Al Brody is ready to roll. He scans the horizon, trying to judge how much time he has before the purplish clouds hugging Pikes Peak become a full-fledged thunderstorm.
Lightning flickers, but still Brody lingers on the shore of Quail Lake in southwest Colorado Springs. He hates to miss an opportunity for outdoor adventure and he has his white van loaded with a kayak and a fat-tired unicycle perfect for the lake and the trail surrounding it.
Brody, 55 and retired from the Air Force, spends most of his free time in the outdoors. He rarely passes up a chance to pedal, paddle or scramble. The rest of the time, he’s in the garage of his Rockrimmon home, creating new ways to explore the outdoors on wheels.
A unicycle, retrofitted with a five-inch fat bike tire made by Surly and carbon wheel rim by Borealis Bikes - which is a Colorado Springs-based fat bike company- is Brody’s newest obsession. Balanced on the chubby wheel, Brody has explored the region from the windswept ice of Elevenmile Reservoir to this short trail around Quail Lake.
In between his forays on the unicycle, Brody attacks all things human-powered. Slightly built with the legs of a dedicated cyclist, he’s a regular at Burning Man, the weeklong festival in the Nevada desert that’s a perfect place to tool around on his Hoosier Daddy, a monster trike he created. He has ridden fat bikes through the sand in the city’s creek beds and drainages. He has ridden nearly every trail in the region. He has maneuvered a 16-inch bike down steep and curvy High Drive in a herd of 20 adult riders because, he says, “we can.” If that’s not enough, Brody recently returned from the Kinetic Grand Championship in Arcata, Calif., where he raced with a team in a Rube Goldberg-esque human-powered art sculpture.
He’s always challenging himself, but he’s at a rare loss of words when asked why he doesn’t keep track of his mileage, his times or his accomplishments. “I used to ride downtown a lot – close to 100 miles a week. Now, I might go around this lake – a little more than a mile – on a unicycle. But it’s harder. I just never know how fast I’m going or how far I’ve gone. At the end of a ride, there I am.”
Brody retired from the military in 2002 and has lived in the Springs for 15 years. Always into fitness he entered a bodybuilding contest at 50 years old and finished second in his age group. Today he’s left the gym behind. His goal: “To get outside and do something physical every day – hiking, biking, boating, or combinations. I don’t really rock climb, but I like to scramble on things and I like building things.” He says when he’s on a bike, he’s in his “happy place.” “That’s when I feel most alive.”
Sharing his commitment to outdoor recreation, Brody has become a vocal advocate for human-powered transportation in Colorado Springs. He’s a member of the Active Transportation Advisory Committee, and he frequently launches e-mail campaigns to make Colorado Springs more bike friendly. He started the Mayor’s Ride several years ago, followed by the City Council Cruise, and was a vocal advocate of allowing bikes on the Pikes Peak Highway, cheering when it finally happened two years ago.
He’s relentless in his pursuit of better, safer bike paths and bike amenities in Colorado Springs, and says he would love to see his city become a world-class bike-friendly model.
“I’m trying to help move our city ahead in significant ways that aren’t very expensive,” he says.
If there’s a cycling event in Colorado Springs, a smiling Al Brody is there. He recently tried out adaptive bikes on local trails, and he’s primed for the next community event, the Starlight Spectacular, a fund-raiser for the Trails and Open Space Coalition.
“I’m doing my best to put the spectacular in the Starlight Spectacular,” the bubbling Brody says.
What kind of bike will he choose for that event? “A tandem trike with lots of lights and decorations yet to be determined.” he says. “And did I mention a disco ball?”