Riding for Foundry Cycles: Ride, Report, Repeat

foundry auger

I have a big day coming up. A very big day. This day is bigger than any race day I have been up against. As you know, I am headed into surgery this Monday to get this bum mitral valve repaired. I am not scared, rather I feel much like I do before the Dirty Kanza 200. I know I am up against a long ride. I know I am going to feel some pain. I know I am going to have to push myself to make it. I know there are some unknowns I will come up against. But on the other side, I know I will finish and be a better man when I do.

That brings me to today’s special blog post. Foundry Cycles is looking for five brand ambassadors.

Five people who will have to,”ride our bikes and document their experiences.”

Five people who will be given their very own Foundry bicycle, a thing of beauty.

In return for the bike I will be required to

. . . spend the year talking to people about your Foundry. Go on rides, take it to races, local events, coffee shops, the grocery store, your local bike shop—everywhere you’d normally take your bike. Answer questions about it. Tell people what you think of it. Let them take it for a spin. Throw on a helmet cam and send us video of your adventures. Write up your experiences. You’ll have to earn your keep, but if you work as hard as you play, then you’re right for Foundry.” Read more about it HERE.

Basically Foundry Cycles is looking for someone to do what I do here every week but they want someone to do it on one of their bikes. Yes I know right!? It seems like a perfect fit. Let me not take this for granted. Let me take some time to tell the good people of Foundry Cycles why I believe I would be a great fit as one of their ambassadors. Let me tell them why I believe that giving me one of their $3,400 Augers would serve them very well. First, check out this beautiful machine:

foundry auger

What you are looking at is the Foundry Auger, a carbon fiber, disc brake, cross bike that would glide through the Flint Hills quite nicely.
Foundry, I am Eric Benjamin. I am your perfect ambassador. Let me not brag, let me explain.

shadow portrait

I am a professional photographer. I have been since 1990. As described by a good friend of mine, I am a “photographer that fell in love with cycling.” I loved cycling so much I started Adventure Monkey to inspire others to get off the couch and Feed Their Adventure Monkeys! Now I blog about my rides, races and everyday life. I lead photocycling tours through the Flint Hills of Kansas and I race gravel grinders around the area. Let me explain myself through images rather than words alone.

bicycle portrait

This is me, shot by an Adventure Monkey tour participant. Just think of me leading tours on a Foundry!

Before gravel grinding was cool, I thought it was the only place to ride. My friends and I used to ride gravel when I went to Emporia State University. Back then 20 miles was quite a feat.

Then I got older. I got a job. I quit riding. I had a job that kept me cubed up all day.

My Adventure Monkey was starved. My mind was in need of real adventure. I needed to feel a real sense of accomplishment. I decided to get back on my bike. I began riding 20 mile rides again. It felt great and I wanted more. All the “crap” of my cubicle world would be left behind in the gravel dust. The more I sweated, the better I felt.

I told my wife that I wished I could share this with people. I saw so many beautiful scenes from the gravel I rode. My wife is kind of awesome. She bought me a rack and trunk bag for the 20-year-old mountain bike I was pedaling back then and soon I was sharing scenes like the ones below with people via the interwebs. Soon the Flint Hills gravel was seeing more people on bikes.

road in the flint hills

 

bicycle on gravel, flint hills

 

bicycle landscape, flint hills

 

green after range burning

I couldn’t function without riding. It became my medicine. While others around me took meds for depression, high blood pressure and other maladies, I rode my bike. Soon I was riding in every season and temperature. High Gear Cyclery became a second home. I found myself not only riding bikes, but also talking bikes. I was soon a part of the cycling community. And what a community we have in Emporia, Kansas.

You see the little town of Emporia has become a cycling haven. The best gravel grinder in the world starts and finishes here . . .

downtown photo, long exposure

 . . . in downtown Emporia. A small town that has found new life because of a little race called the Dirty Kanza 200.

