Jason Perez: Cycling’s Bravest Champion

June 29, 2018/ Jim Parker
What was the biggest news in the world of cycling in 2017? Based on mainstream media coverage, you might guess it was Chris Froome’s awkward descents during the Tour de France, his crotch hugging the top tube as he stared down at the pavement directly in front of him.
Here’s what should have made cycling sports headlines around the world: Jason Perez won the Planet Ultra King of the Mountains Century Challenge  on a recumbent bicycle.

Jason Perez racing on Central California’s mountains on a Cruzbike V20.
He also won the Mulholland Challenge Double Century (MCDC), a mountainous race with 18,000 ft of climbing. And this isn’t the first time Jason has won races with massive amounts of climbing on a Cruzbike. In 2016, he won the California Triple Crown (a popular 3 race series with massive climbing in each race).

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Jason Perez sharing the podium with ultracycling stars Christoph Strasser and Marko Bahlo
Recumbent bike racers have been around a long time, but they’ve never been able to race and win on courses with so much climbing per mile. It’s rare for a recumbent racer to even attempt such an event. In 2016, Perez also showed he can hold his own with the world’s best ultracyclists, coming in second-place behind Christoph Strasser, the Austrian phenom, at the 24-hour World Time Trial Championship in Borrego Springs, California. Jason is one of only a few cyclists to have logged over 500 miles in 24-hours on the rough hot desert course. His podium appearance with Strasser and Slovenian ultra cycling star Marko Baloh produced shock and outrage that a recumbent racer was allowed to share a podium with traditional bike racers.
Here is the Garmin/Strava data from one of Jason’s mountain races where he rides 201 miles in 10 hours 46 minutes including 16,500 ft of climbing. And check out the top speed of 52.8 mph. He wins because he climbs almost as fast as the best climbers on traditional road bikes, but then simply kills them on the flats and descents.
Heartbreak Double Century in 10 hours 46 minutes with 16,538 ft of climbing.
Is Jason a pro or even a Cat 1/2 racer? No, he’s a machinist, a former professional motorcycle racer, an ultra-marathon runner, and a single-speed mountain bike enthusiast.

Jason Perez was born in 1984 and moved with his family several times before entering high school. He considers Simi Valley California his home. In high school, he ran cross-country and track & field. In 10th grade, he also began racing motorcycles. First, there was mini-bike racing on go-kart tracks. Over the next few years, he graduated to racing on Grand Prix tracks, first on a Honda RS-80, then an RS-125, then a Suzuki 600.


In 2003 he made the BMW USA Team and raced as a pro in Europe. By 2006, he was racing the powerful 1000 cc Yamaha R1 superbike. In 2007 and 2008 he was racing a Suzuki in the US and Europe.

Jason Perez racing the Yamaha R1.
At the age of 24, he decided that motorcycle racing was beginning to feel too much like a job, so he picked the 2008 race at Willow Springs to be his final race. Unfortunately, on a practice run on the track, he had a bad accident that sliced his abdominal wall open. An inch deeper and he would have likely died within minutes. Jason points out that he didn’t quit racing because of the accident. It was just time to move on.

And move on he did. In 2009, he raced his first mountain bike race and ran his first marathon (the San Diego Rock & Roll, finishing in 3:40). This led to an interest in ultra-marathon running, with his first 50K trail run at the Bay Area Skyline-to-the-Sea later that year. In 2010 he ran the 100-mile Western States in 27 hours, 50 minutes. By 2012 he had broken into the coveted sub 24-hour 100 mile territory during the San Diego 100 mile ultra race (considered on par with Western States’ rugged mountain terrain. In 2014, he was winning 24-hour single-speed mountain bike races.
By 2014, he had raced in close to 50 single-speed MTB races. It’s worth noting that Jason competed in MTB racing and ultra-marathon running as an amateur. His pro-career was limited to motorcycle racing.

In 2015, Jason heard from a friend, Vic Armijo, about a new kind of recumbent bike that was really fast. Armijo, in his role as a Race Across America photographer, had witnessed Maria Parker’s amazing comeback victory in the 2013 cross-country race. Jason contacted me and we had a long talk. I really liked what I heard. I sent him a bike, no strings attached. Jason is a pioneer. He pushes limits. He doesn’t care if you approve or disapprove of whatever challenge he has taken on for himself. People like Jason don’t come along every day. You have to be secure and self-possessed to withstand the social pressure of riding a recumbent bike in a world of traditionalists. One of Jason’s user name’s on Strava is “Recumbent Dork”. Jason owns who he is. Now he’s the “dork” with the KOMs that the “cool” kids will never beat.

Could I have predicted the amazing feats Jason has accomplished? I’ve always believed that in the right hands, the V20 could rock the cycling world. Jason was the right person to show what’s possible with a bicycle with ergonomics and aerodynamics far superior to traditional road bikes. The patented drivetrain on this front-wheel-drive bike allows it to climb better than other recumbents and enables the racer to use more muscle groups, which over a long race is important for the best performance.

Jason Perez. Photo Credit: Green Destiny
The UCI, USA Cycling, USAT, and (surprisingly) the Senior Games ban recumbent bicycles based on a flawed 1934 decision that defined what a racing bicycle could look like. I believe that has hurt the sport and held cycling back from reaching its potential.
To the vast majority of Americans, the sport of cycling is an obscure European pastime, and the use of bicycles for transportation or recreation is considered too dangerous, slow, or uncomfortable.

According to the most recent Census data, only 0.6% of adults commute to work on a bicycle. Only about 4% of Americans ride a bike more than twice a week.

According to the most recent Census data, only 0.6% of adults commute to work on a bicycle. Only about 4% of Americans ride a bike more than twice a week. While this is enough to make cycling a multi-billion dollar industry, it could be so much more if bicycles were safer and more efficient. I believe Cruzbike makes bicycles that are safer and faster than traditional road bikes. But the cycling industry and cycling sanctioning bodies slammed the door in the face of recumbent racers. Cycling media have taken their cues from cycling sanctioning bodies, carrying out a media-blackout of recumbent bicycling’s biggest star. Hey Journalists! If you’re looking for the biggest, most important and newsworthy cycling story of the past few years, go talk to Jason Perez, the Recumbent Dork. We’ll put you in touch.

-Jim Parker

Want to see what it looks like from the cockpit of Jason’s V20 as he goes 60 mph?

Jason has also written some great blogs about his experience racing on the V20. Here’s one.
Jason charging up White Mountain in Central California near the Nevada border.

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