Brian E. Clark
Alyson “Aly” Dudek grew up cycling in his Hales Corners neighborhood with his sisters. They also rode their bikes when they went up north with their families, even creating their own trails through the woods.
But by the time Dudek arrived at college, she was devoting most of her abundant energy to speed skating – a sport that ultimately propelled her to two Olympics and a bronze medal at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games. , in British Columbia.
Dudek, who attended Divine Savior Holy Angels High School in Milwaukee, however, never lost his taste for cycling. Now that she has retired from competitive skating, she cycles around the world as a guide for the Berkeley, Calif., Based team. Country roads active travel agency.
“Cycling was our primary form of cross training for speed skating and I fell in love with it,” said the 28-year-old, who has also become an avid mountain biker. “We used to train on our bikes all summer and over time it became one of my passions. I’m pretty much addicted to it now.
“It’s because I really feel free on the bike. If I hadn’t been a skater, I think I could have been a racing cyclist.
“Horseback riding is now my way of still having that dose, that feeling of happiness that I felt when I was skating. I also love to share my love of cycling with the people I guide on tours all over the world. . “
Last year Dudek toured in over 15 countries. She said some of her favorite places to ride are in the western United States, including the hilly wine country of Napa and Sonoma counties north of San Francisco and the mountains around Teton National Park near Jackson, Wyoming, where encounters with moose, bears and other wildlife animals are common. In Europe, it is Mallorca, a Spanish island in the Mediterranean with cliffs and breathtaking seascapes, not to mention the difficult climbs it offers.
Dudek is now in his third season as a Backroads guide. She started her career after skating in sports broadcasting.
“I liked it,” said Dudek, who lives in Salt Lake City when she’s not on the road. “But I wasn’t ready to settle down and stay in one place. I wanted to travel more and I also wanted to travel with a purpose, so connecting with Backroads was ideal.
She said she had never heard of the company, one of the largest active travel agencies, before an acquaintance suggested she check it out.
“So I looked into it a bit and felt like working as a bike guide for Backroads was something I might want to do,” she said. “Visiting places by bike slows things down, so you have a more intimate experience and get to know a place on a deeper level. “
But being hired by Backroads, even with a pair of Olympics and a bronze medal on her resume, wasn’t a slam dunk.
“The hiring process is intense and rigorous,” she said. “I now understand why it is so difficult, even though it was quite intimidating back then. I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into.
“But it was all worth it and I’ve pretty much loved every moment since then – even though I just spent the day cleaning dirty trailers. And I have to say I learned more in this job than I did. never did it in any class.
She said she found herself in many difficult situations in the course of her job as a guide, from bicycle accidents to broken shuttle vehicles. Other times bike chains or derailleurs come undone, couples bicker halfway through, or hotels or restaurants have issues that need to be addressed immediately.
“Sometimes things don’t go as planned, so you have to have a plan B if plan A doesn’t work,” she said. “And then a plan C. There is always a solution, so you find it because there is a lot at stake and you and your fellow Guides have a lot of responsibility. But you do it in a way that puts guests at ease, and you communicate it in a way that shows you care.
Dudek said working year round as a bike guide for Backroads has proven to be as much of a lifestyle as it is a job.
“I work with a lot of amazing people,” she said. “And we all make sacrifices to get there. But it has great advantages because we can travel the world and ride bikes with interesting people, see beautiful landscapes and stay in amazing places. It’s hard to beat that.
Dudek said she cycled through a typhoon in Vietnam, sampled fermented eggs (reluctantly) that smelled of sulfur, and ate bullfrog, which tasted like chicken. Culinary (and other) adventures, she noted, accompany the territory.
During the next vacation, she will lead bike trips to Hawaii. She hopes to return to Wisconsin to see her family in January. Afterwards, she is not sure.
“The schedule is not yet known, so we’ll have to see,” said Dudek, who said she would like to work as a cycle guide in the future.
“Guiding all year round is not sustainable in the long run if you want to start a family or move to another job,” she said. “But Backroads recently started a program called ‘Leader for Life,’ where you can still guide, say, two or three trips during peak season and stay involved. This is something I would like to continue doing.
One of her goals for 2019, she said, is to involve her parents in the Backroads adventure.
“They just do a little bit of cycling so I don’t know if they would like to do that,” she said. “But we do offer e-bikes on our trips, so you don’t have to be a strong cyclist to enjoy a visit. In addition, the company also offers multisport outings and very fun hikes. I think they would have a good time.
More information: See backroads.com or call (800) 462-2848 to order a Backroads catalog.