By Kathleen Swift, Photos by Savanah Mandeville
Following in their father’s footsteps means getting on a bicycle for Wil and Levi Barnard. Their dad, Bill, has been riding and racing bicycles since he was 18 years old. Bill bought the boys their first bikes when they were young, and as they say, the rest is history.
Now that Wil and Levi are grown, they ride at the same level as Bill, and the three Barnard men race and ride street bikes and mountain bikes. Levi, who is 17, rode his first 70-mile race when he was 14 and has been doing distance racing since then.
“Long-distance rides do give you bragging rights for riding so many miles. But I prefer the closed-circuit races rather than the cross-country races,” said Levi. “In a closed circuit, you ride several laps over the same course. You ride fewer miles, but to me, it’s more exciting, and I like the action.”
Wil recalled, “Even when I was three years old, I could ride a bike without training wheels. Being on two wheels is where it’s at. When I was six, I did a mountain bike race in the beginner class, which isn’t so much classified by age but by experience. I was the only guy to keep riding to the end of the race.”
The three men all love bikes and racing, and they love the inter-family competition. Bill said, “We support each other, but once a race starts, it’s every man for himself. We go hard. If the boys beat me, I just tell them I’ll get them next time.”
“The old man has never beaten me head to head,” Wil chuckled. “So far, I’ve stayed undefeated in the family. If I would lose, I’d train harder.”
Training is something the three men take seriously. When they are in training, the three will ride 200 to 300 miles a week.
“It can be hard to stay in the routine and keep our performance up. Heat doesn’t bother us but cold is more difficult when we ride. When we train, we ride local roads and try to stay on outer roads or in the country and stay out of the way of traffic. We’ve all been hit by mirrors on cars or bumped into by vehicles. When we are riding to train, we stay in single file and are constantly in communication with each other about the traffic.”
Bill has participated in some big national races in the past. The one he is most proud of was the Leadville 100 race in Leadville, Colorado.
“It’s a world-renowned race. Lance Armstrong and other professional racers compete there. It was on my bucket list to participate, and I consider it my biggest accomplishment. We raced at 10,000 to 12,800 feet in altitude, and that was very different because there is less oxygen at that altitude.”
Levi has had his share of glory on the circuit, too.
“I’ve raced in the Tulsa Tough race and in the Generation Kansas race. The Tulsa Tough race classifies the racers by age because there is a big difference in skill across the age range. The first time I raced in Tulsa Tough, I got second in my age group. The second time I did that race, I placed first in my age group. So, for a year, I was the best in that age group in Oklahoma. It wasn’t my most challenging race, but it was cool to place first.”
As far as advice, Bill said he tells his sons to train hard and push themselves, which these three will continue to do together for a long time.