Spokesmen Cycling Podcast
EPISODE 247: In conversation with Leo Rodgers
Saturday 20th June 2020
SPONSOR: Jenson USA
HOST: Carlton Reid
GUEST: Leo Rodgers
Meet inspirational cyclist Leo Rodgers of Tampa, Florida. Leo was recently profiled in Bicycling magazine, including being featured on the cover.
Leo Rodgers, Instagram
City Bike Tampa, Florida
Ultra Romance, Instagram
Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 247 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on Saturday, June 20 2020.
David Bernstein 0:24
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Jenson USA, where you’ll always find a great selection of products at amazing prices with unparalleled customer service. For more information, just go to Jensonusa.com/the spokesmen. Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at www.Fredcast.com. I’m one of the hosts and producers of the spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast. For show notes, links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at www.the-spokesmen.com. And now, here are the spokesmen.
Carlton Reid 1:08
Hi there, I’m Carlton Reid and on today’s show I’m speaking with the inspirational Leo Rodgers of Florida. He told me he’s excellent at getting down really low when executing left-hand corners — that’s because there’s no crank on that side of Leo’s many bikes. He lost his leg in a motorcycle crash 13 years ago and now uses his bicycles instead of a prosthetic leg. You might have seen Leo recently on the front cover of Bicycling — there’s a great profile of him in the magazine by journalist Peter Flax who wrote: “Leo Rodgers is a tall Black man with long hair and one leg.”
I read that piece and watched videos of Leo’s amazing bike handling skills and got in touch with him.
We spoke at length yesterday and I’ve got to thank Leo for his patience as we struggled with tech issues — I was on my laptop calling Leo on his smartphone and the cloud recording program I was going to use didn’t work for Leo so I had to Google an alternative, download it and learn about on the fly. I heard a nasty echo when I spoke but thought the new program would record my words, not what I was hearing in my headphones. It wasn’t to be so much of my audio is unusable. So I’ve cut most of my live, conversational audio and replaced it with voiceovers. You can still hear Leo fine though.
I started by asking Leo about two great films that have been made about him, both are on YouTube and I’ve embedded them on the-spokesmen.com There’s a film by Bicycling and also one by the gonzo bikecam film maker Lucas Brunelle. That one’s pure art, filmed over a number of months, and it’s not for the fainthearted. Take it away, Leo …
Leo Rodgers 3:28
Yeah, like he’s got a lot of footage of just me just like riding around. Can you tell me tell me wheh you’re in Miami just to kind of get some cool stuff. I just happened to run into him. He’s like, Oh, okay. This guy’s pretty cool. Yeah, we kind of hit it off man and, you know, during events and stuff like that.
I would like hit him up. And I didn’t think he was like, you know, such a fan of me. I was a more of a fan of him. Oh, now, I’m coming to Orlando. Like all right.
He actually rode to Orlando and then they wrote back like this guy’s nuts this guy’s like crazy. I didn’t ask Leo to describe all of his bikes so I guess like definitely start with a bike the very first started with was my red line and then also have my linkster that’s what kind of got me started in like track riding and stuff like that. But uh, now I have that setup with like a little cargo fork on it a by Chrus deal for it. So it’s pretty fun. Kind of like a little laundry waggon then I also got my fair share of like a track bikes and stuff. I got a Fuji Tripoli. It’s not like much backed by. I got a Cosmic stallion Neva all city. It’s kind of like my little daily kind of crusher.
I got my cross bike. My BonBon is also
And then also have my tall bike.
two bikes in the one is so fun is to All City Big Blocks. Same size this stacked up. I got like some 32 knobbies on it so it’s pretty cool off road. Yeah, it was actually made on accident.
A buddy of mine, we were supposed to do a race so that that, that we can, but I’m just gonna want a little casual ride we do every Tuesday
just did a little thing and he had a little scooter. His bike was on the backside. And, you know, I have my cross bike. So we were going, you know, down the bridge and you know, we’re flying back, you know, it’s another 25 miles back home so he has a scooter so we’re gonna draft him. So I’m like, you know, I’m going to hold on to this scooter cuz I need a break.
