Luke Bryan feels at home on the go. Whether that means being on tour, performing in front of thousands, or riding your bike on the sidewalk. For the Nashville native, biking is an escape from the digital world and a low-impact means of staying strong.
“I’m a big guy,” says Bryan, who is at 6’2. “I used to love jogging, but when I got on stage after a long time, I felt it in my knees. My concerts are very physical and the deeper I dive into the setlist, the more I would feel the toll of those miles. “
Now Bryan doesn’t leave home without his bikes. We caught up with the country singer to talk about his love of cycling, his fitness on the road and his first century driving.
Men’s Journal: How has your relationship with fitness developed over the course of your career?
Luke Bryan: You know, when I started my career when I was in my early 20s, all I could do was drink a few fewer beers and lose 12 pounds. Even in my 30s, I didn’t need too much to put my body in a good place. Now that I’ve reached my 40s, it’s taking more. it’s harder you need to be a little more aware of what you are recording. And you need to make sure that you stay as active as possible.
How have you trained in the past?
I remember when I moved to Nashville in 2001 I felt a little overweight so I started jogging a lot. I would run about five or six miles a day, then I would play a lot of basketball with the boys. At that time, I was in the best shape of my life. Additionally, I’ve tried all of these exercise programs like P90x and Insanity but felt the after-effects in my joints. It had a lot to do with the way I beat my body when I was young, when I worked for my father and spent my days picking up only heavy things. The legs started to hurt me too. I had to find another way to keep moving.
How did you get into cycling?
It really happened about five years ago. I met [former professional racing cyclist] Robbie Ventura and [entrepreneur] John Cassimus who is also a great driver. We all shared a mutual friend, Sam Bell, who is also a great driver and owned the Blackberry Farm in Nashville. Unfortunately, he died at a young age after a skiing accident. So it was about paying homage to Sam and getting acquainted with his passion. This is one of the entry points into cycling.
What do you like about that?
First of all, when you have a family and you are on the go so much and have to travel all the time, you want to enjoy every second that you can. The fact that I can go to my garage, get on my bike, and exercise right away is a huge benefit – instead of getting in my car, commuting, parking, and trying to squeeze myself in one session. Next up, I would say I love cruising in my neighborhood. Heading south from my house, it’s just one of the best racing bikes you can imagine. The roads are built on this hard Tennessee limestone – really smooth, with no cracks or bumps. The hills are amazing, especially in the fall when the leaves are changing. There are these great routes that you will ride under an amazing canopy.
Do you have a favorite local cycling route?
I love a ride on the beach. My friends from Trek sent me a beautiful fat bike, perfect for riding through the sand. I pump up those big old tires to about 5 or 10 PSI and just go down on the water. It’s especially fun because you don’t have to worry about traffic, parking and falling because you won’t get too injured. I like to take a little one-hour trip to the beach. Drive around, jump in the water, then drive back an hour. It doesn’t get much better with a daytime activity.
How do you get into cycling and stay fit on tour?
I have a closet to store my bike in when I’m out and about. I also have a stationary Wahoo KICKR that I can use when I can’t make it out on the road and want to stay safe. I have been using this wahoo for over three years at this point. I’ll get on Swift and try to beat my times to see what my boys did. Either way, I try to sit in the seat for about an hour or an hour and a half. I also have a trainer I’ll bring with me on the trip, Brad Roby from Shed Fitness. I’m always on tour so staying in shape isn’t too difficult.
Do you hear music?
I love music, but I think it’s really important to be able to hear the road, especially when I’m driving in a place I’m not familiar with. So I try to avoid headphones, but I can clip my phone to the handlebars so I sometimes put the music through the speaker. But I don’t need music to pump myself up. I get a lot out of it just hearing the wind in nature. It is important that these mental escapes take place from time to time.
Did you make up songs on your rides?
I definitely wrote songs on rides. I always have my iPhone in my back pocket. So when I have a moment of inspiration, whether it’s music or lyrics, I pick it up. I have these little voice notes of myself singing with the wind in the background. Out there in nature and with a calm mind, there is no better situation for inspiration. There have been many times I’ve called friends from my bike to write songs to discuss ideas.
What was the motivation for your journey in the first century?
I’ve been doing some pretty long drives lately, walking around the house and doing 40 or 50 miles. A couple of the people I know who are seeing my numbers and stats came up to me and said I was ready for the 100 miles. I wasn’t so sure, but I couldn’t refuse. I also have a Trek Madone that suits me perfectly which makes the miles easy.
How did you prepare for it?
We called a local trainer, Dave Carpenter, who works with triathletes, and he built us a course based on the routes we would take. I did the ride with Robbie Ventura who has some [century] wins under his belt, I think like 50 or 60 of them. He drove for the postal service team. He now owns a training company north of Chicago called Vision Quest. There were six of us and everyone else had driven for centuries so I was definitely in good company. There was even a doctor on the crew. So if something happened, we were covered.
How did the trip go?
We made it under six hours. We started at my house around 6 a.m. Outside there was a fine mist. The whole trip was honestly magical. The sun was behind clouds most of the time, but it got pretty hot around noon, which made it a bit more difficult. We actually drove 105 miles.
What did you like about the close of the century?
It was unlike anything I’ve ever done before. I really enjoyed challenging myself to this extent in terms of endurance. The really big part started on the 50th mile. I had never gone further on any of my solo rides so it was pretty cool that every single mile was a new personal best for the entire second half of the ride. Even if the miles were challenging, this idea really helped me move forward.
How did you celebrate the completion?
To get the sodium and carbs, we ordered some sushi in the house, along with some noodles and lo mein and a couple of beers to rinse it off. Nothing after a good long drive but a nice cold beer. I have my own label called Two Lane Lagers, so this is the brew of choice.
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