In The Loop With: Chris Tolley
October 8, 2023
Interviewed by Dom Haury
Tell me about your background with Bikes…
How old were you when the training wheels came off?
My training wheels were actually loosened without my knowledge and literally fell off the bike when I was 6. My dad was a proponent of trail-by-fire apparently.
I grew up in LA during the mid-90s when skating was booming. I tried it out in Elementary school, but you could really escape that far on the board. I had a pretty chaotic home life and the BMX bike let me get out of the house and explore the city sunrise to sunset every weekend. I started putting in like 20 miles a day or more when I was 10.
What is driveway series and How did you come to be at the helm?
The Driveway Series is the largest weekly bike race in country! It’s been a staple of the Texas cycling community since the early 2000s. I worked out a partnership with the previous Race Director Andrew Willis to run the show at the tail end of 2022. The Driveway had been running consistently for over a decade, even in 2020, but when the land ownership changed hands in 2022 after Prop B passed, it was shut down. I started throwing some renegade crits down south to film and in June 2022 reached out to Willis see how we could work the the new owners to race again. It took a few months of back and fourths with lawyers and some grass-roots fund raising, but we brought it back! Never thought I’d be the most prolific promoter in the country, but here we are!
Who upkeeps the whole lot and property?
You’re looking at the groundskeeper! I purchased the old equipment from the previous land owner, including a four wheeler (and the $10k leaf blower that I tow behind it). For the first few months I’d get out there before the races and tow a trail mower behind my truck to keep the grass down. Had to buy a nice chainsaw to chop up the trees that would fall on the track each week and tow ‘em off with my truck. Turns out 1.6 miles of track takes a lot of work to keep race ready!
What was it you were telling me about the gravel? Something special about it.
Ha, I have a love/hate relationship with it. I’m a road racer at heart, but it’s a lot harder to permit a road race than it is a gravel race, so there’s just more gravel racing. The lack of cars is pretty nice though and we’ve got some beautiful roads on the periphery of Austin to race on. At the end of the day I just like riding hard, and don’t care if it’s on pavement or road!
How did it take a jump from cycling to running?
The Driveway is such a unique space that’s really only been used for car racing and cycling. I wanted to involve the thriving running scene in Austin and The Loop was the first shop that sprung to mind to involve. I have absolutely no concept of running — like what types of races are cool, how to time it, how to promote it — so i figured I’d lean on the Loop to handle there while I run operations.
Is Driveway Series business or pleasure?
Ha, it used to be all fun when I just showed up to race, but it’s definitely a business now. The costs of running a weekly bike race are pretty high surprisingly. I can’t thank all the local sponsors enough for backing me (Shout out to Capitol Chevy and the Meteor!)
But I’ve come to look at more like a payback to the series and community. When I moved to Austin 8 years ago I had 3 races under my belt. A weekly race let me learn the world of bike racing and have some pretty cool opportunities like racing in Europe, something I wouldn’t have the chance to do without the Driveway.
I really just want to keep the series going and help with the transition of the land when it becomes a city park. It’s a lot harder to start from zero than it is to keep something going, and that’s why Willis and I continuing to the run the races through the transition. I’m hoping to work with the city to turn the Driveway land into a cycling mecca — MTB tracks, cyclocross, skateparks, velodromes, pump tracks, crit racing, you name it!
Ever since I’ve known you you’ve gone head-to-toe Rick Owens. Why Rick?
Ha, it’s still hard for me to explain this one. I always loved self-expression through clothes. It started out with hunting for vintage designer stuff in high school to stick out from the Ohio State crowd when I lived in Columbus, OH.
I found Rick Owen’s in 2008 and it just stood out to me. I loved clothes that looked the some off-world dystopian costume, and it was just brutal looking. I mean the first collection I saw the models walked out wearing antlers, and had blistered lamb puffers. Then the fascination with Rick himself started. I’ve always admired people who are unapologetically themselves, and don’t really care about what’s trending and makes what he likes. I love that. I try to apply it with promoting bike races.
It’s hard to wear Rick in Texas, especially on my four wheeler out at the track.