So I start skitching on the scooter. So I started like pedalling so I can like push him to kind of make his scooter go faster because I’m like tapping out. And I guess I might have gotten too close to his frame and I like blew
all the spokes out on the non drives
just change these and this was right before Grinduro.
forget my wheel I got a buck. Are you afraid? Oh my gosh. So in a bind him another bike by an aeroplane from him. And then there was another one he had sitting there like Yo, are you gonna do all these frames that bent me make a tall bike?
Oh, you got to work like yeah, I’ll find somebody so that’s kind of how I got started so far. It’s like it always turns heads and I do enjoy riding because I can see stuff a lot more.
Carlton Reid 6:38
Leo works in City Bike of Tampa
Leo Rodgers 6:42
We’ve got a nice little local bike shop on downtown Tampa and we are
steel frames, but also kind of shop.
That’s kind of what makes us pretty cool and while we sell so many Surly’s and All City’s and stuff like that all the time.
Carlton Reid 6:59
I asked Leo about being Black in what can be a very white activity.
Leo Rodgers 7:07
It’s funny I don’t see colour
I just see your bike we’re all have one purpose in life, you know, but at the same time we all kind of want to do the same thing and as we all go out ride and have fun.
Carlton Reid 7:22
I point out that in the videos he’s demonstrating some pretty awesome bike riding skills
Leo Rodgers 7:30
Yeah, I tried to work it there’s a lot of two legged people ran out a pretty fast so the helped me go faster for sure.
Carlton Reid 7:37
So how does he adapt his bikes?
Leo Rodgers 7:40
Yeah, this pretty much just match the whole left crank arm off, shave some weight. Or if it’s like a two piece then I’ll just go to the beach and sawed off and go from there.
Carlton Reid 7:52
And this is going to seem like an incredibly stupid question. but are there any advantages to only
having one leg as a cyclist?
Leo Rodgers 8:02
yes on left turns.
I do. I will take a left turn sharp, extra sharp like, I want to like lay it down.
I will go into the left side a little harder than than the right.
Carlton Reid 8:19
I guess. I mean, you’ve obviously saved some weight there as well, which is being flippant.
Leo Rodgers 8:25
Yes, a few grammes, but you know, I’m also working for two legs.
Carlton Reid 8:29
Mm hmm. That’s true. You’re a bit more aero, I guess.
Leo Rodgers 8:35
Oh, yeah, got to get a little aerodynamic gain.
Carlton Reid 8:37
So tell me about your crash. If you’re okay. So that’s how you lost your leg. And that was when you were about 22
Leo Rodgers 8:43
Yeah, yes, sir. Just once again. It wasn’t bicycles. It was you know, my life of motorcycles then. So just you know, living living life on the razor blade is what I call it back then it just right on the edge
Carlton Reid 8:58
young and crazy.
Leo Rodgers 9:00
Crazy my young and dumb dasy, normal day it is you know you’re out there doing tricks. You know you’ve popped in a few wheelies and and when I came down for one of my wheelies I went into a tank slap, or a handshake is what they call it. And that’s when your handlebars start shaking. And you can’t do nothing about it, but just hold on. And I’m just started pulling me to the right and I hit a guardrail, and I flipped into some water.
That’s where things changed.
Carlton Reid 9:28
And you didn’t know much about it at the time.
Leo Rodgers 9:33
Like literally, like blacked out, just don’t remember nothing from what, you know, happened at the accident, and people tell me about what happened, but, you know, I don’t remember. I’m kind of glad I don’t. It’s probably a lot better for me. You know, from the stories that they told me it definitely comes back to like, okay, like starting to add up now. Okay, that that sounds about right. So it was definitely a game changer for sure.
Carlton Reid 9:57
I mean, you’re lucky to be alive. I mean, this is something that
If not just your leg this giving your life
Leo Rodgers 10:02
yeah, I was pretty much pronounced dead on the scene so
is to be saved, brought back like that is a saw a blessing for sure.
I feel like I have a purpose and a goal here on life just because you know
almost didn’t have a life.
