Columbus Bike Fancy: Andy Willis

You’ve probably seen Andy Willis around Columbus. If not spotted on the road astride his bike, then at regular haunts Impero Coffee or Paradise Garage in the Short North. Maybe you’ve read his blog, Views from the ‘Bus. Or maybe you’ve ridden in the new sprint series Andy co-founded, Street Sharks.
Yeah, Andy has a lot going on. That’s why I had to ask a lot of extra questions.

 What kind of bike are you riding and where did you get it?

The one pictured is my all-around commuter. It's a Torker U-District frame and fork. It's built up as a single speed that I ride in the spring, summer and fall. During the winter I switch to fixed and a knobby tire. Of all my bikes this is my favorite! Due to the fact that it is so dialed in.

 Does he or she have a name?
Yes, Torky!! I know, not real original, right!? My surly Pacer is Adrianna and my urban assault cruiser is Buck. My polo bike is, Bull ( due to the fact that it bucks me off it every chance it gets ).

 Bike accessory you can't live without?

Up until a month ago I would have said my PDW leather grips. Now, hands down I'd say my new Wald basket. I usually ride with a messenger bag during the summer and hate that it makes my back sweat. The basket affords me a cooler ride and I can still carry my laptop, a book and my rain coat if need be. Plus, Junior's Tacos fit perfectly!! $15 was worth every penny and wish I would’ve gotten one before now.

Where do you ride? What's your favorite route?

I gave up my car nine years ago and I commute everywhere. So mostly I ride the streets of Columbus. My favorite route though is the southern part of the Olentangy trail and I love the view of downtown coming off the trail near Confluence Park on the Scioto. Love the rail bridges that traverse the river.

 So, we're coming up on the third series of Columbus's Street Shark Sprints. How did the conception of this idea take place? I imagine sitting on your porch with your buddies, leaping in the air and yelling "Eureka!"
Was it anything like that?

I raced in a sprint Oct. 2011 and had the best time. I had never raced before in any way and showed up to the sprint as a spectator. There was an odd pairing and I volunteered to help out and even up the number. I got smoked that first sprint, but on my ride back to the starting line I had the biggest grin on my face and was thrilled to have participated. That night I asked the race organizer, “why are there not sprints every month?”. That's where the idea got rooted in my mind and stayed as a thought and a pipe dream. Until mid March sitting on my porch with some friends ( pretty good guess, Cherie ). One of them being Josh Direen, co-organizer and fellow Street Shark. I threw out my idea to do a sprint and how fun the one in October was. Josh loved the idea along with Joe Scar and Trent Saska of Paradise Garage. Three days later Josh sent me the first Street Sharks flier and the rest as they say is history. On a side note, the race was supposed to be called Street Sharts ( much laughter was had over this ) . When the talk turned into a reality Josh thought Sharks might be a more appropriate name.

 Tell me how Street Sharts work. What are the rules?

The rules are pretty simple. A series of 6 sprints in 6 months. 1/8 mile sprint with no shifting and track stand starts ( those who can't track stand are assisted by fellow riders so everyone starts on equal ground ). Two divisions- Men and Women's with a $5 buy-in to race. Single elimination, head to head race. The men’s winner gets all the money from the male racers and the women get the females’ money.
The top 4 in each division get points that will be used for seeding in the 6th and final race.

 What do you hope to gain, short term?

In the short term? Camaraderie. Being able to provide one night a month through the summer for riders to compete and socialize. To be honest, I don't really care who wins. The privilege to be able to meet and bond with Columbus riders of all styles is why I am doing this. We have doubled the spectators from the 1st race and are expecting more for the 3rd. Knowing people are going to be at the finish line cheering is causing amazing head to head races. Not to mention a pretty groovy party for the eliminated racers.

How 'bout when it's all over? What do you to see changed or accomplished?

What I would like to see changed is the factioning of riders. The whole spandex vs. jean shorts, roadies vs. fixed gear riders, Yay Bikes! vs. Consider Biking etc. etc. That's why everyone is welcome at the sprints. There's a sticker I saw a while back that said, “Just because we both ride bikes, doesn't mean we are friends.” Very true...but we need to at least respect one another. Are the sprints going to change that much in Columbus' bike culture? No. It's a place to start though!

What is your favorite part of Street Sharks thus far? What thrills you, so to speak?

As competitive as the men are and they have had some amazing races ( Peter Brown vs. Kelly Nowles, Aiden Vs. Rob Luikart, Julian vs. Joe Scar ) I get a real joy watching the ladies throw down. I run all the Men's races and Josh runs the women, so I get to watch. That's one of my faves. The other is after the final race of the night. When I'm alone at the starting line and I pack up my stuff and ride to the finish where everyone is. I like to reflect on the event and 1/8 mile ride is plenty of time to reflect as I approach the throng of racers and spectators assembled at the finish, cheering and dancing to Julian’s [Jungleman of Go Bike Columbus] music. Where a race ended a party has begun and I award the cash to the victors. I like the sense of community and the feeling of joy that I see in the faces around me. It totally makes it worth it.

When are YOU going to race? :)

Ha! Not sure? I might give it a go in the 5th race. The 5th is going to be a timed race and the best times will be entered in to the final bracket with the leading point getters from the first 4 races.

Check out the Facebook event page to participate in Street Sharks.