Cyclist calls for bike-friendly trails at Kiser Lake


USAF Reservist has passion for his pursuit

By Katie Milligan - Contributing writer



Zachary Thorsky is pictured competing in the Frosted Fat Tire Relay Race in Three Rivers, Michigan, an intensive 50-mile race in minus-20 degree weather.

Zachary Thorsky is pictured competing in the Frosted Fat Tire Relay Race in Three Rivers, Michigan, an intensive 50-mile race in minus-20 degree weather.


Submitted photos

Zachary Thorsky finished in 15th place out of 118 Pro/Expert participants in the dreaded Mohican 100 last year.


Submitted photos

ST. PARIS – Master Sergeant and Citizen Airman Zachary Thorsky, 445th Airlift Wing Safety Office Flight NCO serving at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, is an avid bicyclist and mountain biker advocating for the opening of Kiser Lake State Park’s hiking trails to bikes.

A natural athlete growing up in Medina County, Ohio, Thorsky always preferred bicycling to other sports, even carrying a radio with him to communicate with his parents in case he ventured too far.

“I’ve always just been fascinated with dirt bikes and bicycles. As a little kid, I was constantly riding my bike around town,” Thorsky said. “I was so fascinated with bikes that I didn’t care what all the other kids were getting into.”

Thorsky explained there are several classes of cycling: bicycle motocross (BMX), road cycling, mountain biking (both freestyle and racing), fat tire (for snowy or sandy environments) and gravel racing.

In his teens, Thorsky entered the world of freestyle BMX, and he told the WPAFB Flyer that he and his friends often rode at Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Park, the world’s largest location of its kind, to practice flips and tricks.

Thorsky admits his taste for the extreme and challenging. For example, after enlisting in the Air Force in 2010, Thorsky picked up a new hobby: mixed martial arts (MMA), particularly Brazilian jiu jitsu.

“I like sports that are very humbling in the beginning,” Thorsky said. “I started from the bottom.”

However, after he was injured in a choke hold that created a bulging disk in his neck, Thorsky was forced to quit MMA. But even after 6 months of wearing a neck brace and a year of physical therapy, he admits that he is grateful for the injury, because without it, he never would have gotten into bicycling.

A new passion

Thorsky tells the WPAFB Flyer that while riding at the MetroParks Mountain Biking Area (MoMBA) near Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, a flyer inspired him to enter an event in the Dayton Fast Lap series, a string of summer races in the area put on by the Miami Valley Mountain Biking Association (MVMBA).

After entering a race (expecting to win) and finishing 15th out of 25, Thorsky was determined to improve. He re-entered the cycling world, upping his training regimen and joining a cycling group called the Mad Cow Fatbike Club.

This club, associated with the MVMBA, boasts over 120 members, many of whom are older, more experienced riders in their 40s or 50s. Just 25 when he first raced with them, Thorsky was floored by the stiff competition. Now, at age 30, his humbling experiences with the Mad Cows have made him one of the Dayton area’s top cyclists.

Moreover, Thorsky’s dedication to fitness has served him well in his military career. As the Unit Fitness Program Manager, Thorsky uses his expertise to encourage others to excel. He is responsible for scheduling physical fitness tests, planning mandatory fitness activities, tracking individual fitness levels and providing general wellness awareness.

“The military is really pushing fitness nowadays,” Thorsky said. “Most people dread the PT test, so I’m very positive and I don’t try to make it any more stressful than it already is.”

As a member of the same unit for six years, Thorsky deems it his duty to advocate for health to his coworkers.

“I try to go out of my way to educate people on how to get in shape,” he said. “The more people I can positively influence to get in shape, the better.”

The Air Force has been supportive of Thorsky’s racing efforts, even sponsoring him through the United States Military Endurance Sports organization.

Despite intense preparation and sturdy equipment, cycling is an extreme sport requiring both mental and physical endurance. To succeed in lengthy races, Thorsky commits himself to a rigid training regimen of three weeks on, one week off. The three weeks range from easy to medium to high difficulty levels, getting progressively more difficult. Each week Thorsky rides between 10 and 20 hours, but cuts down to 4 hours or less on his off week.

“Recovery and rest is really important when you’re pushing yourself really hard, and if you don’t, you’ll feel overly fatigued and you’ll actually start to get slower,” he said.

In addition, Thorsky and his wife, Ashley, consume a healthy diet of hearty meals consisting of whole foods, lots of protein, fruits and vegetables, recovery drinks and a green supplement each morning.

But physical exhaustion is not the only battle Thorsky faces; cycling also requires psychological resilience.

“Mental battles are a huge factor when it comes to endurance sports in general, but especially cycling,” Thorsky said. “When you’re doing a 100-mile race, you’re going to be on the bike for 8 hours. The most dramatic thing I’ve ever felt in my life are the mood swings when you’re pushing yourself like that. You have to have a lot of conviction to push through that and get to the other side.”

Nevertheless, Thorsky believes his capacity to steel his mind allows him to succeed in long races.

“My superpower in cycling is my mental discipline,” he said. “I don’t let the bad stuff bother me too much.”

The neck injury does continue to pester Thorsky at times, as the bent-over position necessary for road cycling puts pressure on his neck and usually becomes the limiting factor in extended rides.

But the glory that comes with hard work – and the adrenaline of competition – motivates Thorsky to race.

“The feeling of being in a race is what I’m addicted to. I feel like I’m really living when I’m racing,” Thorsky explained. “In today’s society, when everyone is looking to make everything as easy as possible, I strive to do things that are very difficult, because the feeling of giving it your all is something we’re losing.”