Carlton Reid 10:22
That’s to me that that the crash happened when you’re on two wheels well kind of one wheel because you’re pulling a wheelie, but you’d think that would put you off two wheels for life then you got back on a bicycle.
Leo Rodgers 10:35
Yeah, I just went from the fast lane and just went to the bike lane.
Carlton Reid 10:39
So BMX, you’re a BMX before. So when you were a kid, basically.
Leo Rodgers 10:47
Yeah, that was like my lifestyle like that was my very first bike I ever built was a BMX bike, just like every other kid. probably has some bike, just frame sit in the closet. And that’s where it kind of
started from him as a blue GT. And, um, it only had a front brake on it. So I was like, Alright, I’m gonna ride it out.
And that’s how I learned how to do like nose manuals and stuff like that and
you know, learn how to do wheelies, but no rear brake kit. So it got pretty reckless.
Carlton Reid 11:22
And we’ll leave reckless Leo there for a minute. And we’ll go over to my co-host David for a quick commercial break.
David Bernstein 11:29
Hey, Carlton, thanks so much. And it’s it’s always my pleasure to talk about our advertiser. This is a longtime loyal advertiser, you all know who I’m talking about? It’s Jenson USA at Jensonusa.com/thespokesmen. I’ve been telling you for years now years, that Jenson is the place where you can get a great selection of every kind of product that you need for your cycling lifestyle, at amazing prices and what really sets them apart because of
There’s lots of online retailers out there, but what really sets them apart? Is their unbelievable support. When you call and you’ve got a question about something, you’ll end up talking to one of their gear advisors. And these are cyclists. I’ve been there I’ve seen it. These are folks who who ride their bikes to and from work. These are folks who ride at lunch who go out on group rides after work because they just enjoy cycling so much. And, and so you know that when you call, you’ll be talking to somebody who has knowledge of the products that you’re calling about. If you’re looking for a new bike, whether it’s a mountain bike, a road bike, a gravel bike, a fat bike, what are you looking for? Go ahead and check them out. Jenson USA, they are the place where you will find everything you need for your cycling lifestyle. It’s Jensonusa.com/thespokesmen. We thank them so much for their support. And we thank you for supporting Jenson USA. All right, Carlton, let’s get back to the show.
Carlton Reid 12:56
Thanks, David. And we’re back with Leo Rogers who
I noticed in the videos, he used his bicycle instead of crutches and instead of a wheelchair. So the bicycle I asked him is a tool of liberation.
Leo Rodgers 13:11
Yeah, like that’s, that’s my everything as we really what is the reason why I don’t wear prosthetic. No, I have crutches like in my mom’s house, my dad’s house at work. So it kind of makes it easier for me to just ride there. And then grab my crutches, spread a bunch of crutches out in the whole Bay Area. On the places I go to the most and
starts and begins as long as I can get some crutches there. I’m good.
Carlton Reid 13:37
Leo can often be seen riding from St. Petersburg to Tampa and he has been once or twice spotted on an Interstate freeway bridge, which he really shouldn’t ride on.
Leo Rodgers 13:50
It kind of started for me like riding it back and forth from St. Pete to Tampa which is 23 miles, 24 miles one way
So they will always see me on on this bridge. It’s about a good like five mile long bridge. And it just kind of started from now like, Yeah, I just seen a dude when they ran the bicycle across Gandy. Like that’s crazy. Like people would call me and like, hear these stories like, yo, was that you on the bridge like Yeah, I was going to work and somebody has called in a radio station and they will gave you a shout out like what?
Okay, and then there’s some that it was like, bumper to bumper traffic on the interstate. You can’t even you mean 19 supposed to ride your bike on the bridge on this particular breed but I thought I could you know, save myself some time catch an Uber. But no, it was just traffic Am I you know, this let me out right here like houses right. And that probably had to be one of the best rides I did on on that bridge because like to ride that particular bridge you you can get a ticket. So it was kind of cool living like that had a little
rush going. I definitely found me a nice FedEx truck to hold on to get across. But uh, I made it
it was awesome.
