Taylor Lideen is a lifelong cyclist with an intense drive and love for the sport, second to none. What many people may not see from the outside are the struggles he has gone through, on and off the bike, to get where he is today. He is passionate about sharing his story so that others do not feel alone when tackling the rough waters of mental health, the physical demand of endurance racing, and all that lies between. Through cycling, Taylor has found a way to navigate some of his life's most difficult moments and is working hard to make the conversation about mental health awareness in the cycling community the 'new norm'.
When not on his bike Taylor loves spending time with his amazing wife Mary, two dogs Niko and Reese and friends and family. Taylor is heavily driven by setting goals, and earlier this year he took on the massive goal of eclipsing the record he previously set in 2018 by completing 21 laps at the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo.
After the dust had settled and some time went by, we sat down with Taylor to talk about this epic challenge. Watch it unfold in this captivating, gritty video from this year’s 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo that takes you through the highs and lows of pushing yourself to the brink.
After you watch, scroll down to check out our exclusive interview with Taylor to get his thoughts on how things went, what he learned from the experience and how it has helped to shape who he is as a person and what he will do differently the next time around.
Interview with Taylor Lideen
In the world of 24-hour racing you have earned yourself a reputation of always being a threat for the win at the highest level of competition, but aside from your cycling ability and ability to suffer what drives you to do what you do?
What drove you to compete in a 24-hour solo event?
In my opinion, 24-hour solo racing encapsulates the spirit of mountain biking for so many reasons. The 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo, in particular, is a special race because its reach has grown from a local Arizona event to a globally recognized weekend in the desert and is going on its 22nd annual running. The atmosphere is so inviting to everyone - professional athletes, amateur MTBers, kids, spectators, etc. The venue itself is absolutely loaded with campers, tents, and other forms of camping equipment for the whole weekend (some people compare it to Burning Man because it is in the middle of the desert and is a huge party from Fri-Sun). A weekend full of camping and bike riding is what I would consider the heart of MTBing and is actually what got me into this sport. When I was younger I was surrounded by bikes and always around 24-hour racing as my dad raced 24 Hours of Moab on a team. I was always interested in what seemed like an absolutely crazy adventure.
Have you ever participated in any team 24-hour events?
When my interest in 24-hour racing started, my dad tried to talk me into forming a team. He had always raced 24-hour events on a team and he was super familiar with that format and the logistics behind all of that. I never really considered the whole team thing, and looking back, I think it was likely out of my fear of disappointing others, or thinking I would be an anchor for my teammates. I felt like if I just jumped into the solo category, everything would be on me and I liked that. If I had laps that were slower, I would be cool with it. Or if I had laps where I was faster, then that was just a bonus.
Looking forward, I think it would be fun to put together a team and just go out and put in some "smile laps". No time expectations, just a good time on the bike. Maybe one day... 😏
What was the driving force behind trying to break your previous record of 20 laps at the Old Pueblo 24-hour race?
After setting the course record back in 2018, I knew almost immediately that I wanted to go back for more after crossing the finish line. I am very much a 'goal-oriented' person and appreciate the process in most things that I do. When looking at the logistics of how I would break the course record that I had just set, it seemed like an incredibly scary goal - but also a goal that I would enjoy trying to tackle. I also wanted to show people that I was going after something pretty lofty, in the hopes that my experience could inspire them while navigating their own personal journey. It doesn't matter if you are going out there to ride 1, 5, 10, or 20 laps. If you have a goal in mind, I think it's important you stay true to yourself throughout the process and leave it all out on the trail.
You made it clear that going into the race that your goal was to do 21 laps. On several occasions, you are heard asking your support team where Josh Tostado was. Were you concerned that he would also make 21 laps and you needed to stay ahead of him to secure the record or did you feel like the record was out of reach midway through and you were just concerned about taking the win?
This one is pretty loaded, haha. When I first got into the sport of 24-hour solo racing, I looked up to Josh as an idol - someone I aspired to be like, and couldn't fathom how he could go so fast. To this day I continue to look up to him for many reasons, but primarily with how dominant he has been in this particular discipline of mountain biking. Josh has been incredibly helpful to me, and we have become good friends. Even still, I get nervous lining up against him in a solo race, just because I know it's going to be a brawl from start to finish. I never really got concerned that he would make 21 laps, as I was just focused on my own lap count, but my mind did start playing some pretty irrational and crazy tricks on me that lead to all the questions of where he was. As the sun was starting to rise, and I was pretty deep in my head, I had convinced myself that Josh was hiding in bushes along the course and was going to jump out and sprint past me. It sounds totally insane, but that's where my head was during those closing hours of the race. I actually knew that my attempt at 21 laps was well on par with what we had planned, as I was tracking upwards of 30 minutes on my goal times. It wasn't until I stopped on the course on that 19th lap in the video that I knew that the record was out of reach. I honestly think if it were almost anyone other than Josh in 2nd place at that point, my mind wouldn't have gone so crazy. As I said, I have looked up to him for many reasons, and being chased by someone like him for hours on end was a stressful deal haha.
