Interview with an atomic rider
Would we all grow older like this man as mountain bikers?
We all know as mountain bikers how great the kick can be when we ride our bikes, in particular if we ride our bikes through breathtaking landscapes. But mountain biking is not all about ourselves, our bike and the landscape around us, it is also about the wonderful people we can meet through this glorious sport.
As I landed in Costa Rica for my second endurance race called Guanaride (www.guanaride.com), I wondered if I was going to meet again that only rider I saw the previous year riding a five days endurance race wearing no shirt, no Lycra, no gloves and no mtb shoes. Instead, this long grey hair man was riding only SPD sandals, shorts made out of an old jean and the compulsory helmet. I was surprised not only because of the way he was dressed, but also because what he told me: that this was going to be his fourth Guanaride, among some other ten endurance races he has done in Costa Rica. From the look in his wrinkled eyes, from the strength of his ‘mature’ but fit body, from the old full suspension trek his was ridding I knew there was more inside of him than meet the eye.
You could already guess that during this year’s race he was there again. This time, I couldn’t help it and I ended up having a very interesting conversation during sunset in Playa Samara (a beautiful and sweet spot on the Costa Rica Pacific side) with this man called Heart Akerson. I leave it up to you to decide if he is one of those nice people you can only wish to know through our nice sport of mountain biking, but he certainly must got something that it is worth reading.
Manuel: You told me that with 57 years of age you have race Guanaride five times already. What else have you done?
Heart: I have raced and finished 9 times La Ruta de los Conquistadores. I have also run up and down the highest mountain in Costa Rica (Chirripo, 3819 mt) and completed four Canada Ironman barefooted.
Manuel: Why do you ride your bike shirtless, with nothing more than cut-off jeans, SPD sandals and a helmet?
Heart: I think that we have got a civilization out of touch with the world we live in. I like to ride my bike with the minimum. I don’t need to ride with more clothes than the ones I use because I need to feel close to nature by feeling the water, air, sun and mud directly on my skin.
Manuel: Tell us a little bit about yourself Heart?
Heart: I was born and grew up in USA. When I was 12 I had a very strong vision to become a nuclear physicist and develop new power sources. After I actually became a nuclear physicist, I realized that there really were no applications of nuclear power that could be used responsibly by this civilization and switched to theoretical physics. I am currently the CEO of Heart Transverter SA, which is a company that develops and manufactures the Transverter which integrates all types of renewable energy sources. The work at my company keeps me very busy, sometimes I spend ten hours in front of the computer, but I like to change the channel by riding my bike in the company of good riders. I am the father of nine kids and some of them are very good mountain bike racers. Besides my company and sports, I also like to spend time playing classical music in the piano.
Manuel: If you grew up in USA then how did you end up in Costa Rica?
Heart: As I was living in the States and with 27 years of age, I decided to build up my own sailing boat. I used this boat to sail down to Costa Rica. It ended up taking me three years to reach this country having departed from Oregon. I have nine children and one of my sons was born in that boat. In fact, the boat is still by the beach opposite to my home and you are welcome to come and see it.
Manuel: I would love to! What would you recommend to improve endurance mountain bike races like the one you are participating right now?
Heart: Probably the bigger thing we could do is to draw more people into these kinds of races. When people participate in these races they become more aware of the world they live in. They could witness the wonderful nature they have around and could be more in touch with the world they live in. I want to do things that affect the world in a positive way; maybe these riders would do the same after those races.
Manuel Bustelo partners: Sram Europe, Giant Germany, SixSixOne, Suunto Oy, Mavic Europe, Maxxis Spain, Northwave and Powerbar Spain.
Pictures: Courtesy of Luis Castro and www.guanaride.com