James now lives in Cottonwood, AZ and rides for Niner Bikes. Photo: Niner Bikes

James Bethea hasn’t been gone from the Fort Collins cycling scene for that long but he kinda snuck off in the middle of COVID so I figured we should track him down to see where he got off to and to see what he’s been up to lately. 

A couple of things of note before we get to the interview, I’ll be running a 10 Tracks episode with James tomorrow and Bike Fort Collins is currently in the process of getting James inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame. 

When were you active in the Fort Collins cycling scene? 2000-2021

What rides, races or breweries did you frequent? I loved the winter rally rides, Wednesday worlds, the FoCo102 (aka the kick in the junk), truth or consequences race in horse tooth, the lory mtn park series, new Belgium brewery short track, cross of the north, and any of the MTB races in Laramie and Cheyenne Wyoming. My favorite rides are the damn dams, Carter lake, buckhorn canyon, Pennock Pass, and soapstone and red mountains.

Claim(s) to fame? Won the first recognized bike messenger race, started team Brooklyn that launched the careers of many notable riders, podium at the national urban downhill championships in Mexico, first African American professional cross country racer.

Why would local riders remember you? It was said that I stick out like a black guy at a mountain bike race… so I stayed pretty animated at events.   

What’s your favorite Fort Collins cycling scene story? The shenanigans at the new Belgium short track.

What was the most embarrassing thing you ever did whilst in Fort Collins? I showed up for my first ever winter rally ride all kitted out in Lycra. Everyone else was in carharts and flannels. I thought they were geeks. I was wrong.

What’s your favorite Fort Collins cycling scene story? Team Brooklyn ATB, Nukeproof, Jamis bicycles, first city cycling team, and now Niner.

What do you miss most about the Fort Collins cycling scene? Chasing cups and crowns on Strava. Getting dropped (chicked) by females.

Favorite Fort Collins Restaurant? Road 34 bar and Grill.

If you could do one local ride again, what would it be? Finishing the super secret FoCo102.

What do you miss about Fort Collins that has nothing to do with cycling? Camping.

Where are you originally from and what brought you to Fort Collins? I’m from Brooklyn Nyc, and I moved to Fort Collins to reactivate my racing after a few years off.

If you left Fort Collins where did you go? I left FoCo to move back to Arizona in the winter of 2020. It was time for new impetus.

Where do you live now? What are you up to now? I’m racing bikes for Niner. I work for Pink Jeep Adventure Tours as a Jeep tour guide. I paint lots of bike images. I live in Cottonwood Arizona.

Husband, wife, partner? Kids (ages)? Pets? Other big life changes? I’m partnered with Catie Pfeiffer. I have two kids that I know of ages 24 & 25, that live in FoCo.

Did you stop riding? If so, why? Ride or die. I stopped for a minute after I shattered my hip and leg, but I’m back.

If you stopped ridding, do you miss it? I miss some aspects of road riding and fat biking but that’s ok.

If you stopped riding, what is your new passion or what do you do with your time? I’ll push up daisies after I stop riding. Guess I’ll be a gardener.

If you still ride, what type of riding, how much? I still race off road. About 10-15 races a year. I love gravel rides and admit that I should ride more road. I try to ride my mountain bikes at least 3-4 times a week.

Future riding plans?  Race for another 20+ years.

How is the cycling scene there? It’s like foco, 20 years ago. Lots of potential, and about to explode. Sedona is just down the road. Kinda like Boulder was to Fort Collins. People are starting to look at Cottonwood as an alternative to Sedona.

If someone were to visit your new hometown, what ride should they do? Anything in Sedona.

So, when are you moving back? I’ll tell ya when I get there.

Got anything else to add? I’m coming back to foco to take all the crowns and cups from the locals. Lol

Do you have anyone specific you’d like to say hi to or finally apologize to? I want to shout out Road34, provelo bikes, the first city cycling team, and all the young up and coming cyclists .

If you’ve been on the Niner site lately, you’ve probably noticed James is doing some bike modeling too. Photo: Niner Bikes