The Secret Life of Kelly Magelky

The Secret Life of Kelly Magelky

(Several years ago, I worked with a video production company for a project called "Another Day, Another Adventure." Kelly Magelky, a world-class endurance mountain biker from North Dakota, was a hero to me, and he generously gave his time to be featured in the pilot of a project that didn't really get to see the light of day as originally imagined. I've never forgotten his generosity or the conversation we had on our trip to the badlands. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty had just come out, and that was the soundtrack of our drive. It meant the world to me and I'll never forget it. I am smiling ear to ear reading this Q & A. Thanks Kelly! - Brian)

Where do you live now?  Where do you call home?

I live in Wheat Ridge, CO (which is in between Denver and Golden) with my wife and twin 6-year old boys. I moved from Dickinson, ND to Denver when I was 18 - so I feel like I can call both places “home”!


Give us a behind the scenes look at your average day.

Every day - no matter what - starts with coffee! With what I do for work it’s difficult to have a real routine, but usually I start by making lunches for my boys for their backpacks, take them to school and then get in some sort of adventure. Usually it’s a mountain bike ride, but I’ll trail run or head to the gym for a swim. After that I head back and jump into my studio, which is a converted detached garage. My dog, Oliver, usually lays down near me while I work on our film project. I love cooking so I tend to make dinner for the family and then I’m usually pretty tired so I “try” to get to bed early! Often times I’ll sneak out for a night ride after dinner on nights I don’t put our boys down. Those are always fun and they make me feel like a kid. 

Driving in the badlands of North Dakota

What’s your current adventure, both in your career as well as hobbies or passions?

I’ve been on a nearly 10 year adventure on a film I’m producing/editing! The subject material is Americana music from the mid 60s to the late 70s through the eye of Outlaw Country - and today’s artists who are taking that ethos forward. This project has included a LOT of travel and we’ve met so many incredible people. 

It’s no secret that my other adventure is mountain biking. I got into the sport in my early 20s and I still feel the same amount of joy when I can get out and ride trails as I did when when I was starting out. Racing has been a huge part of my cycling life, but I most enjoy the backcountry-type of riding and finding new adventures on 2 wheels. I was never really athletic growing up, so having raced bikes professionally is still kinda crazy to me. My goal is to keep riding for fun as long as I possibly can. My boys will be faster than me before I know it!


Tell me about your time on the Maah Daah Hey Trail.

I’ve experienced it all on the Maah Daah Hey. Some very low points, some extremely gratifying moments, and everything in between. The whole essence of the trail for me lies in it’s remoteness and ruggedness as well as my grandparent’s farm in relation to where the trail starts on the South end. I feel such a deep connection to the land and I do my best to honor it whether it’s during a race or during a visit there with friends. Nature can be so humbling and can take away your comfort as quick as it can put a smile on your face. That sense of adventure for me is what draws me to the trail. You have to respect it. You have to be prepared. But you can also be out there as a beginner mountain biker, or beginner hiker. I’ve traveled all over the world and I can honestly say that this is one of the most incredible - and unique - places a person can visit and experience. 

You grew up in North Dakota. What did you like about growing up here?

I absolutely loved the freedom of growing up in ND. I grew up in an auto shop and was shown how to use tools, build things, and was taught to think things through. I’m such a family person and having so much family around was really great. I’m also a person who likes to be out in the wilderness on my own and I feel like I was given the tools act a young age to be very independent. That’s translated into what I do now with work and cycling.


What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?

I was told by a coach in my mid 20s to be present and enjoy everything that’s happening in the moment, because inevitably the “now” will be “back then”. It was profound advice. I did do that, but maybe a little later than I wanted to. I’d definitely say that to my 18 year old self. Fortunately, I was guided along by several amazing people and I feel pretty lucky about that. 

Mountain Biker Kelly Magelky crossing a stream in the North Dakota Badlands

What challenge in your life or work are you most interested in overcoming?

The constant moving target is balance. I feel unbelievably lucky to be able to spend time doing things I absolutely love. Ultimately, though, I want to be a good husband and father. I love what I do for work and what I do on the bike, but there’s got to be a true balance there. I also want to be a good example to my boys and let them develop into the young men they want to be. I always thought I’d be way more chill as a dad, but I get too nervous and protective. Maybe my biggest challenge is to let go a little, but one of our boys already lost a few teeth from crashing his bike!


If you could do any job, what would you do and why?

At the risk of sounding uninteresting, I’ve been lucky enough to have the exact job(s) I’ve always dreamt of. Being a filmmaker is incredibly rewarding and having had somewhat of a cycling career was a dream come true. It’s been a ton of work, but I’ve been happy to do the work and I try and never take it for granted. Nothing is ever guaranteed so I’m striving to do good work.

Kelly Magelky and mountain biker in North Dakota

What’s the greatest risk you’ve taken?

The biggest risk I’ve taken was probably moving to CO when I was 18. I had no job and only knew like 2 people. Growing up in a small-ish town makes you feel pretty comfy and change can be difficult. Not sure why, but I just packed up and left a couple days after I graduated high school. The hardest part was leaving my family, but I just felt like I needed to get to the mountains. I guess I did!


What’s your biggest failure and what did you learn from it?

I had what I consider to be a colossal failure at the mountain bike 24 hour solo world championships. (Actually - 3 times) I fully expected to win and win relatively easy. However, I ended up way off the back during the years I thought I was gonna be way faster. It hit me super hard, but what I learned from that is the people in your life who are in your corner are there for the good the bad and the ugly. We often think that other people are constantly judging us, but the truth is that most people are worried about themselves and not necessarily thinking about everything you do. But - you do draw attention when you react poorly and make things about yourself. I realized that no one really cared that I didn’t win. In fact, I realized everything was better when I just accepted the fact that the people around me just wanted to be there and support during the tough times. (This, of course, has gone beyond bike racing!) We need to give ourselves a break and let any failures in, perceived or real.

 Kelly Magelky putting his bike on his bike rack

What’s your desert island album/book/TV show/movie (answer one or all)?

Album: “Now That’s What I Call Music Vol: 82” Haha… Just kidding. “Collapsed in Sunbeams” by Arlo Parks (this is tough - I listen to so much music)

Book: “Desert Solitaire” by Edward Abbey (Moab is one of my favorite places in the world)

TV Show: Ted Lasso

Movie: “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” (I think I’d really appreciate seeing all the traveling)


You can find Kelly on Instagram: @k_magelky

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