a bit further in cycling and start casually competing since I already find joy in the competition that comes with Strava segments and Zwift rides. This summer I’ve done a few big rides and weird challenges on the bike, but coming up in October me and two other buddies will be going after our biggest ride. The goal is to ride every paved mountain pass in the Eastern Sierra mountains of California from Cottonwood pass (just south of Mt Whitney) to our home town Mammoth Lakes, CA in one full push. Ideally, we want to do all 200+ miles and 40K of elevation in as close to 24hrs as possible. We shall see if the stars all align for this one. You can check out my Strava to see if we actually made it happen. The projected date for this sufferfest is Oct 2nd.
VAAST: What is one common myth about cycling that you hear from non-cycling friends that make you laugh?
Josh: It’s a rich man’s sport. While that’s mostly true, there are ways to get into it without breaking the bank. My first road bike was from the 80’s that I picked up off craigslist. It was a steel frame Giant that had the shifters located on the top tube. I remember riding it to work one day and loving the idea of commuting via bike. The commute was amazing at 7 am, all downhill to the pool where I lifeguarded that summer. However, the ride home in 100-degree inland San Diego heat was enough for me to rethink my decisions that day. That didn’t stop me, I did many more idiotic rides with friends before I moved to the mountains and quickly realized I was in need of a proper road bike if I wanted to keep progressing. I was able to buy a carbon road bike off a buddy in two easy payments of $300. That’s when the doors really opened up for me and I knew I wanted to spend more time on two wheels. So, the point is, if you’re interested in getting into cycling buy a bike that you can afford. Don’t worry about breaking the bank because if you find it’s something you really want to pursue you’ll make it happen and you’ll look back and smile when you think about some of your first rides.
VAAST: Are there any family, friends or riding partners that deserve a huge callout?
Josh: Oh for sure! Gotta give a shoutout to my EnduroBros! During the summer we try to ride MTBs multiple times a week and I really LOVE TO SEE IT because they’re now all getting into road/gravel riding. No matter what type of bike we are riding these guys know how to push hard on a bike and more importantly, have a good time. The next step is getting them all to purchase indoor trainers so we can hassle each other via zwift when the snow starts falling.
VAAST: On a scale of 1-10 how nervous does the thought of a flat tire in the middle of nowhere make you?
Josh: As long as I have a friend that has all of the right tools I’m good, haha. I hate carrying extra stuff on my bike or back. Oh, if you ride on dirt and haven’t converted to tubeless do yourself a favor and head to the bike shop right now and purchase some tubeless tape, valves and sealant and say goodbye to your tubes.
VAAST: What do you wish you had known when you bought your first higher-end bike?
Josh: Don’t use high-pressure water when washing the bike. High-pressure water when aimed at places that need grease and lube is a big no-no and can lead to components failing quicker than they should.
VAAST: What would you change, if anything, about your experience with cycling? Why?
Josh: I would've loved to have put more time into it. I bought my first high-end road bike in 2015 and mainly used it as a commuter around town. I did a few Gran Fondos on it but never really trained. Looking back I wish I would’ve started a training plan then so I’d be a few steps ahead from where I am in terms of fitness and power on the bike.
VAAST: How have you changed as a cyclist over the years? Are you getting more or less competitive? Upgrading equipment? Focusing on longer rides, harder training sessions, different terrain and different bikes or just fun cruises with local groups.
Josh: Yeah, I’d say progression is the name of the game right now. I travel a lot for work so it’s pretty tricky to meet my weekly cycling goals but when I’m home I try to squeeze in no less than 50-miles a week on the bike. Working to go faster and harder. I definitely feel like I’m starting to plateau in MTBing due to the severe consequences that come with going higher and faster on harder lines. But I’m getting pretty psyched on working hard to become an animal on the gravel bike and may even dip my toes in the XC MTB scene.
VAAST: Explain your perfect day on a bike or tell us about your proudest riding memory.
Josh: Honestly, a perfect day is truly experiencing a place on two wheels whether it be in my hometown of Mammoth Lakes, or somewhere new. Definitely can’t forget the snacks and beverages that come with the sport of cycling: like gas station pickles and beer! And to make it even better is to share those experiences with friends.