Inspiration & Adventure

Behind The Wheels with PDX Cyclocross Racer Stephen Hartzel

Behind The Wheels with PDX Cyclocross Racer Stephen Hartzel

Are you curious about getting into gravel biking? Maybe cyclocross or long distance cycling? We caught up with Portland native and cyclocross racer Stephen Hartzel to answer all of our questions on what it takes to get started and keep grinding on the bike.

Pushing through mud and storms during the 2021 Corncross in Sandy, Oregon. 


Name: Stephen Hartzel
Portland, Oregon
Team: Breadwinner Cycles
Riding Focus: Cyclocross, Endurance MTB racing, dabbling in Ultra Endurance Cycling
Day Job: Bicycle sales and licensed real estate agent 

What kind of bike & kit are you rocking?
I ride a Breadwinner Holeshot, which is a custom steel cyclocross bike. 
My kit is provided by Vergesport and for endurance I ride with a Wool Jersey made in Portland by ANTHM.

Breadwinner Holeshot guarded by Lou Dog

What kinds of races do you compete in?
1-hour cyclocross races, 2-6 hour MTB, and 24 hour+ ultra distances

How did you get into cycling? 
I was introduced to flat track motorcycle racing at a young age by my father. When that was no longer a sustainable pastime, the transition to bicycles seemed like a natural one.

How long have you been at it? 
Since 2005, so 17 years now.

What races and projects do you have coming up?
I’m just hitting the CX season right now which will last through the holidays

Favorite place to ride?
Probably Northern Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Southern Washington, or my second home trails just east of Mount Hood.

What does your training look like? 
10-20 hours per week on the bike, plus a little bit of running during CX season. I also incorporate some weightlifting and core work throughout the year.


2021 Corncross in Sandy, Oregon


What is your diet philosophy in general? 
I am a meat eater, but I try to be thoughtful when incorporating it in my diet. Variety is important. I rely on a lot of on-the-fly feedback from my body and adjusting. 

What’s your nutrition strategy for training? 
Off the bike, lots of carbs.

On the bike, simple bars that are usually date based, gels with caffeine, and a good amount of electrolytes on warm days.

How about your nutrition strategy for races? 
Simple is better; big breakfast of oats, butter, brown sugar. Eggs, rice, soy sauce and honey.

For high intensity events, I just take in calories in the form of gels, lightly mixed sodium mix in the bottle.

How have either of these changed over the years?
The biggest change is WHEN I eat and drink. This is practiced in training. You have to teach your gut what you want/need it to do.

On his way to winning the 2018 PDX Trophy Cup.


What’s your favorite post-ride food?
Double mountain pizza in hood river, Oregon 

Alcohol: into it or no?
Into it! I’m definitely a fan of beer, but I value quality sleep when training/racing and don’t drink as much then. 

Supplements: into em? Which ones & why? 
I’m not taking any currently. I’ll take multivitamins  if there are holes in my diet.

What are the biggest barriers to efficient fueling while riding?
Eating and drinking when you don’t want to or when your gut doesn’t want to. Thinking about the task at hand can get you motivated to do so, especially in longer endurance events

What happens when you get behind on fueling and how do you recover from it? 
Usually I’ll load my system with carbohydrates, follow with fluids, and practice patience for the body to start firing again. It always does, but the mental space of a hard bonk is a dark dark place.

Competing for the 2019 PDX Trophy Cup.


How do you choose rides when you travel?
If it looks like there’s a great view somewhere, getting that reward of the views can be really motivating to crank out some vertical gain.

I’ll cross reference for MTB rides.

Favorite pieces of technology for biking and why:
I run Wahoo cycling computers and they’re just so easy to use and they really perform. 

Who do you admire in the biking scene?
All of my peers that strike the balance between racing/riding and all other life situations. When you’re all in, it can be difficult to balance!


Enjoying a hard-earned single speed leader’s jersey with riders Gabe Linn (left) and Seth Patla (right). 


How about in life?
My siblings. They have been some of the most motivating people in my life.

Where do you draw your drive and inspiration to do what you do?
I think the drive comes from curiosity of what I am capable of doing with this body that I was given.

Biggest lessons learned from biking?
There’s no wrong way to ride bikes. 

What’s your best advice for people getting into gravel biking?
Don’t overthink it. 


Follow Stephen’s adventures on IG @honeyimsure