Epic Rides Moves Just in Time for 24 Hours of the Old Pueblo
February 14, 2013
By Teya Vitu
Epic Rides made an epic move to start February, which is always to most epic month of the year anyway for the mountain bike race organizer behind the 24 Hours of the Old Pueblo Presented by Tucson Medical Center.
Along with putting on the final touches for the 24 Hours, taking place Feb. 15-17, Epic Rides moved its offices Feb. 1 from Perimeter Cycling to its own digs.
Epic left behind one office and a cubicle with two desks at Perimeter Cycling for a 12,300-square-foot warehouse that company president Todd Sadow had acquired from the Arizona Department of Transportation.
Epic Rides, 534 N. Stone Ave., fills 10,000 square feet with the front third dedicated to offices and the rear warehouse stocked with goodies for the goodie bags that all riders get.
The move to Stone Avenue, just north of 6th Street, sets Epic Rides up for its future – and that future is pretty much right now.
Sadow co-launched 24 Hours of the Old Pueblo in 2000, and Epic Rides emerged as a full-time company after the 2001 race. Sadow added the Whiskey Off-Road in Prescott in 2004 and took over the Tour of the White Mountains in 2007.
“It’s the best ride in the state,” Sadow said about the White Mountains race.
Sadow starts on Stone with three employees (himself included), five outside contract workers and three races. He has space for 13 employees and capacity for many more races. He plans to ramp up the employee count during this year.
“Sky’s the limit,” Sadow acknowledged.
What has been a one-, two- or three-race company for a dozen years is now poised to add as many races as Sadow might want to line up around the country.
He is on the verge of setting up a race in Colorado, which is ripe for its own mountain bike race as Colorado sends more out-of-state riders to both the 24 Hours and Whiskey Off-Road than any other state. Sadow also has a race in the works in the Mid-Atlantic region.
The Whiskey Off-Road set the template for Epic Rides’ expansion. After Sadow staged the race for five years in Prescott, the U.S. Forest Service, the business community and the city rallied behind the Whiskey Off-Road to make it a revenue-generating event.
In the past five years, the Whiskey Off-Road has expanded from one day to three days and Sadow has added a massive mountain bike industry expo, live music and $35,000 cash purses.
“That event has been pivotal in our growth,” Sadow said. “Now we’re taking that format national. We’re raising an industry.”
The growth of the Prescott event, staged April 26-28, enabled Epic Rides to break out on its own in February 2013. Since the beginning, the Epic Ride office was at Perimeter Cycling, the organization that stages the El Tour de Tucson.
“I’m grateful for their patience and giving me an incubator for 14 years,” Sadow said. “Now we got big enough to outgrow the space and stand up on our own. This is a big deal for us.”
Sadow was the only person to put in a bid 18 months ago as the Arizona Department of Transportation offered the warehouse at 532-538 N. Stone Ave. It is one of dozens of warehouses ADOT acquired in the 1980s to demolish to make way for a bypass. Several have been auctioned off in the past three years as a Downtown Links route was established that lowered the number of warehouses that needed to get demolished.
Sadow peeled back about a dozen feet of the roof to create a small, enclosed courtyard between the warehouse’s front wall and the new glass wall he created for the office entrance “to give us a mountainesque environment.” He installed light sensors that turn lights on and off as when people are in the room or not.
He had to do floor-to-ceiling asbestos removal in the building that had once served as a transmission repair shop and storage for a gem show dealer. It took him 18 months to get the building ready for occupation.
Sadow describes Epic Rides as a “lifestyle company.”
“I very much wanted us to be as close to Downtown as possible,” he said. “Downtown has experienced great revitalization. We’re close to the Tucson Mountains. If people want to take a bike ride, they can. We have full showers and bike storage.”
Sadow came to Tucson to attend the University of Arizona. He was eager to work in the bicycling world.
“I couldn’t get a job in a bike shop. I just wanted to get my foot in the bike industry,” Sadow said.
He and two partners founded the 24 Hours of the Old Pueblo in 2000 but the partners were gone after the third year. The 24 Hours started with 172 riders and the next year had 456 riders.
For the past six years, the race has attracted 1,850 riders, the maximum amount Sadow will allow on the 17.5-mile loop course at Willow Springs Ranch near Biosphere 2.
“We were one of the first four or five mountain cycling races,” Sadow said. “For a while, there were 60 or 70. Now that’s tapered down to 20 or 30.”
He said the 24 Hours is the biggest mountain cycling race in the country and among the Top 3 in the world. About 62 percent of the riders live in Arizona, but the rest travel here from other states, the most from Colorado.
The field is 82 percent men but “18 percent women is a strong number for mountain biking.” He said most mountain bike races are in the single digit percentages with women. 70 percent of the participants are 31 or older.
“It’s expensive,” Sadow rationalized for the older demographic racing in the wilderness.
Epic Rides’ presence Downtown could mark the launch of a new era of mountain biking as Sadow adds more races across the country. Mountain biking has ebb-and-flowed over the past 30 years.
“Mountain biking probably formalized itself in the 1980s,” Sadow said. “It was cool and alternative in the 80s. In the 90s, mountain biking became mainstream. In the late 90s, it fell off a little bit with the rise of road biking.”
Mountain biking splintered in the 2000s but now is coming back together. Sadow said there’s been a resurgence in mountain biking in the past five years, especially in the past year or two.
And Todd Sadow is ready to lead the way with Epic Rides.