The TNL Explorer Team is a recognition of what a growing number of teammates are learning about when it comes to the role of competitive events as connectors, taking on big personal challenges, and the community we’ve built in and outside of TNL. We’re learning that it’s less about the competition or event, and more about the people and journey. We’ve learned that we can go anywhere with our bikes and have a good time while each having an individual experience that meets personal objectives.

There are a half-dozen or more things that get prioritized over athletic pursuits for the vast majority of adult athletes, or at least within TNL members. Nothing like a kid getting sick, a job promotion, or a home needing maintenance to disrupt training goals or event preparation. The freedom we had last year to commit to a full season of race training and performance got replaced with “life” this year. Most of us ebb and flow with life and must find a balance with our sport of choice. We have to get strategic about the events we can participate in.

All of this creates tension. We want to do more, get frustrated when life presses in, lament the training gains dissipation, and get depressed when we’re not as competitive as we were last year. This tension leads to reflection and assessment of the always present “value proposition” of invested resources versus outcomes.

For some of us, we reflect on what we love the most about a giant gravel event like the Barry Roubaix or a full season of cyclocross. We also spend time talking about all the things we’d love to do, but can’t because we’ve ran out of time or it would disrupt the season we’re committed to, like multi-day MTB trips in northern Michigan in Oct during prime leaf change. We can’t do it all and we know it, but hate it.

The reflections get synthesized down to two realities. First, anything revolving around the participation of an athletic event is fun. Second, we keep coming back because of the time we spend together as people. We spend a ton of hours together at a CX event, but only ride our bikes for 30-45min. We may get frustrated about not doing as well as we liked, but we keep coming back because it’s the “connector” of the people we like spending time with doing something we love.

So, we start asking “what-if” questions.

What if we replace an “event” with a full-day or multi-day trip? What if we trade Barry Roubaix with another Saturday ride on the same gravel roads with 20 riding friends that includes riding together at fun paces, sharing meals, and having a support crew? What if we invite anyone that wants to go to Northern Michigan to ride the same course that the LumberJack 100 is raced on during a long-weekend trip and provide the experience for each other whether you’re riding one, two, or all three laps with support? What if we do a spring road riding that takes us to a new riding zone that no one has been to and just ride until we decide to take the next left or right? With the right amount of planning and the willingness to support each other, we can do anything, right? We think so.

Hear us on this, we LOVE Barry Roubaix, the LumberJack 100, and all the events like that, but why not create alternatives for those that can’t make the race date due to “life circumstances,” aren’t interested in doing the event for the 5th year in a row, or can’t dedicate the training time for a 100mi MTB race or didn’t get into the event due to selling out? We will have TNLers do a dozen of these events and we’ll support another year of TNLCX efforts. It’s not a replacement, it’s a “add-on.”

The Explorer Team is an alternative for those of us that are working on the life balance aspects, and are intentional and adventurous enough to plan their own trips. TNL has grown big enough and we’ve had lots of conversations with others outside of TNL that share the same sentiments.

In 2019, we’re going to “explore” this idea to create our own day long or multi-day supported bike trips with an agenda that fits a variety of interests in locations we wish we spent more time in. For some it’s a move away from traditional race events that bring us together and a fun way to explore new riding with friends for others.


In addition to events, the Explorer Team is made for a growing number of our athletes taking on ultra endurance events that explore the depths of their physical abilities as well as their mental fortitude. We’re signing up for ultra-marathons and 200mi bike rides because of the grit it creates in our souls rather than the medals we win.

Expect dates, trips, and stories of explorations coming soon. We’ll be kicking off in late spring with the first trip.


upcoming explorations

  • March 22-24 - Slade, KY

  • June 13-16 - TBD

  • TBD - Kal-Haven Trail 1-Day

  • TBD - Hoosier National Forest 1-Day

  • TBD - Baldwin, MI