Catching up with Taylor Phinney
23 September, 2020

Catching up with Taylor Phinney

By: Allied Cycle Works

He was America's most memorable road racer for a decade, then he retired from the sport at the end of the 2019 season to turn his energy full time to art.

Then COVID hit and life got weird. We talk to Taylor about lockdown in Spain, where he's going with his art, and what riding means to him now that it's not his job.

Talk to us about living through the Covid lockdown in Spain. Was the self-containment as severe as it appeared to be in the US media? Was anything surprisingly hard about it? Was anything about it surprisingly easy to manage?

We were locked in the apartment for 7 weeks without being able to go outside for walks...forget riding..! The police presence was oppressive and in a sense, we were more paranoid of the 5-0 than the virus. My girlfriend Kasia and I would escape for mini walks through town, always vigilant of course. Although, one day I got caught as we were strolling through town; the police stopped me, questioned me and then took me to the Police station.

Ultimately they were just trying to scare me and I’m not gonna lie, it worked!
Kasia dove deep into cooking, we both slept a ton. We felt overwhelmingly grateful to not have to worry about a job (I’m unemployed anyway...) or family members struggling.

I felt very nostalgic and often wished to be in Colorado, but took the time as an opportunity for deep rest and my intention each day was to surrender to the forces around me and dive into my internal world—my creativity.

The time went by very fast in the end. We had weekly meetups with a couple different people, again disobeying the official orders and sneaking home at night through silent Girona.

You’re only one year out of racing, so no doubt your personal network of pro bike racers is as big as it ever was. What did you hear from them about trying to manage with the quarantine? What was the dominant emotion you picked up on from them – despondency, determination, befuddlement, something else?

I don’t communicate with many pros. Most of them were just confused at not being able to ride outside and then having their sponsors commit them to racing virtually on Zwift. Some pros went apeshit on the trainer, others did not...it varies greatly. I think it allowed everyone some headspace to consider a life without racing and what else they’d like to pursue, if anything.

You’re at the beginning of an incredible transition in life. The cycling media has characterized it as a career change: From pro bike racer to artist. Do you consider art your new job? Or do you feel something more free than that – like you’re on a sabbatical focused on art?

I’m most definitely unemployed right now and lucky to be enjoying it. I believe in my artwork, I work every day to make things and progress as an artist. I am constantly reminding myself that I just spent 10 years pushing my body beyond its limit 11 months out of the year just so I could eventually build a big enough foundation to take a break. Once you’re in the break it’s very easy to fall back into a pattern of abusing the body especially since 90% of my feelings of satisfaction over the last decade were related to how hard or how long I trained.

I’m discovering that once you make a big life change your habits don’t just automatically adopt so reprogramming myself has been a big challenge but one I am enjoying. Quarantine helped a lot with this as I was forced to stay inside and could no longer explore my physical surroundings to find satisfaction in the day. Instead I had to direct energy inside and through the body using breathwork, meditation and dance (music).

What sort of work have you been doing? That is, have you been sharpening your skills on a particular medium, or from a subject matter standpoint are you zeroing in on a specific area?

The most regimented practice I have is meditation. I meditate twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon, no questions asked...I am devout with this practice as I feel it keeps me from wavering on my “path”, perhaps more importantly it keeps me out of my own way which is huge for the creative process.

Quarantine was spent studying music production and music theory, something I’ve been playing with for the past couple years and something that deepens my understanding of visual artwork as well. Since we were confined to the apartment, I couldn’t go to my studio north of Girona, so I spent the days learning about Ableton, more precisely about mixing tracks (DJing), and EQing in a ‘live’ environment.

The biggest takeaway I have from what I learned is that preparation (programming in the computer, knowing where things are, categorizing and compartmentalizing sounds, effects and files) is paramount to a deep//rich//layered musical composition or performance. This is especially true in painting as well—sounds obvious to me now but in the past I have always been the type to just blast on canvas with whatever I have in front of me.

Can you compare the creative energy you get from Spain vs. the energy you get from your hometown -- Boulder? Are you equally inspired by both? Or are there meaningful differences that make working in one place easier (or more productive) than the other?

Europe has more classical inspiration in terms of culture, people, ambience.
In America it is easier to get things done.

Both places are distracting ...I’m discovering a need to have a studio in a very quiet place in nature.

Now that you’re done pinning on a number, what does your relationship with the bike look like? Do you still love to ride? What kind of riding? How long? What would an ideal ride look like for you nowadays?

I’m very unfit now after quarantine. I had a pretty good winter of riding actually but lost everything in the quarantine...you’re more likely to find me dead than to find me on Zwift...cycling isn’t about cardio for me, it’s about exploration and I’ve spent enough years forcing myself to go faster than I wanted to.

My ethos now seems to be:

  • “what are the biggest, chunkiest tires I can fit on this bike ?”
  • “what are the widest bars I can fit on this bike?”
  • “does she have a dropper post?”
  • “can I ride it backwards? can I huck it? can I wheelie it?”
  • “where is the nearest meditation spot? want to sit in a mountain stream for as long as possible?”
  • “what’s the route that allows for the longest, most flows, uninterrupted downhill?”

I either ride like 1.5hrs on my mountain bike in search of flow and airtime or I go for a day trip on a “gravel” bike which is like 3hrs of riding and 8 hours of nature bathing.

What’s the best thing (or two) you’ve read lately? Book, article, blog posting, etc. And what’s on heavy rotation on your Spotify playlist?

The Odyssey - Homer

I always have new music but I’d say the Rival Consoles and Floating Points are catching my attention recently.

Fast forward to 2025: What will your life look like?

I live in the mountains or next to the ocean and I quietly paint and make music. On the weekends I curate dance parties to prevent me and those around me from getting “old”

Can we hit you up for a recipe you love to make?

Slow cooked scrambled eggs (I MEAN SLOW, constantly mixing with a spatula) with carmelized onions (cook them first, real slow, use butter, and coconut oil, lemon...) on top of arugula that has been dressed with lemon, olive oil and salt. Maybe you want some tomatoes involved, or green onion on top or both.

tell us about the bike project you did to raise money for The Davis Phinney Foundation.

Yeah so I painted two Allied Able frames with the help of Spectrum Powderworks in Boulder, CO. There was a sweepstakes to win them. One is black and one is cream white...you’ll never find a paint job like either of them... . In my opinion they look quite nice :)

The thing I’m most proud of is how they are spec’d out. ENVE wheels, Chris king hubs, Crust Shaka bars...SRAM Mullet wireless groupsets. BROOKS saddles. They are ready to change the lives of whoever wins them. They are built for exploration, not for speed, although they will still be mighty fast.

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