Carlton Reid 15:11
Peter Flax in his Bicycling article says you can’t miss Leo. He’s pretty distinctive: Black, one leg, fast. And I asked Leo, if being distinctive helps on the road.
Leo Rodgers 15:26
100% believe that helps. Because because they, you know, they normally see somebody with two legs pedalling versus one leg and a challenge. Figure out like, what is that up it? Is that somebody with one leg pedalling. Oh, wow. And you know, you just never forget that and then they may be a cyclist and they might happen to, you know, come into the same shop I work at, like, I mean, you see what I say anything? Are you not gonna rise cross the bridge?
on a bicycle like it? Yeah. As me I’m young. I’m heading to work.
Like, man, dude you’re crazy well not really, I gotta get to work, man.
So you know as soon as I give me a good little morning ride in, it does get a little overwhelming a lot of times because this is such a long ride and like, I’m burnt out like this is a rest week right here but I enjoy it as this is your free you get to see the the fishes jump and the sting-ray school just floating around.
Carlton Reid 16:30
As you’ve by now gathered, Leo is a bicycle evangelist. He spreads the good news about cycling through the community to everybody, but especially to people of colour and to people with adaptive challenges.
Leo Rodgers 16:47
Just from me doing these different little rise and they see me and stuff like that. Um, I like doing these things called the hood of my little hood stroll where this ride through, you know, this, the most predominant Black neighbourhoods and it’s it’s crazy
David Bernstein 17:00
Leo Rodgers 17:01
is this it’s really weird like in the more nicer areas is almost like you get the weird looks.
But when you’re out through a more and more predominantly Black area, it’s almost like a parade. A cheer on your own they cheer you on. And it’s just like, the round like, man, we just came to that neighbourhood. I was scared but next to you know, they were cheering us on like we were
like in the Macy’s parade for a second yo like what was that a that’s what they do, man they love seeing you like they want to see that.
So I love it man is that’s kind of like my main thing I enjoy doing
is just do my little stroll rolling all around. We were there and just hanging out man cuz it’s, it’s oddly enough, but they they they love it. They embrace it. They enjoy seeing it. It’s like you see little kids out. They see each other race up with you and rah rah ride and they pull back all
You know, it’s kind of cool.
Carlton Reid 18:01
Leo has three kids, two boys and a girl, 15, 11 and five, and who rides out of them, I asked.
Leo Rodgers 18:11
all of ’em, all of ’em ride bikes, they all have their own bikes that I’m pretty sure I gave him. Yeah.
Yeah, my oldest is 15. And he’s like my height. So like, so he was literally riding my Redline, which was, you know, my very first bike. So he’s doing wheelies and stuff like that. Okay. I like that. So, just like over a month, I’m like, wow, bro, you are my height. Like, you need to give me this bicycle by the side give you a bigger bike, as this is too small. So right here right now my little girls are riding my Redline. So it just keeps getting passed on.
Carlton Reid 18:49
Now, as we’ve heard Leo was pretty reckless in his youth on a bike. So what does he tell his kids? Does he kind of dial some of that back?
Leo Rodgers 18:58
I can’t take the the
fun side out of it because that’s usually you know, what happens when you have fun, there will be some kind of fall or something. So that’s kind of comes with the nature of
our riding like that. But I make sure we’re in a area to where it’s kind of enclosed and you got to just turn yourself loose. That’s something that I kind of stick with. Definitely group rides help out a lot with them. They kind of learn, you know, about riding with a group and learning like, you know, this vandals is lights and stuff like that. So, definitely group rise is kind of like, the biggest connection that I have with them. Because they feel like oh, you know, he’s my friends do I get the break my friends and we’re actually hanging out with adults, we’re actually hanging out, like, hanging out like the adults. So you can like see them kind of, you know, feeling like they’re grown in the sense. So, you know, they get their little their fair share of hanging out for sure and learning about rules of the road and just being you just being a normal individual.
So I think my son, he’s the youngest one that’s like in the group. He’s like five, but I had to change his gearing up so you can keep up. And I think that was the biggest mistake because now he’s like, flying past me. And I got like, oh, wait a minute. Oh, okay, we gotta go. And you can just see like everybody in the background like sprint to try to catch up to him. Because he’s moving. I’m like, I don’t know if that was a mistake.
