Adam Ruppel

CALEDON

PRESIDENT, CHICO RACING

RACER, PROMOTER, MUD LORD

 

 

Adam (right) and his brother Sean run a number of outdoor events including The 24 Hours of Summer Solstice, North America’s largest 24-Hour mountain bike festival and relay. He also co-founded the popular obstacle course series, Mud Hero. He lives in Uxbridge.

 

Were you into biking as a kid?

I was on the Canadian cycling team for road and mountain bike. I finished 13th at World championships on mountain bike. I was hoping to race professionally, but coulda woulda shoulda…

So I needed something else, and I was working bicycle shops for crappy money. So I started my own business, and I came out of college making a lot more money in the summer on my business then I could make year-round working for other people.  I thought, you know what…

 

Tell me about the Summer Solstice.

It’s the biggest 24-hour race in North America. It’s very family-oriented: we get some 400 kids. We’re sold out already for the June event (this interview was in February, 2017) so I’ve got a wait list of probably 500 or 1000 people, but we are limited to 2200 because of the camping, and we don’t want to oversell.

 

Do most people camp at the Albion Hills campground?

Everybody does. That’s a big part of it. I would call this event almost social first and sports second, versus a highly competitive event. We rent the entire campground.

 

How did the idea of a 24 hour thing start?

I’ll tell you something, I never have the original idea. I’m always second or third to market with these type of events.

 

This interview is over.

Laird Knight was the originator of the 24-hour mountain bike race event. But most of the 24-hour events became the biggest thing in mountain biking and then they pretty much all died. Ours has stayed super successful.

 

Why do you think that is?

Because we offer a social component first. Great camping and a great racing course, whereas most of the other ones just offered a hardcore race course with lousy camping. There’s bands, DJ’s, tech support, a full expo area, kids events, a chug-fest. People come up from the States, fly in every year from England, British Colombia.

We also do a big mud bog thing that we open up partway through the day, people try riding through the mud. It gets hundreds of spectators.

 

I saw that on video — people booing when the riders avoid the mud.

That’s part of the charm, I guess.

 

The area that the event takes place in seems to be a dream area for mountain biking…

I think that Albion Hills is unique, in that the area is beautiful for camping but it’s also amazing for mountain biking, and it’s not so hardcore — there’s no mountains or big rock drops or stuff like that that. You couldn’t run a 24-hour race with those things, because at night you can’t have a track that is way too crazy technical, or people are going to get hurt.

 

Are people riding all night long?

Oh yeah! We have lights, and we have an all-night category which is quite smaller —some teams shut down at night and restart up in the morning.

If there’s anything really kind of cool about this event — well, there’s lots of things cool about this event — but one of the cool things is that you have to get yourself out of that comfort zone. Having your team ride at two or three in the morning, there’s nothing cooler than going out for a three in the morning night lap when you’ve never ridden at night. It’s just dark, you’re out in the woods and there’s 400 other riders riding around the course. It’s pretty awesome.

 

Now Mud Hero, the obstacle course you also run, it takes place in several different cities?  

Right across Canada.

 

It’s not really a racing thing— it’s more of an all-out obstacle course?

It’s still timed, there’s a 6k and a 10k and a bunch of kids’ events. But it’s still all about fun. We also have the 10k ultra, which is a little bit more challenging, whereas the 6k is more fun. That being said, it’s still a challenge for a lot of people.

 

How did Mud Hero start?

The American companies started coming up into here with similar events. And when I first heard about them and how big their numbers were, I thought, this is going to be big. I went and did 6 or 7 events in 2011, and realized the market was going to explode. So I hired an ad agency, took a second mortgage out on my house and I doubled down with Ted McLeod, who’s the co-founder of Mud Hero, he quit his job at IBM. The first year we only ran two events, the second year we made decent money and then the third year it just like took off like a rocket ship. We built it up from nothing to 60,000 participants in three years.

 

Is there a bike aspect to it?

No, all you need is a pair of shoes. And some clothes would be nice.

We’ve had people run naked on the course. You don’t need any particular skill set. We have hard challenges going over the obstacles and it’s great for getting outside. People who are super fit finish the course in less than 30 minutes, and we also have people who take their time and walk it, do it in 2 hours.

 

I interviewed a couple in Orangeville recently who run an axe-throwing business, and she was also an IBM’er who quit for this. A lot of people want to leave the corporate world, but most never do.

I never left the corporate world because I was never in it. I’ve been a small-business person for 23 years. I started when I was 22, had side jobs for the first few years, but I haven’t worked for anybody since then.

You’re the sole one that’s responsible for the success or failure. Entrepreneurs that point the finger to other people for why they are not successful never last.

 

If I was coming up here for a mountain bike ride up here, where would you send me?

I would go Albion Hills, Palgrave, those are the two big ones in the Caledon area.

 

How about winter?

Winter there’s fat biking, and actually Albion Hills offers fat biking. It’s bigger tires. My brother Sean runs a fat bike festival. You need a special bike for it, and the trails to be packed. It’s super fun.