Getting results

Thorsky’s track record proves that his methods are working.

“Cycling is really difficult, and I’m just now getting to the point where I’m competitive amongst the classes that I race against,” he said.

He has won several local races, and in larger regional races, he competes in the pro/expert class. On Jan. 23, he was part of a 4-man team that won first place by a whole lap against 15 other teams in the Frosted Fat Tire Relay Race in Three Rivers, Michigan, an intensive 50-mile race in minus-20 degree weather.

Thorsky also finished in 15th place out of 118 Pro/Expert participants in the dreaded Mohican 100 last year, which he described to WPAFB’s Flyer as “the hardest thing (he has) ever done in (his) life.” This race takes about 8 hours to complete, is mostly mountain biking, and is often in sweltering weather (the temperature in 2021 was in the 90s). Thorsky also placed 88th out of 500 in the Off-Road Assault on Mount Mitchell (ORAMM) Race in Old Fort, North Carolina last year.

This year, he hopes to break into the top 10 in several races.

“You have to be realistic with your expectations, because the competition level is really hard,” he said.

In the coming months, Thorsky looks forward to more challenging competitions. On April 16, he will compete in the Mohican State Park Ohio Mountain Biking Championship (OMBC), a 24-mile sprint. Then, on April 30, he will race in the Black Fork Gravel Grinder, a 100-kilometer gravel race.

May 14 is the Baiting the Shark Grave Race, which will be a primer for the next weekend, when he is again entered in the Mohican Mountain Bike 100 on May 21 in Loudonville, Ohio.

Closer to home

As a new resident of St. Paris, Thorsky seeks to spread his passion for cycling near home. He moved to the Dayton area in 2015 from Youngstown and has since resided in Fairborn, Huber Heights and Tipp City before settling down with his wife in St. Paris in October 2021. The couple was drawn to the area for the solid education the Graham Local Schools offers for their future children, the multitude of road cycling available and the close proximity to the base.

Now, Thorsky calls for the opening of Kiser Lake’s hiking trails to bikers. After noticing the “No Biking” signs posted at the park, Thorsky formed a relationship with park managers and began volunteering by clearing the trails, which he calls an “extremely physically intensive” job.

Thorsky suggests that opening the roughly 3.5 miles of single-track trails to bikers will only benefit St. Paris and the surrounding area, as it would bring visitors and expand the lake’s draw to bikers, not just hikers and fishers.

“It’s a small town, and there’s an excellent state park five minutes away. You’re only going to create more draw to the area,” said Thorsky. “If you build it, they will come. You could build some really awesome trails out here, and then have somebody put on a race, and boom, you’ve got thousands of people coming here to ride and spend their money in St. Paris.”

Thorsky acknowledges that the project would involve funding, public interest and support, and many volunteers, but if the trails open, the MVMBA may be willing to organize and advertise a “dig day,” bringing in volunteers to clean up the trails.

Opportunity to ride on these trails would provide safety and peace of mind to local bikers, as not everyone is comfortable riding on the road.

“My main concern is bringing more awareness to the sport and getting more people involved,” Thorsky said. “I challenge them to tell me one negative (to dual-use trails).”

St. Paris recently submitted an application for state capital funding to begin construction on a multi-use path (called the Pony Wagon Trail) that will cross through the center of St. Paris, eventually connecting Urbana to Piqua and adding to the extensive web of trails across Ohio. Thorsky hopes the village uses the momentum from that project to open Kiser Lake trails to mountain bikers.

For those interested in getting involved in cycling, Thorsky suggests renting a mountain bike at MoMBA. Another great place for beginners to ride is the Troy Mountain Bike Area (TMBA), located at Duke Park. Thorsky also uses the MTB Project app, which catalogs the networks of rideable trails across Ohio.

Additionally, cycling shops, like Thorsky’s sponsor Cycle Therapy in Springfield, are available to answer any and all questions aspiring cyclists may have.

Thorsky’s piece of advice for beginning cyclists: “You’re only racing against yourself. I don’t really pay attention to other people; I just do my own thing.”

Overall, Thorsky’s dedication to the sport has morphed into a dedication to himself.

“At the age of 30, I’m really figuring out who I am. It’s really profound, but I’ve found that I know myself better now than I think I ever have before,” he said. “You won’t ever know yourself that well unless you push yourself to your limits. You put someone in a hard situation, and it shines a light on their soul.”

Thorsky thanks St. Paris residents in advance for taking care this summer if they see him out and about cycling on country roads in all types of weather; he will be wearing a yellow highlighted vest for safety.

Zachary Thorsky is pictured competing in the Frosted Fat Tire Relay Race in Three Rivers, Michigan, an intensive 50-mile race in minus-20 degree weather.
https://www.urbanacitizen.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/36/2022/04/web1_FFTR.jpgZachary Thorsky is pictured competing in the Frosted Fat Tire Relay Race in Three Rivers, Michigan, an intensive 50-mile race in minus-20 degree weather. Submitted photos

Zachary Thorsky finished in 15th place out of 118 Pro/Expert participants in the dreaded Mohican 100 last year.
https://www.urbanacitizen.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/36/2022/04/web1_thorskymohican.jpgZachary Thorsky finished in 15th place out of 118 Pro/Expert participants in the dreaded Mohican 100 last year. Submitted photos
USAF Reservist has passion for his pursuit

By Katie Milligan

Contributing writer

Reach Katie at [email protected]

Reach Katie at [email protected]