He’s not a Hells Angel, not even a Wild Hog. He doesn’t wear leather or chaps and he wasn’t born to be wild.
But Dale Earnhardt Jr. is definitely a biker.
Admittedly, we’re not talking motorcycles, but bicycles. Earnhardt is the latest convert in the NASCAR world to riding with other drivers in a pack not just on the racetrack but also on the road.
Jimmie Johnson, Landon Cassill, Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Kasey Kahne, Josh Wise, Trevor Bayne and former driver Carl Edwards are among those in NASCAR who, in addition to putting the pedal to the metal in their race cars, also enjoy pedaling away both around North Carolina as well as near many of the race tracks that the NASCAR Cup Series visits.
On his weekly “The Dale Jr. Download” podcast on his Dirty Mo Radio, Earnhardt talked about what being a biker means to him – and how he has Johnson to thank for getting him into bike riding.
“Jimmie does a lot of different things, but cycling is something he really enjoys,” Earnhardt said. “That has really picked up in the garage. If you were in Daytona in the bus lot, every morning, my neighbor Matt Kenseth would wake up at 7 o’clock. He would meet outside his bus with Jamie McMurray. They would make a lot of noise and wake up Amy (Dale’s wife) and that would wake me up. They were getting ready to go on their bike ride every morning. This happened quite a bit.”
Now before you start thinking Earnhardt has become a seasoned rider, well, let’s just say he’s relatively new to two-wheeling – as in roughly a week.
“I noticed that a lot of guys in the garage are starting to do this, Trevor Bayne, they are going in big groups, riding around town,” Earnhardt said. “Kasey Kahne, just a number of drivers are picking up on this cycling deal.
“So I’m thinking, you know what, I am going to give it a try. Jimmie gave me a bike about a year ago. It’s sitting in my garage. Tires went flat, dry rotted. Had to get new tubes, new tires this past week. Finally, loaded the bike onto the plane to Atlanta.
“I told Jimmie, ‘Look, I’m going to meet you outside the track. Ain’t no way in hell I’m going to let anybody see me ride through the infield wearing this bike gear, spandex stuff.’”
True to his word, Earnhardt, along with Johnson, Kahne and Alan Gustafson – Chase Elliott’s crew chief – went on a 16.7-mile ride last week before things got hot and heavy on-track at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Given that Hendrick Motorsports has implemented a health and wellness program company-wide, drivers are encouraged to get – and stay – in shape, as well. Because he’s been working on his physical conditioning, including installing a gym with Bo-Flex and a stationary bike in his house, that’s why Earnhardt didn’t come away from his outdoor bike ride with saddle sores and the like.
“(It was) a lot of fun, my first ride, it was a good time,” Earnhardt said. “I’m glad I got through my first ride without any incident.”
But his ego was a bit bruised in the process.
“I did get flipped off in the first five minutes,” Earnhardt quipped. “For whatever reason, I was super nervous and couldn’t keep my hands from moving. I’m shaking and all over the road, and Jimmie and them are like six inches from the shoulder.
“I’m like, I can’t ride that close to the shoulder. I’m all over the place and I’m wobbling all over the damn road and this guy goes by and flips me off. I guess I kind of ticked him off. Anyways, I was surprised at how rude drivers are on the road.”
While he’s still not all that comfortable about wearing spandex, Earnhardt is now more determined and ready to take his new hobby to the next level.
“I’m in,” he said on his podcast. “(I’m) talking to Jimmie about getting some more bikes so I don’t have to tote one back and forth, which is a little bit pain in the butt.
“I’m buying more gear, getting geared up and ready to go. That’s going to be part of my workout regimen. It is fun, I’ve gotta admit. I’m still not quite over the self-consciousness of wearing the spandex, but I’ll get there.”