After you had some time to reflect, did you analyze everything you did leading up the event and every move you made during the event to try and figure out where you went wrong to not make your goal of 21 laps?
Absolutely. I can drive myself crazy with things like this. My wife Mary, who plays a massive role in my racing, and I obviously chat about these types of things before and after races to better learn about ourselves and how we can improve on race day. We will typically talk about stuff that we liked, moments where we could have done something better, feedback from people who came by our pit, etc. I honestly think the issue started way back in September (which when my training for the event starts). I was very focused on getting to 20 laps in 2018, but the 21 lap goal was on another level - I was obsessed and over-analyzed that goal from September to February. I never really let Mary know just how deep I was, and that was a big mistake. These efforts are extremely difficult - not just physically, but more so mentally. I have never done a 24 solo where I didn't communicate much with my pit crew during the witching hours, or make them aware of my mental highs/lows and that was a mistake. I should have been more vocal about what my mental dialogue was, and allow for some reality checks here and there. I had gotten looped in this mindset that 'failure was not an option' and I fought against that until the very end. When in fact, 21 laps or not, it was never a failure. Hindsight is definitely 20/20, and I learned more than I could possibly imagine from that particular race. To be honest, it just makes me even more excited for the next one.
So communication during the event was a bit of an issue, but in the end, your biggest problem was simply putting too much pressure on yourself before and during the event. Do you think you just too much pressure on yourself and the stress caught up with you?
Absolutely. Hands down the biggest mistake I made. Putting pressure on yourself is a good thing, but there needs to be boundaries. At the end of the day, we are pedaling bikes. If we take ourselves too seriously, then honestly, what's the point? At the professional level, I bump up against stress management often and need to redirect that energy into a positive outlet. It takes repetition and practice, but I know it is a priority.
Have you stopped to digest the massive amount of miles it will take to actually do 21 laps? It’s quite likely that the majority of active cyclists don’t even ride that many miles in a month and you want to do it in one continuous 24 hour period. It sounds a little crazy to us.
In short, yes - it's roughly 357 miles. I think about the lap counts and the total mileage and how long it is REALLY going to take. And believe me, I am not unaware of how crazy it sounds haha. I personally can't think about that too much though, because it's incredibly daunting and causes excess mental strain. I do consider myself very fortunate for the opportunity to go out and pedal for many miles during training, and I realize that many people do not have the time or resources to do the same thing. I think people assume that you need to ride 20-30 hours a week to do a solo and that couldn't be further from the truth. I have seen and heard of people having crushed solos and accomplishing their goals on 4-8 hours a week. It's all relative.
How long did it take you to recover from your 19 laps that you did do?
Recovery has gotten a lot better/shorter for me with the more solo races I do. However, I think this effort took me longer than normal to fully bounce back due to the emotional drain and natural disappointment of coming up short. I'll admit, I was afraid of what people were going to think, along with the fact that every detail was being captured on film. It is still tough to watch myself experience those lows, but you know, we tried and I am really proud of that. To answer your question, it took me two weeks to feel normal again.
What does your recovery regime look like?
Recovery is something I take a lot more seriously than I have in the past. Sleep is probably the number one thing I have focused on over the past 2 years. I am a pretty early riser in the morning, in order to get my riding in before the day really starts, so falling behind on sleep really really beats me down (just like every other person, I’m sure!). I have been working towards getting more hours each night (minimum of 6) and also my sleep quality (allowing myself to wind down and naturally relax before falling asleep).
I also am a firm believer in the use of compression, and I use Elevated Legs compression boots all the time. They are an absolute lifesaver for me. I will typically sit in the ‘legs’ for about an hour at a time, and my muscles will get a good massage while the blood flushes out and back in. Feels unreal!
Lastly, I try to listen to my body more. I am very fortunate to be coached by Lynda Wallenfels, and she takes recovery very seriously. I can always be better at it and having her encourage it helps a ton! She will always remind me to take note of how my body and mind are feeling and encourages open dialogue about it. This really helps me, especially with the mental stresses of training and racing.
When it comes to training and competing in events like 24-hour races how much of it is structured for you? What is a typical training schedule during various parts of the year?
I would say it's pretty structured. As I said, I really enjoy the process of things, and structure is a big part of what makes it fun for me. The more solo races I do, the more I realize that I need to keep it fun and exciting - so that is a big bonus. I like understanding the numbers behind my training because that way I can see the progression in the months leading into a race. Personal confidence is something I have to work on every day, so the science and numbers behind my training are an amazing way to show that the effort I am putting in is in fact working. However, during a race, I don't really follow the numbers (other than lap times) because I can keep a good pin on where I am at - for example heart rate, power/watts, cadence, etc. I do my best to get in a bit of pre-riding on the course before a 24-hour race, that way I know where I can conserve energy or where I’ll likely need to burn a match or two to keep consistent lap times.
A typical training schedule is never typical. There are times where the volume goes way up for a short period because keeping super high volume is not sustainable for me personally. I think it's really important to find what works for you and not revolve your workload around somebody else.
What can you tell someone who has never done a 24-hour event, but is interested in seeing what they can do?
