Yawpers frontman Nate Cook first bought a beater bike out of necessity, after a fender bender essentially totaled his car and he didn’t have money to get a new one.
“I was broke, as every musician in the country is, and couldn't afford a new car, and biking was my only option,” says Cook, whose tour with the Yawpers got scrapped because of COVID-19.
But after a friend gave him a road bike for free, Cook realized he had a knack for cycling and that he really loved it.
“When quarantine hit, I figured out how to do something different,” Cook says. “I have this insatiable need for both attention and to do something that's somewhat impactful to the world. And so I figured, ‘What the fuck? Why not put on some bright clothing and make an ass out of myself on two wheels?’”
A few months ago, Cook started training 75 miles every other day, with 50-mile treks in between and one day off. He would start in Aurora, where he lives, and ride to Bear Creek Lake, then to Golden, Rocky Flats, around Cherry Creek Reservoir and back home. The trips would take about seven hours with breaks.
“I’ve still got to eat a Twinkie on the road,” Cook says.
Over the last week, Cook has stepped up his cycling game to get in gear for what he calls his "Head East, Aging Man" Charity Ride, which he starts this Sunday, September 20, to raise money and awareness for struggling musicians during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cook has mapped out a 700-mile trip to his home town of Tulsa, Oklahoma, for the fundraising challenge.
Cook’s ride will benefit Sweet Relief's COVID-19 Fund, which provides financial assistance to all types of career musicians and music-industry workers who are struggling to make ends meet while facing illness, disability or age-related problems. Sierra Nevada, Recording King, Yeti, Birdworx, the Oriental Theater and Zerr Enterprises are on board as sponsors. Donations can be made by texting "GOEAST" to 202-858-1233 or by visiting here or here.
"My colleagues have been kind of hurting," Cook says. "So I figured it would be a good way to maybe raise awareness, and also I figured that I'm kind of like the last person that anybody expected to all of the sudden become a health fanatic."
While Cook thinks he can finish the cycling trip in nine days, he’s giving himself two weeks to complete it.
“I'm a very inexperienced rider still, so estimates are probably wildly wrong,” he says. “But at the moment, I'm planning on averaging about 70 to 75 miles a day, and maybe more. I've done quite a lot of riding this summer, and I think that that's in my wheelhouse. But I've also built in some contingency days in case I totally fuck up. Honestly, that would be a better narrative arc if I totally fail.”
Along the way, Cook says, some of his musician friends who have more cachet than himself will record songs, posting them to their social media accounts to make people aware of the fundraiser. People can track Cook’s ride since he’ll be wearing a GPS tracker. When planning out the trip, he knew he wanted to go 700 miles, which gave him options of Tulsa, Kansas City and Omaha (he didn’t want to bike over the Rockies).
“It’s super-flat,” Cook says of the route. “If anything, it’s slightly downhill, which will make me look much more athletic than I am.”
Cook's bandmates will reunite with him in Oklahoma, where the Yawpers are planning a pay-per-view live-stream concert from a Tulsa venue.
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