Keeping The Demons at Bay

An interview with cross country cyclist and coach, Luke Hall

Interview by Jeremy Lux, article written by Eric Gasa

Cross country biker, Luke Hall is one of those immovable individuals who just can’t give up when they got their eyes set on a goal. Yes, a lot of people say they’re determined spirits but there is little that can genuinely stop Hall when he has his mind made up. Including moving cars. Literally. When the guy was out training for a race one spring he and his buddy got hit by a vehicle and went tumbling down the pavement. 

For many, they would probably throw in the towel, do some physical therapy, and call it a year. But it was barely six months later until Hall was back on the track and took first place on his inaugural race since the accident. Somewhere between a rock and an underdog, Hall just doesn’t give up, especially when the odds are stacked against him.

For the latest Life in Motion episode, Jeremy Lux chats with Hall about his adventures in long distance biking, passing the torch to a new generation of bikers, and having the honor of coaching the first high school gravel racing team in the country.

Every pro has their start somewhere. Before Hall was biking thousands of miles across the country, he was constructing makeshift ramps at home and making Frankenstein bikes out of broken down Walmart cycles. Growing up he always loved endurance sports, especially BMX and cross country running in high school.

“I’ve always thought endurance sports were interesting,” Hall says, “We commit to ourselves suffering day in and day out in order to have this even greater moment of suffering, a victory…It seems to me that endurance athletes are battling some strange demons and we can only keep them at bay by pushing our bodies to the limit.”

Luke Hall

Well, if Hall has demons then the remedy for his seem to be biking 14 hours a day and trudging up 22% grade mountains nonstop. Whether he’s just a sucker for pain or not, Hall is exceptionally good at what he does.

Hall got his first taste for the circuit at a race that he probably had no business competing in. He remembers showing up to the starting line in his cotton jersey and $150 Schwinn, lined up against folks with $3,000 carbon fiber bikes and professional kit.

“I just remember them staying as far away from me as possible because I think they were just really sketched out by this, by this kid who obviously did not know what he was doing,” Hall chuckles.

But with two laps to go, he decided to make some moves and stole a big getaway for the front of the pack. The other bikers, not about to let some kid steal their thunder, “reeled me back and spit me back out,” as Hall describes. But even with the odds against him, the rag tag kid with the bike he found on Craigslist managed to make 22nd place out of 30. Not exactly a victory, but Hall was absolutely in love with the sport the moment he finished that race.

Luke Hall

Today, Hall enjoys bike packing, a new form of bike touring that involves cyclists strapping bags to their bike frames and camping out along the trail. It’s a weeklong endeavor that brings out the absolute beast in athletes.

“The longest race I’ve done was the Arkansas High Country Race and that was 1,036 miles,” says Hall.

1,036 miles. By bike. Or about a 17.5-hour car ride. But that’s not even half the battle.

“There was also something like 85,000 feet of climbing, so close to three times up Mount Everest. Just grueling day in and day out,” Hall continues.

After it was all said and done, Hall completed the trek in eight days, eight nights, and 11 hours. You do the math and that comes out to about 140 miles per day and riding 14 to 15 hours per diem. Talk about dedication! 

Biking has also made Hall completely rethink the way he views the natural world. He explains how you can drive through all the national parks, but nature’s beauty doesn’t even begin to show itself unless you’re on foot or two wheels.

“You just absorb so much more,” he says, “It’s a different way to connect with the outdoors and nature.”

With his expertise, Hall has taken his biking prowess to coach the nation’s, and quite possibly the world’s, first ever high school gravel biking team; something Hall is especially proud of.

Coaching at an especially unique academy, the Thaden School in Fayetteville, Arkansas specializes in three main courses as Hall describes, meals, reels, and wheels; culinary, film, and cycling. At a school with such a specialization for culture, creativity, and action, Hall was a great fit to make the innovative cycling team a reality.

Luke Hall - Thaden School Gravel Team Coach

Hall looks at the team as a great opportunity to change some lives and transform people’s idea of cycling from a competition to something that truly anybody can enjoy.

“I think bikes are changing the way people think around here. Whenever it comes down to recreation, people are beginning to understand that it’s as easy as throwing on a helmet and going outside for a leisurely ride,” Hall says.

For those who are trying to break into biking or maybe just any new physical activity, Hall recommends being consistent in your routine. Just go out there, forget the excuses, and do what you want to do, but be methodical. He explains how on Monday nights he sets time away to go biking after work for an hour, or maybe on Wednesdays he’ll go on a social ride with some friends.

From Hall’s view, the world is big and beautiful and just waiting to be observed and enjoyed, and what better way to experience that than from behind the handlebars of a bicycle?

“People take biking at this surface level, but it’s just so much more than that,” Hall says, “It’s just such a wonderful form of transportation. The more time you spend with it the more you realize how much it truly gives back to you.”

*** 

It’s hard to fit the complete story of a 1,000-mile journey into a 1,000-word article, but if you’d like to hear the full scoop on Luke Hall’s adventures in cycling, check out his interview on the Life in Motion podcast with Jeremy Lux. You can connect with Luke on Facebook and Instagram @loukall, and can see updates for his biking team on the www.thethadenschool.org as well as the Thaden School Instagram.

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