Sitting in a folding chair at the base of the Red Chair, Barry Wicks is enjoying a typical springtime day at Mt. Bachelor. Surrounded by friends with a double stacked charcuterie board and fresh baked goods, he refuels for another session skinning up the mountain. Standing at a height of 6'5," not many people can see eye to eye with Wicks, and even though professional athletes abound in Central Oregon, there is a uniqueness to his personality that is welcoming and inclusive, that breeds interest, captures the positive and nurtures a collective psych in everything outdoors.
As the son of a Mt. Hood ski patroller, Wicks has skied all his life, but soccer was his game until his teens.
"I played on a U13 team that was invited to play in Europe," said Wicks. "During that trip I picked up a copy of a mountain bike magazine," he remembers. "I knew immediately that I wanted to be a cyclist." After moving to Corvallis during middle school, where skiing was no longer as convenient, he turned to riding a mountain bike. "My parents were always looking for ways to tire me out. I guess I was a bit of a wild and crazy kid," he said. His seemingly endless energy would provide him a great platform for his professional future.
"I was beginning to get tired of playing soccer, and my (schoolmates) at the time told me about the OBRA [Oregon Bicycle Racing Association] racing series, so I gave it a try and it was fun," he said. So, he attended a few national events and placed well. Wicks spent 14 years as a professional cyclist, but got his start in collegiate racing at Oregon State University. "OSU had a pretty good program, which helped to fuel my cycling needs," he said. "I took the minimum course hours to maintain full time status so I could race bikes." Fully immersing himself in the culture of bike racing, Wicks would hitch rides, couch surf, camp out in farm fields and do everything he could to make the start line. Shortly after graduating, he picked up his first professional contract. "I (finally) got to ride full time. My job was a bike racer," says Wicks.
Wicks amassed some great results, including a Cyclocross National Championship in 2015. But there was something missing in his life. "Racing was never about being the best there is for me. It was always the process of learning and being the best I could be," he says. "The sacrifice and compromise to become a top-level athlete is huge, and though I could see the pathway, I wanted to do so many more things than simply be a bike racer. The difference between 25th and 26th place didn't have any meaning to me.
"I traveled to all these rad spots but was so focused on the racing that I didn't get a chance to stop and see the surroundings or meet the people." His search led him toward the mountains, adventure trips and gravel riding, where the atmosphere is chill, and camaraderie more fulfilling. "The part of racing that I am most proud of is that everyone who ever raced with or against me would say that I was always smiling," he said.
As a self-described "builder of bridges," Wicks began to organize trips, experiences and events that both suited his desire to adventure, but also brought people together.
Whether it's an uphill ski challenge, a long bike ride or a crazy combination of the two, "It's the event part that suits me better," Wicks reflected. "I love the organizing and I get super psyched when people respond positively." In keeping with his "all are welcome" mentality, Wicks organizes experiences where "the newbie and the pro are side by side, and both are having a great time doing it," he says. "I just want to share the stoke. I don't care about making money. I just want to shout out 'hey guys, this is so cool, come check it out!!!' I'm just happy that what I'm doing resonates with people. That feels good."
Early in the Covid pandemic, Wicks says, "although there was all this horrible suffering, I saw (an) opportunity to see the world in a different lens." As the outdoor industry was seeing a massive surge in participation, Wicks viewed the historic levels of interest as a chance "for more people to see the trees, the clouds and all that nature offers. It is a net-positive situation," he says. "More people are getting (firsthand) experience with the weather, seeing an animal track and simply getting closer to that primal experience (that) has to be good for humanity," he muses. "Although more people are out there, that should help more people feel THE GREAT AWAKENING. They will hopefully care (more) about the environment and the outdoors," says Wicks.
Pro File Stats:
Taller than most
Kona Bicycles Adventure
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