Competitor Spotlight: Chas Christansen
Originally from the pacific northwest, Chas was born in Eugene Oregon, grew up in Olympia, WA. and with family in Southern California, he has strong ties to the west coast.
In and interview Chas was kind enough to talk with me about his life as a bicycle racer. He starts off by saying, “I’ve always ridden a bike, really for transportation to and from elementary school and high school. I had a car for a little while, I liked driving really fast and got 19 speeding tickets, so they took away my license – never had an accident though. In Portland I would ride a bike to get to and from work – Portland is a bike friendly city.
Getting into Racing:
“In Portland eight years ago, I had a cross bike and one of the guys I worked with asked if I had ever raced. When I said no, he took me to my first cross race, Cross Crusade. It was pretty wild – I loved it. There were these guys guys racing track bikes in the dirt and eventually i got up the balls to talk to them and found out they were bike messengers. They nonchalantly said, “yeah, these are just the bikes we ride.” Which this meeting then introduced me to the alley cat race.”
At this time, Chas was working as a butcher when one of the messenger racer guys told him was moving to NY, offering Chas his spot as a bike messenger. “And that’s how i got into bike messengering: just racing alley cats and being a part of that bike culture.”
“I then moved to San Francisco worked as a courier for 3 years before starting TCB and am now the owner of TCB “Taking Care of Business” Courier, which is the largest bike courier service in San Francisco. I do a lot of international and statewide racing. I’m sponsored by Cinelli and ride with the San Francisco Team, MASH. I am a Cat 2 cyclocross racer and have been racing for 8 years now.”
“I do a lot of International Courier races such as the European Cycle Courier Championships and the Cycle Messenger World Championships. I’ve been traveling to these races for the last four years. I’ve raced on every continent except for South America and Antarctica. I enjoy racing alley cats and criteriums. I’ve raced twice in Indonesia, London, Japan and all over Europe. I just got back from spending three weeks in Africa.
“International travel is one of the biggest things that drew me into messenger racing. The ability to travel and be a part of the international community of bike messengers is amazing.
“I like Germany a lot. I’ve been to Berlin three times. I’ve ridden from Berlin to Warsaw. I like the culture. I think it’s international and accepting. The countryside is beautiful. The races there are pretty good. I went to the European Championships there four years ago, in 2009. They held the race in the abandoned airport – shut down in the 60’s – Templehoff Airport we were racing bikes through tunnels and terminals in the middle of Berlin!
“Having just gotten back from Africa, I would say that Africa is now one my favorite continents to visit .”
“2013 hasn’t been the greatest year for me in racing. I’ve raced in the Stuper Bowl, Minneapolis, I raced in the red hook crit and placed 18th or 19th. I didn’t really have a super strong race. I got 4th place in Monster Track which is a little disappointing cause I got 3rd place last year. And I’ve been in a couple local races. I’ve been busy running two companies, so there’s not a lot of time for training.”
Although 2013 hasn’t been his best year thus far, Chas currently holds the title of North American Cycle Champion winning the nationals in 2012. Chas has been to LA and ridden her streets, however he’s tells me LA’s “culture doesn’t really speak to him. It’s really close and convenient. I also really like racing fixed gear criteriums, so I’m gonna come down and check it out!”
Biking in San Francisco:
“There are countless microclimate’s, you could be riding around in the Mission, doing loops, and it’s gorgeous and sunny. Then you got to the Marina and it’s cloudy and windy and your flying down hills. It’s kind of nice with working as a messenger. I get to choose what neighborhood I want to work in that day. If I want to get all crazy, I can go to the Haight and smash all around or downtown, depending on how things vary from neighborhood to neighborhood. It’s really nice to live in a city where I can ride a half hour from my door and cross the bridge and be in Marin and the Headlands. It’s relaxing and great for training, great descents and climbing – really nice to have.”
Portland vs. San Francisco vs. New York City:
“There’s a bigger difference in riding in New York than San Francisco, it’s like night and day. Portland is a long city and spread out over fourteen miles, it’s really mellow, you have the river in the middle and it doesn’t compare at all to San Francisco because it’s only seven by seven miles with massive hills.
