Father's Firsts: Chris and Jonathan's Unbound Adventure
There are some things that are imprinted on the mind of any dad that can be recalled forever.
The day your child is born.
The day they walk into school for their first day in first grade.
The day they get married.
And the day they take off training wheels and ride a bike on their own for the first time.
Chris Brown is a lot like many dads, with a few of the above notched, and a few that will arrive in the years to come. Brown, OBED’s vice president of sales, got one moment this year that will certainly be one to remain with him forever as a father: the day he lined up with his son Jonathan, and took on Unbound’s 25-mile event.
“It was a proud day,” Brown says. “A special gift.”
Jonathan, a 10-year-old headed to sixth grade, was in for a stack of “firsts” in early June. His first airplane flight, his first gravel race, a 25-miler at vaunted Unbound Gravel, and his first race with Dad.
But that culmination of moments was preceded by all the other “firsts” a dad gets to experience with their child. And it all started with that first bike ride without training wheels.
“Jonathan started riding bikes at age four or five, but never really picked up on the Strider. He was slow to pick up the balance on a bike,” Brown says. “He got an old BMX-style bike and man, he melted those training wheels down. But once he got it, he picked it up fast, progressing quickly from that bike to a 16” bike, then a 20” and 24”… now he’s on a 29” mountain bike and an extra small OBED Boundary”
For a while, Jonathan supplemented biking around neighborhood trails with his other passions; basketball, cross-country running, and excelling at school. His parents encouraged him to explore anything he had a passion for, but it was Jonathan seeing dad excel at gravel races—while working in the bike industry—that lit a fire under him.
“As parents, my wife and I encourage and support any athletic endeavors our kids pursue; luckily Jonathan just loves cycling, learning the team I work with, watching the Tour de France, having a favorite rider: Tadej Pogačar—and riding around having fun. He’s joined my coworkers on weekday rides after work, and he’s been holding his own with everyone. We never push him in any direction, just want him to do things that are fun to him.”
It’s always gratifying for a dad to see their kid share their own passion for two wheels. So when Jonathan wanted to come to Emporia with Dad, share time with him at the OBED booth, and make a start at Unbound—one of the biggest, baddest, most iconic gravel races of them all—it made Chris's heart swell. The trip was one neither would ever forget.
“It was great having our CEO Peter sign off on having Jonathan in Emporia the entire week,” Brown says.“Peter knew how interested Jonathan was in the company, and helping out at events, so it was really cool that he (Peter) wanted Jonathan to join us, and even encouraged us to race together.”
So came a string of new firsts for young Jonathan.
“It was his first time on an airplane headed out there, and I thought he’d be nervous, but I took a photo progression of him, seeing the expression on his face change from a wonder to excitement as he looked out the plane,” Brown said.
Race day came, with Dad, Jonathan, as well as the rest of the OBED crew, congregating at the start together. Overhead, the announcer got the crowd excited for the day, citing off items of note, one that was unexpected.
“And in today’s 25-mile event, we have our youngest rider, Jonathan Brown! Let’s all give a hand to Jonathan as he sets off here in a few minutes!” As the crowd applauded, Jonathan smiled—and Dad beamed.
“I just sat back and got to let him enjoy it all,” Brown said. “I think back to when I was 10 and I was just out doing jumps and stuff, not lining up for a big race, so it was fun for me to see. We got rolling in a big pack, with all the 50- and 25-mile riders, and after the 50-mile riders split off, we got to just ride together for the rest of it.”
And Jonathan wanted to go fast.
“We passed riders, caught a few people near the end, Jonathan had a battle with another 10-year-old, and even almost got taken out by a spectator on the course,—everything you would get in a true race experience,” Brown says with a laugh. “He ended up second overall, and was the top male finisher.”
Since then, the fire for riding continues to be stoked. And Dad is just happy to be there for it all.
“It was a proud day for me, obviously, a special gift,” Brown says. “He’s had fun going back to school and telling his friends all the stuff he got to do there. Wherever he ends up going, whatever his passions are, we’re gonna support him. But this one, for me… I’m just a proud dad.”