Part of Dave Fotsch’s job is to convince people to ride bikes more often.
It’s part of his recreation, too.
Fotsch, the director of Boise GreenBike, completed the Idaho Smoke ‘n’ Fire 400 mountain bike race last fall in four and a half days. The 472-mile route was an out-and-back from Boise to Redfish Lake.
Before he left, he wrote an emotional Facebook post about his reasons for joining the race — including in honor of his late riding partner, Mark Annas, who died earlier in the year. Fotsch admitted he had no chance to win but said he would ride because he could.
“I do it to see if I can do it,” he wrote. “I do it for all those other middle-aged folks who think about this sort of thing, but never actually do them. Excuses, not strength or time, keep them on the couch. In my humble opinion, that’s no way to live. You live by doing. The couch will always be waiting for you when you’re done.”
Fotsch, 59, has been bike touring for 30 years, beginning with a trip from Milwaukee to the California coast. He rode the Tour Divide route along the Continental Divide with Annas in pieces over eight years. But Fotsch never had done a bikepacking race like Smoke ‘n’ Fire.
“You go into an event, whether it’s a race or a tour, with the body you have and not the one you want, and I was certainly there,” he said of what he considered too little training. “... I knew going in that it was going to hurt me, and it did. I learned early on in that event that I could do really long days, that I could ride for 12-14 hours a day, that I could ride after dark even though my wife didn’t want me to. ... By the last day, I was completely exhausted. ... I had one more big climb up the back side of Aldape Summit, and I was greeted by some of my mountain bike friends. That lifted my spirits enough that I was able to kick it in and finish.”
Fotsch’s supersized relationship with bicycles dates to childhood. He delivered newspapers by bike from seventh grade through his senior year of high school in rural Wisconsin. He took his first bike tour when he and a friend decided they were tired of their jobs in Wisconsin. They rode a 4,000-mile, jagged line to California — a trip that took four months.
“I guess I had my first midlife crisis long before my midlife,” Fotsch said. “It was a life-changing experience. It taught me a lot about self-reliance, about setting goals, about the inherent kindness of people to bicycle tourists. I think a lot of people thought we were probably homeless. People were overwhelmingly kind. They would give us food. More importantly, they would give us beer.”
He has tried to complete a bike tour a year since then.
He entered lottery drawings for two rides this year, including a one-day ride around Mt. Rainier, and is considering a return to Smoke ‘n’ Fire.
Meanwhile, he’s busy trying to increase ridership in the GreenBike program he started in 2015 through his previous job at the Central District Health Department.
He pitched the bike-sharing idea as a potential public-health initiative if it convinced people to use bikes more and cars less. The program more than doubled its number of rides in 2016 and will expand this spring to offer bikes at parks along the Greenbelt and in the North End, and at select businesses outside the Downtown core.
“This was an opportunity to connect my passion for bikes with something that does some good for the community,” Fotsch said. “So in many ways, this is my dream job.”
Explorer of the Month highlights people doing unique, notable or inspiring activities outdoors. Please send ideas to ccripe@ idahostatesman.com.