[On the other hand] “In New York everyone is really aggressive and you have to make your own line, your own space, put yourself out there [as a cyclist] to make it happen. And everyone is sort of an asshole, but it isn’t until you become an asshole yourself and stand up for yourself in terms of riding with traffic and interacting with pedestrians and cars, then it becomes naturally easy flowing through New York traffic and the city of Manhattan itself, like a hot knife through butter. Whereas in San Francisco you don’t have quite the same density, but it still gets hectic a lot of the time in most places in the city. But everyone is a little timid and everyone has that west coast, “Oh, it’s okay, you go.” or “No, no, you go.” Everyone is afraid to really put themselves out there so you have to change your riding style. San Francisco is more bike friendly because pedestrians and traffic are more aware of cyclists and willing to give them the right away, but other than that, I’m not really aware of the bike paths or infrastructure that the city builds.”
Favorite Racing Memories:
“Back in 2009, I raced an alley cat in Tokyo, it was a highlight for me because I had never been to a city like Tokyo let alone raced in it. 2008 and 2009 was when I started traveling internationally, so riding through the city with all the people and traffic with some of the best racers that I had heard about but never met, it was pretty amazing.
“The 2012 East Cost Messenger Stage race was a really great experience. Austin Horse did a great job organizing the race. It’s crazy how he puts that whole event together. We raced six days from Washington D.C. to Boston. Some of the Wolfpack guys were out and a whole lot of other messenger racers and we had a really good time. There was this nice group of forty-five people and we hung out every night after the racing was done swapping stories.”
“I’ve pretty much gone as far as I want to go in racing. I already ride my bike for a living. If someone wanted to pay me to do what I enjoy doing on my bike, I think that would really take the fun out of it – I still get the same joy out of it as I did eight years ago when I started racing. I still feel like a kid when I’m smashing through traffic. I think if I started to get paid for it, I think it would cheapen it up for me. And I already have to hustle on a bike for money anyway so it’s kind of nice just to do it for fun. I really appreciate the support of the major companies and individuals which has allowed me to travel and see the world on a bike, spread the good word of bike racing and living on a bike, get out and meet all these new people and experience all these new cultures. I’m pretty happy being where I’m at right now.”
When Chas is Not Racing:
Chas can be found running his messenger business, TCB Courier or working on his new company “OrderNear.” He tells me, “OrderNear will bring same day ASAP delivery of both food and retail products to people all over America. Your Neighborhood to your doorstep, your favorite local merchants and restaurants powered by local couriers.”
“Both jobs are interesting because one is running a courier service which is pretty down to earth, scummy sometimes and what i am used to, the other is more business oriented.”
Chas lives with his girlfriend in the Mission and enjoys exploring the abandoned buildings throughout the bay area, getting out of the city and going to the river to take some time off. He also enjoys traveling with his lady when they get a free weekend.
What’s up in the future for this MASH racer is to continue working hard at both of his businesses, trying to find the time to train with the possibility of hitting up the Red Hook Crit in Barcelona and this year’s East Coast Messenger Race. But before he goes anywhere else, Chas will be staying on the Westside and visiting LA for the Wolfpack Civic Center Criterium Race! He’s excited to have his whole family come out and see him race. Most of them, through the course of the years, have a small understanding of what I do, so they can actually come and see me. I’m also excited cause Wolfpack is shutting down all the streets in downtown LA and it’s going to be professional with a big production.
Chas reminds racers out there to “just keep it fun. A lot of people take racing especially in the street culture world way too seriously. We’re not pros, we’re not getting paid. Maybe you got a free bike frame from somebody and you feel obligated to put it out there and race for them, that’s all good and fun but I think the bottom line is we’re all here to support the community and build the scene as a whole and it should always be about having a good time. If everyone’s able to have some healthy competition and still ride away from the race, it’s all camaraderie and basically having a good time. This isn’t the Tour de France.”