Neil Beltchenko

Crested Butte, CO

I’ve always had a bike since I was a kid, riding the dirt jumps in the park behind my house. It was not until 2010 when I finally got on a mountain bike again. Things kinda took off in 2012 when a friend and I took on the Colorado Trail in 10 days. It was an eye-opening experience that lead me to take on the Arizona Trail Race 300 in 2013 – my first bikepacking race. Basically, after that, the rest is history.

Neil's Kit

I have found the bicycle to be the best tool to see my surroundings. I used to be into backpacking. I love camping and living with everything you need on your back. When I discovered bikepacking, I found out I could do the same thing at a much faster pace. The bike is my way to disconnect from the world while getting in exercise, and it’s hard to beat the simplicity.

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What kind of cyclist are you?
I would consider myself an ultra-endurance cyclist. I would also consider myself a mountain biker. My focus has been on singletrack and dirt; you won’t find me on much pavement. I am also a year-round cyclist who happens to live in a ski town. I’m certainly the minority, but I love riding on snow just as much as dirt.

How long has cycling been a part of your life? When did it become more than just “riding a bike”? 
I’ve always had a bike since I was a kid, riding the dirt jumps in the park behind my house. It was not until 2010 when I finally got on a mountain bike again. Things kinda took off in 2012 when a friend and I took on the Colorado Trail in 10 days. It was an eye-opening experience that lead me to take on the Arizona Trail Race 300 in 2013 – my first bikepacking race. Basically, after that, the rest is history.
 
The cycling accomplishment you’re proudest of to date?
Back in 2012, I took part in my first race, the 100 Mile Crested Butte Classic. After the first 70 miles, I was sitting in 10 place. In those last 30 miles, I started to feel great, passing four people and finishing 5th. I was really stoked to have crawled through a pretty loaded field to do that. I’m also proud of my rookie run on the Tour Divide in 2015, finishing in 14.5 days. This year was really progressive too with the Arizona and Colorado Trail races which lead to records.

Favorite place you’ve been on a bike so far?
It’s hard not to love my backyard of Crested Butte, Colorado. I’m still relatively naive when it comes to traveling with my bike. The riding in Southern Arizona is also hard to beat. I love that state, especially when it’s cold and snowy at home. 
 
Favorite place to daydream about that you haven’t yet ridden?
New Zealand, hands down. The diversity in that country is unreal. I’m also excited to visit Scotland, Italy, Israel, and some east coast rides in the near future. Baja too. My most vivid dreams are coming from Alaska, as I will be heading there in February to race the 350-mile Iditarod Trail Invitational.
 
How do you describe what the bicycle means to you?
I have found the bicycle to be the best tool to see my surroundings. I used to be into backpacking. I love camping and living with everything you need on your back. When I discovered bikepacking, I found out I could do the same thing at a much faster pace. The bike is my way to disconnect from the world while getting in exercise, and it’s hard to beat the simplicity.

How will your future as a cyclist unfold?
Hard to say at this point. I want to become a better downhill rider, so that is something I will be focusing on. I also will continue to test my boundaries of ultra-endurance races. I have found recently that I’m just not that good at sub 100-mile races, so focusing on what I know I can do well is something I’m going to take forward with me.
 
Who inspires you and your riding?
Ever since watching Jefe Branham, Ethan, and Kurt on the Tour Divide via Trackleaders in 2011, I have been inspired. They might not know it, but they were the ones that inspired me to get into these events. Since then, everyone out there is an inspiration. Many people will never know what it’s like to ride down the spine of the continent or from border to border in Arizona. Anyone that does these events is an inspiration to me, and reminds me that no matter how fast or slow, it takes a special person just to toe the line.

Favorite Salsa model and why?
The Spearfish is one amazing bike. The bike is my everyday go-to rig because it’s playful, yet extremely efficient. Is has surprised me over and over, from the Arizona Trail to Colorado. I love the lockout ability, which seriously makes me feel like I’m on a hardtail, and there is ample frame space for a Salsa or custom frame bag.

Favorite pre, during, and post ride/race food and bevvies?
I tend to eat what I can get out on trips, but I somehow always find myself eating gummy worms. I also really enjoy a good meat stick, Snickers, nut mix. I always bring Tailwind Nutrition on my trips; drinking calories is easy and efficient. On a tour, Good To-Go Foods Thai Curry is the bee’s knees. I also tend to bring along a beer or two when touring and always have a Red Bull in my bags when racing.
 
When you’re not cycling…
I enjoy taking my Sony a6000 out and about to take landscape shots. The camera is a new and exciting outlet for me. I also enjoy skiing, walking my dog Bowie, and cuddling up with Lindsay and Bowie next to the fire watching Netflix. I also work so I can pay rent and bills.
 
What don’t you leave home without on a ride?
One thing I never leave home without is a pretty extensive repair kit. The last thing I want is to be stranded out on a ride, even if it’s in my back yard. I tend to ride with a tool or part to repair anything from a ripped bag to a broken derailleur. I also never leave a bikepacking trip without Wet Ones. Being able to clean yourself is important.