GO FOR IT! I know it sounds scary or intimidating at first, but everyone starts somewhere. I remember when I did my first 24, I took a nap during most of the night hours. That was where I was at in my journey, and that is just as awesome as someone staying up the whole race and riding. One thing I love to tell new endurance riders is to think of these races more as an eating contest than a bike race. The number one thing that people will struggle with getting in enough fuel/hydration, so I like to put a set amount of calories in my bottles for each lap and then supplement with more ‘real’ food as I come through the pits. The really cool thing about solo racing is that you can do as many or as few laps as you would like. For those interested in trying it for the first time, remember you can take a nap, snack breaks, beer breaks, whatever you need! These races are so inviting to everyone and it's a giant family/party atmosphere. Last bit of knowledge I’ll share - with each race, you'll gain more experience and find ways to go just a little faster so keep at it 👊
What other events do you focus on during the year?
While 24-hour solo events are what I love most, I can really only do about 2 a year. I honestly just love riding my bike, and I’ve found that marathon, 100 milers, stage races, and gravel events are all super enjoyable to me as well. We are really lucky to have so many amazing events here in the States, you can find something to fit your riding style at all times of the year! Epic Rides obviously puts on amazing events, that are super welcoming, and in some ways a big weekend party with a bike race thrown in. Dirty Kanza is something that I have also really enjoyed and would love to go back to for either the DK200 or DKXL. I was planning on racing more than ever this year but with COVID, things are obviously on a bit of a hold.
Tell us a little about your team of supporters and what things you do to get them prepared?
Oh man. My wife Mary, sponsors, family, and friends are EVERYTHING! Each person has contributed to my success in unique ways, and without them, I wouldn't have the opportunities to do what I love. I feel extremely lucky, and am beyond thankful for those in my corner.
Mary does so much more for me than people could ever imagine. She honestly has the hard work at these 24’s, with the logistics in the pits, cooking, light swaps, and everything in between. We are always in sync when it comes to race prep and race day - she is super organized, which makes me stress less 😬 and I can trust all the decisions she makes while I am out pedaling my bike.
With my sponsors - I sometimes can't believe the equipment I have the opportunity to ride and race on. Riding for brands like Shimano, Lazer, Pivot, Stan's NoTubes, Infinit Nutrition, and many others is something I appreciate more than people may know. With the hours I put in with training and racing, my equipment is pushed pretty far. Being partnered with these brands not only provides me with the confidence I need to keep going, but the products make each pedal stroke that much more enjoyable.
What is your single most important message that you want to put out there?
Set yourself goals - no matter how big or small they may feel, no goal is insignificant. So many people out there work countless hours each week, have a family and kids to look after, or other time constraints on their plate. One thing I like to offer people is the idea of daily intentions - when you wake up in the morning, give yourself at least 1 item that you will focus your energy on. From there, you can grow those daily intentions into meatier goals, with more clear guidelines - like riding your bike 30 minutes every day. As you build on these habits, you can start putting together your plan for completing a race, like a 24-hour event! Having goals and aspirations is something I am very driven by, and I think it can help others with maintaining motivation. There is something really special about setting your mind to something, and chasing after it!
Who are the people and companies in your corner that you want to give credit to for helping you do what you do?
- Mary for EVERYTHING
- Pivot Cycles
- Stan's NoTubes
- Infinit Nutrition
- Wahoo Fitness
- DNA Cycling
- Exposure Lights
- Seven Points CBD
- Elevated Legs
- Stages Cycling
What do you think of E-Bikes and do you ride them?
I love ‘em! I have spent a bit of time on the Pivot Shuttle and it is an absolute blast and would actually love to get one sooner rather than later. I am a firm believer in pedal-assisted bikes. My dad still rides his big Pivot Firebird 4-5 days a week on our local trails here in Phoenix and I think an E-Bike will be a good option for him eventually. He is turning 68 this year and an E-Bike would allow him to have plenty of travel while also not crushing his body (especially in the AZ summers). The best part about them is that you still get an insane workout, but cover more ground in less time. I think there is a lot of misconception that they are for "lazy” riders, when in fact my heart rate goes through the roof when I ride one. My friend Kenny at Stan's rides his Shuttle (E-Bike) more than anyone I know, and that guy can absolutely crush it on a bike, pedal-assist or not. All bikes are good bikes in my opinion!
How can people follow along with your training and events you do?
If you ever see my wife and me out on the road, trail, or at an event feel free to come up and say hello - always down for a good chat!
Any parting words?
Even though I race at an elite level, there are times where I struggle with self-confidence, both on and off the bike. Racing, more specifically 24-hour solo events, has helped me navigate a lot of my mental obstacles, including some really difficult times.
The cycling community and racing community has had such a massive impact on me as a person.
The people we have been fortunate enough to meet and share experiences with have made me a better person and athlete. Racing has taken me to new places all around the world, which has opened my eyes to new cultures, food, traditions, and more. Through cycling, I have learned a new way to appreciate each day I am given and look forward to my next adventure, both on and off the bike.