He’s like, killing it right now. He’s gonna be a beast when he gets a few more years older.
Carlton Reid 20:32
Leo has a connection to England, actually, in that he rides for a Brooks sponsored team and Brooks is Italian Anyway, we’ll go with England.
Leo Rodgers 20:45
That’ll be a team Brooks. Yeah, Rapha team Brooks who all have our cross bikes. That is super awesome. I love my
I literally do everything on that bike. I got a little rack of groceries.
And then all kinds of stuff and it looks good. And we just do some of the the most, I guess, craziest gravel rides and like my guy, Ultra Romance. He’s, uh, he’s throwing it down for us. He’s keeping us intact and keeping us looking good and rolling, rolling nice.
Carlton Reid 21:18
The Ultra Romance mentioned back there is Ronnie Romance or Benedict Wheeler, an adventure rider with a full beard and 104,000 Instagram followers. He hooked up with Leo at the Grinduro gravel race in California’s northern Sierra mountains. In the rush to prepare for the event Leo had switched pedals. He usually rides with Look cleats, but it developed a hotspot on his foot with all his power going to just one foot and one tiny Eggbeater pedal for 200 miles of dirt and heat.
Leo Rodgers 21:56
Oh yeah, that was a quite the experience. I’m never done.
Nothing like that in my life. Um, like I said, I was a track guy. I was a velodrome stuff fixed gear stuff. And to be invited on a team that, you know, is gonna do that Dirty Kanza, which is probably the premier gravel race, like, that’s, you know, a bucket list thing, and I can’t say no to that.
But I had to ask, like,, how did I get picked? Like I’m from Florida? Like, there’s no wheels here, my man like, like, how did I even get mentioned? He’s like, you know, the people from Brooks. They put you out there. I’m like, Man, it’s like an honour. And, um, that route was like this amazing. Like,
even though it was so painful, just this horrible.
Just all kinds of emotions. I was just, like, just depleted of everything. But it was a self that I don’t regret. Like. I remember every single moment. That’s how bad it was.
Oh my god that’s how bad it was like I had like literally some tequila in my bag that I was going to save to the end of the race and that was what saved me throughout the race. Tequila and candy, I was out of that like I need something, I need a soda I need a beer, I need snacks I need something hmm and that was literally how I like got through.
Carlton Reid 23:22
For the whole of that gory story – t also includes some CBD sweets whatever they are – you’ve got to go to the the long read article about Leo on bicycling.com. If you go searching his last name is Rodgers with D. To wrap up the call. I asked Leo where folks can find him on the internet.
Leo Rodgers 23:48
Instagram will be slimone1000. I also have like a web page. LeoRodgers.com
started trying to do a
like a foundation or something to work and like start giving back. So I’m trying to start like a little Leo Rodgers foundation to work on, you know, get some funding and, you know, I want to get people on bikes and I want to get kids on bikes.
Carlton Reid 24:18
Thanks to Leoh Rodgers there, and thanks also to Peter Flax for hooking us up. This has been Episode 247 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. Thanks for tuning in, and make sure to subscribe in your favourite podcast catcher shownotes and more can be found at the-spokesmen.com.
This episode sure had its technical challenges, but I hope those few bits of echo I left in didn’t spoil your enjoyment. There’s more engineering needed to rescue the audio of Chris Boardman, Rachel Aldred and Superintendent Andy Cox that I’ve been promising you for a couple of episodes.
Get out and ride.
Okay, Leo, we can
Talk for three hours here and then nothing might actually happen. Because I’ve got no idea if this is even recording because I mean there’s a red button there. recordings are held in your browser until you use the Save button.
Be sure to familiarise yourself before using before an important recording. Yeah, great.
Leo, should we just go for it?
Leo Rodgers 26:23
Shoot for it.
Carlton Reid 26:24
Okay, let’s see what happens and if you
Well, that’s very kind of you and very kind of you also to join me today. So thank you.