All the pictures I had been taking and sharing were like beacons calling people to ride on the gravel in our backyard. This year the DK200 filled in just over 2.5 hours! This race is becoming the premier gravel grinder in the country. I may be biased, well just look at these scenes and see what YOU think.

black and white landscape

 

open range road

The Flint Hills are the last untouched prairie in North America. Once you hit “Open Range” you may not see anything human besides the gravel you ride for ten, even 15 miles. It’s beautiful, rugged, challenging and a great place to feed the Adventure Monkey inside. Like a fork twirling a plate of spaghetti, the Foundry Auger would be the perfect tool for the job.

picture of gravel

 Amazing gravel

gravel road cycling

 Amazing rollers

sunflowers

 Amazing beauty

harvest in kansas

 The heartland of America

low maintenance road, bicycle

 low maintenance goodness

landscape photography, kansas

heavenly gravel roads

beautiful cloud image

 

prairie landscape

 

storm picture

 I ride. I shoot. I write. I lead people to do the same.

sunrise photo

 

storm sunset

I found myself wanting more. I got invited to ride through the California Mountains. I soon saw the bicycle as more than just a way to get places. Cycling became a way of life. The bike became a tool to get me there.

 

giant atx 760

I began this journey with a bike that was the bomb back in 1990. I bought this bad boy back in college. I began Adventure Monkey on it. This bike was more than a bike. It was my faithful companion. It was my escape to a better place physically, mentally and spiritually.

black and white bicycle

Soon it was time to get a new ride. The old 26er mountain bike was beating me to bits. I was looking for something to take me farther. I wanted something I could pack up and take cross-country.

open range bicycle riding

 

bicycle on gravel

 

fargo bikepacking in california

 The Salsa Fargo was the bicycle for the job

snow bike

I found myself on my beloved Fargo going everywhere. I was riding far. I was dreaming of riding farther. But soon I had another goal in mind. I still wanted to go far, but I also wanted to go fast. While I was training for the Dirty Kanza 200 on the Fargo an accident with mud and my derailleur occurred. My bike shop lent me one of their cross bikes while the Fargo was in the shop. I went far and I went fast! Soon I struck a deal to update the bike shop’s web site for a sweet deal on a new cross bike. My love for gravel had found the perfect vehicle.

cross bike in kansas, old stone fence

 My new Trek XO1 cross bike

flint hills, DK200, bike

ruts in road, bike

 

cross bike on gravel

 

cycling photo, flint hills

Soon I was talking to anyone that would listen about bikes and the world of cycling. Even the shop cat.

shop cat

 

big poppi's bike shop

I found myself visiting other places, bike shops, and meeting new people in the cycling world, like Aaron from Big Poppi’s bike shop in Manhattan, Kansas.

photo tour

Not only was I teaching photography, I found myself teaching about gravel grinding, bikepacking and many other aspects of cycling.

bikepacking with salsa

But then something happened. I found myself way over my head. I found myself riding with these guys on a bikepacking tour through the California mountains. That trip was amazing and eye-opening. The bike became a tool to stretch myself in every direction.

bikepacking in california

riding in the Central California Mountains

I stretched myself professionally, physically, mentally, socially and I became a better person because of the bicycle.

bicycle action photography

Soon I was shooting a cover for Adventure Monkey Magazine with Bobby Wintle of District Bicycles. Yes I also started a magazine because of the bike. This magazine will soon become part of our newsletter that we send out to hundreds of people. This site is growing and is currently under construction to make way for the growth of this little business. A business that believes in a simple idea fueled by the bicycle. The idea that everyone needs to feed their Adventure Monkey to live fulfilled, happy lives. One way to do that is by bicycle.

cycling couples, tour

It doesn’t matter where you come from, how old you may be or what your parents think. Life is better when you add a bicycle to it.

bicycle photography

Riding has become a metaphor for life.

gravel grinding

 I ride alone. I ride with friends. I ride with customers. I ride. A Foundry Auger would be the perfect vehicle.

dirty kanza 200

 I have become a part of the DK200 and it has become a part of me.

dirty kanza 200

I answer questions while riding the DK200. I answer questions in the months leading to the DK200. I could be doing all this on a Foundry Auger, the no-nonsense cross bike that seems as if it was born to do the Dirty Kanza 200.

dirty kanza 200

 A hill in last year’s DK200
I’m sure the Auger would glide up this hill with little effort.

dirty kanza 200

 Yes, I am one of the few, one of the proud that can drink a beer from the glass awarded to finishers of the DK200.

