In the early days of the Cascade Bicycle Club’s Major Taylor Project (aka “MTP”), founder Ed Ewing described cycling as a mind-expanding experience for the Project’s target audience:
“Most of these kids live in a what is essentially a tunnel between wherever they are sleeping (which might not be their home), to school. They have no awareness of the world outside that tunnel. A trip to the Fremont neighborhood is like a trip to a different planet.”
Seattle’s cycling community has embraced the MTP and I’m sure there are multiple success stories. One stands out for me: A few years a young keynote speaker at Cascade’s annual Bike Everywhere Breakfast, who had just been accepted to the University of Washington, described how the MTP’s program of progressively longer distances helped him redefine how he set his personal goals. At the start of the program a ride around his school blew his mind; by the end he finished the Seattle to Portland (STP) no problem.
Since MTP’s inception, I’ve been wondering when it would germinate a competitive cyclist. Now we know. That student is Dashawn Hutchinson.
Six-year old Dashawn was initially attracted to the mechanics of bicycles:
“My brothers brought me to 2nd Cycle Community Bike Shop, which is where I got introduced to building bikes. I started going there about 5 times a week, 5 hours a day just watching Noah Struthers and Travis Martin and doing anything I could do to help. I did that for like 1 year. I became comfortable with how everything worked around the shop. By the time I was 13 I learned almost all the mechanical aspects of building bikes, fixing bikes, taking them apart, and overhauling the little stuff. Since the shop was usually busy, the staff didn’t have much time to help me. So, it was on me to be independent and teach myself about things the staff couldn’t help me with.”
“I was riding my BMX bike everywhere. But, being in the bike shop and seeing all the other bikes with gears and big wheels got me excited about building my own road bike. I built my first-ever bike from all used parts when I was 14. I was cleaning in the back storage room where all the bikes were stored. I told head mechanic Travis Martin I was ready to build a bike. We both went to the back and I showed him the frame I wanted to build up. I started my build that day. I was so excited about the build, I was constantly going into the shop and working on it. It took me about 2 weeks. It was a older Schwinn road bike. After I built that bike I started to connect with local road bike riders. I officially got into road cycling when the bike was finished in 2014. And I still volunteer at 2nd Cycle.”
Dashawn’s inclination to work with his hands is guiding his career trajectory. He’s a senior at Stadium High and is enrolled in the vocational running start program at Bates Technical College’s HVAC program. Dashawn describes himself as independent, and he enjoys working by himself or one on one.
Dashawn connected with the Major Taylor Project as a result of a serendipitous decision to try bike polo.
“I was out and about with my friends riding bmx bikes. We were all heading back home because it was getting dark outside. As we rode past an abandoned store I saw a group of people playing bike polo. I told my friends: “let’s go check this out, guys.” They didn’t wanna go so I went alone. I pulled up on my bmx bike and the first guy I talked with was Leon Nettles. He asked me if I wanted to try playing. I was like “heck yeah! I wanna play.” I played a couple games and by then It was dark. After everyone left I helped Leon carry the equipment to his car. He asked me to come back and play more the next week. I came back I with my road bike and he complimented it. I said: “Thanks! I just built it all up from the frame.” A couple days after that I went into 2nd cycle and Leon was there, and I was like “hey! I know you…” We talked more about cycling and he told me about Major Taylor Project. He invited me on a bike ride through 5 Mile Drive where I met Ed Ewing. Ed and I talked for a while. After that day I was introduced to the rest of the students and staff. I’ve been involved with MTP ever since.”
After his foray into bike polo, Dashawn started racing and immediately progressed to a being a contender. Although he has done some road racing he loves cyclocross. He did his first cyclocross race in 2016 and says he wore cargo shorts, a t-shirt, and tennis shoes. He had a great race and, no surprise, everyone called him a sandbagger all day long.
“When I first started racing I just wore whatever random jersey I’d wear on a public ride. After a couple races Ed Ewing gave me a Major Taylor Racing jersey. I raced in that jersey for about a year and a half. At one of my cyclocross races in 2017 I got a flat tire 3 laps into the race. I did 1 lap riding the flat without knowing it. Someone guided me into the pits to get a spare wheel. After getting the wheel all switched and I was rolling again, I finished in 3rd place even with the mechanical. After I finished the race I found the guy who the loaned me the wheel and we were just kinda walking and talking. He then asked me if I would be interested in joining his team–Rad Racing NW–a junior development cycling team.”
“Cyclocross is the type of racing where you will always be happy no matter what. Everything about it is great to me. The environment of cyclocross races is just so welcoming. When the other Major Taylor students come out to the races for their first time everyone supports them no matter what place they get and what skill level they are.”
For the upcoming season, Dashawn has a variety of big goals. He is joining the Mt. Si Mountain Bike Team. He plans to attempt a sub-10 hour STP.
“My big cycling goal for 2019-2020 is being the first Major Taylor Student to race at a National Championship. I will succeed that goal by training hard and racing more. The 2019 Cyclocross Nationals are being held at Fort Steilacoom Park.”
As he leaves the RAD junior program he is inspired to be the next Ed Ewing–involved with Cascade Bicycle Club and the MTP: “I’ll be a fast local involved in the growth and expansion of cycling.”
For his part, Ed Ewing says: “Dashawn is a remarkable young man with poise and talent beyond his years. He is the same person on and off he bike, he listens, learns, and applies his learnings to his racing and his life. I have a great deal of respect for Dashawn. I see great things for him.”