BikeRadar's website of the week: MudandCowbells.com
MudandCowbells.com started for the reason many ‘bike racer blog’ sites do, to chronicle the trials and tribulations of the racer as they strive toward some competitive goal. The site is popular for the candor and passion in which it’s posts are written, but above all it’s the relevant content that keeps the average rider coming back week after week.
For these reasons, we’ve had MudandCowbells' homepage bookmarked since mid-summer 2007.
Site creator Greg Keller is a bike racer, a husband, father of two and a co-founder of an Internet software start up called BlipSnips. He’s your average recreational racer, not someone who is paid to ride a bike all day then take a nap in the afternoon. Because he is like the rest of us, his trials and tribulations associated with the sport of cyclo-cross are so easy to consume and relate to, and that is paramount in his blog’s success.
MudandCowbells, the man, Greg Keller
Keller epitomizes passion. He has an infectious personality and cannot help but be an evangelist for what he cares about. He’s been a lifelong bike rider and racer but his passion within the sport is cyclo-cross which he first raced in 1996. Over the four or so years he’s been running the site he has become one of the more prominent voices of recreational cyclo-cross within the United States.
“To me there is no other cycling discipline,” Keller told BikeRadar. “[Cyclo-cross] is pure athleticism — you can’t just be a massive diesel engine or sinewy climber… you have to be graceful off the bike, you have to be an athlete.”
Needless to say MudandCowbells started as a hobby. Keller originally meant it to chronicle his 365-day lead into the 2008 Masters World Championships in Mol Belgium, for his two sons.
Keller's Boulder Cycle Sport teammates — Brandon Dwight, Pete Webber and Brian Hludzinski — made their own pilgrimage to the master's cyclo-cross world championships this year
“I said I’m going to go, I’m going to experience this,” Keller said of his decision to train for and go to masters world's. “The blog was an attempt to document that for my kids, who were super small at time and I wanted them to read about this someday.”
His oldest post, dated 28 November 2006, did little more serve as comment on the weather and express frustration of a punctured tubular and broken wheel from the previous weekend’s race. Had MudandCowbells.com continued down this road, it would have been as forgettable as any other bike racer’s blog, but it didn’t.
Instead, real life and the real world interjected itself, turning the blog into something that kept people coming back to.
15 July 2007, Keller offered a post on ‘the three part teeter totter,’ which to this day remains a defining moment in the establishment of MudandCowbells’ voice and the introduction of a common thread that now runs throughout the blog. Here, he talks about the three things that are the most important to the average cyclist: family, training, work and the delicate balance needed to excel in all three. The topic and how Keller maintains his balance is a reccurring theme within the blog and something that just about every cyclist can learn from.
“As I went through this process of blogging about training, my content started to change, even I noticed it, and the content was changing to, ‘this is really hard, my wife hates me, I’m like a little thirteen year old girl who won’t eat anything, I’m not spending enough time at home,’ all the stuff and it became clear that I wasn’t balancing — something is going to break,” he said. “Here I am trying to manage a job, trying to do the right thing for my wife and my kids, but what I’m doing here is inherently f-ing selfish. So the [posts] started to get shared a lot more and the commenting started creeping up and people started saying ‘dude, what you just said I couldn’t say to my wife and yet I showed her that post — what you said, I shared with my family.’ And that was like gasoline to an ember [for his enthusiasm to write for the site].”
Like many ’crossers, Keller is an admitted gear junkie, especially when it comes to white shoes, cotton tubular tires or anything Bart Wellens touches. He rides for a local Boulder bike shop, Boulder Cycle Sport, which is supported by some well-known brands including Ridley and SRAM. While many of his posts serve as lip service to those sponsors, many — even some related to his sponsors —chronicle his quest to solve real problems, including creaky seat masts, brake chatter, rotting tubulars and pedal shoe cleat interface issues.
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Keller made it to Mol, Belgium for the 2008 Masters Cyclo-cross World Championships. He fulfilled a dream taking the hole shot in the age group 1968-1973 race. He went on to finish 28th and blogged about every minute.
At that point the blog was suppose to end, but in telling his epic story to his boys he built a brand, drummed up a following and be came a sort of ring-leader for masters ’cross, both in his resident state of Colorado, nationally in the US and even abroad.
So despite co-founding BlipSnips — which is describes as social video software that allows you to break down a video clip to share with your friends — in 2010, Keller still maintains MudandCowbells. And while the MudandCowbells brand could probably be profitable by many means, it’s maintained as a forum for Keller’s passion. Whether the forum is focused on his family, cyclo-cross training or work — well, that just depends on the day.
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