I will shoot pictures, tell stories and give people advice. Foundry you have stumbled upon a partnership made in the heavens this time.

new bike box

 Am I excited about bikes? Just a bit.

bicycle photography

 

bicycle portrait

 I look forward to seeing my Auger being built up at High Gear very soon. Here’s a few pictures of the birth of my Fargo.

bicycle photography, bike logo

 

bike shop portrait

 I like bikes and the cultured they have spawned. I like photographing every aspect of it.

salsa fargo bike build

 

bike portraits

 

bicycle riding on gravel

Can’t you picture it? The sweet simplicity of the black Auger out here on the range.

bike photography

 

group bike ride

The Auger is a precision-crafted tool—engineered to maximize a riders cross experience. Rocks, roots, singletrack, dirt roads, wet grass, muddy hills and tight corners—throw anything at it, the Auger is up to the challenge and always comes back for more.

Foundry, how about we show the world what this thing can do? You and me. Let’s do it all, from bikepacking to gravel grinding.

 

bike racers on gravel

 

bike riders on gravel

 

kansas gravel road, flint hills

Not only will the Auger be seen at the DK200, but it will be seen at many races in the midwest including the Gravel Worlds in Lincoln and the Farmhouse Classic in Missouri. I have my sights on many more to come.

gravel worlds riders

 That guy wants to know more about the Auger.

gravel worlds, nebraska bike riding

 Lincoln’s Gravel Worlds

hot bike girl

 Even hot girls on bikes will want to know about the Auger

kansas and cycling

 Kansas, are you ready for Foundry?

fat cyclist jersey

 

gravel grinding, lelan daines

 

joe meiser

 All other bikes will seem like this in comparison.

changing flat tire

 I’m sure I can get some of my hot models to pose with the Auger too!

 Need action shots too Foundry? I’m your man.

bike action photography

 

sports photography

 

off camera flash action photo

 

bike tour

 Think of all the time I will have to discuss and show off my beautiful Foundry bike.

adventure monkey bicycle tour

 Adventure Monkey Photocycling Tour Participants

photocycling tour cabins

 Think of the impression we will make on our tours with the Auger.

photo workshop

 I show people how to shoot pictures and do we discuss bikes? You bet we do.

cycling and camping

 

bike MS

 There’s no place I won’t talk about my new Foundry bike
(at the MS 150)

speaking at bike clubs

Not only do I speak at the tours during the classroom sessions, I also speak at bike clubs to spread the Adventure Monkey love.

group bike ride

Not only does Emporia host the DK200, but the Thursday night rides have grown to amazing proportions.

Foundry, giving me one of your bikes would be like dropping fresh meat into a zombie infested city.

group bike ride

 

bike ride for veteran's day

Not only do I ride in Kansas, but there’s no telling where this bike will lead me.

night landscape, long exposure photography

 

sunset cityscape, photography

 

portrait, man

Me dreaming of my new Foundry bicycle

Foundry, if this all is not enough let me give you one more reason.

I am setting you up for the best story ever. A story that will capture imaginations and inspire many people. This story is real. It is my story.

I am going into the hospital later today. Tomorrow a surgeon will go through my side with high-tech robotic arms to open my heart and fix my mitral valve. The bike has not only saved me from a dull, adventureless life, it has literally saved my life. Without pushing myself to my physical limits on the bike I would not have known something was wrong until years later and it may have been too late.

I did not feel 100% on the bike. I felt tired. Riding 80 miles became quite difficult, although I still did it. Since I was getting ready to take part in the Stagecoach 400, I decided I should probably get a checkup. To make a long story short, I found out the I had a heart murmur caused by a prolapsed mitral valve. I had ruptured my chordae tendinae, the little tendons holding the valve in the heart.

Tomorrow I will get this fixed. In two weeks I will be on the trainer, slowly, gingerly turning the pedals again. Soon I will be back on the bike training for the big race, the Dirty Kanza 200. I will be awarded a place as a Foundry brand ambassador. I will go on the win the Dirty Kanza 200 on your bike! Amazing! Newspapers, internet sites and newscasts will cover the amazing story.

OK, part of that was an ending made only for Hollywood, but I will ride in the DK200 this year and it will be an inspiring story made even more inspiring by the non-nonsense, precision-crafted tool called the Foundry Auger.

Adventure Monkey followers, friends and others – If you are reading this, please leave a comment to tell Foundry Cycles that they have found their man.

Feed Your Monkey!
Eric

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