Sam Schultz has driven south every winter for the past 11 years, leaving Montana’s snow-covered landscape behind to coach mountain biking and road riding in Tucson, Arizona. In those 11 years, he’s switched it up his plan a few times and detoured over to sunny California to ride, but the Sonoran Desert has a certain allure that has always drawn him back. Sam’s road trip always has an end game; to get back on the bike, push his own limits, and get a jump start on the riding season. He’ll be the first one to tell you he loves a good road trip, and that the best ones are filled with deviations, stops, and adventures along the way.
The whole life “van life” movement has really taken off, but it’s nothing new. The entire idea of it is centered around freedom; go where you want, when you want, with the only limitation being the need for a road surface to drive on. Riding a bike is not all that different. They’re an amazing tool for adventure and instill a strong sense of personal satisfaction and excitement. However, on a bicycle there’s no need to stop when the road ends. Sam’s bikes are a natural extension of his van, and he uses them to further explore his current location and bring on a unique perspective to his journey.
“I would say the more time I can have to get from point A to point B the better. Just stop and you have your garage full of bikes, your dresser, your changing room, your kitchen, your bed--everything you need. The best times on a road trip are the days the van doesn’t move at all” – Sam Schultz
Sam grew up racing mountain bikes. He entered his first race at 13 and was ranked at a national level, earning him a spot on the US Cycling U23 development team. After several years of competing internationally against the best in the world, it was announced that he was chosen to represent his country at the 2012 London Olympics. Sam placed 15th on the day, a result that he’s incredibly proud of. The Olympic Games weren’t Sam’s exit from racing, but it wasn’t long after that he began suffering from multiple back injuries that required multiple surgeries. One of the surgeries resulted in a spinal infection, and the other left him with rods and screws fusing his L4 and L5 vertebrae together. For a year before surgery, and a year after each surgery, it was non-stop physical therapy and rehabilitation. He was determined to return to racing.
“For me, it’s always been that if I put in the work, I see the result. That’s how my whole bike racing career was, and I feel very lucky that it was like that.” – Sam Schultz
Sam came to the realization that with his plaguing back injury, being a racer wasn’t going to be his future career. Like most people when their entire world is turned upside down, he felt a bit lost. The solution didn’t come to him overnight, but he took the time to try and figure out what it was that actually makes him happy. Sam loves to travel, meet interesting people, and he loves to ride his bike.
“The only thing I have found that compares to doing something yourself, is sharing it with someone else. Most people learn that in kindergarten, but that has been a pretty big epiphany for me.” – Sam Schultz
Sam’s been camping out and travelling with a van for his entire life. From road tripping with his parents’ minivan in high school for racing, to exploring the US with a quiver of bikes and his dog, Pancho. Right now, Sam’s biggest priority is to embrace his adventure, put the van in “park”, and get out for a ride beyond where the road ends.