He’s not afraid to show it off. Underneath his high-tech cycling jersey, North Forsyth graduate Kyle Ellis has a long, red scar that runs across the length of his collarbone.
On March 23, Ellis had surgery to have a steel plate implanted under his skin after forcing his collarbone into a break on a hard fall just a few days prior. He was traveling over a jump on his mountain bike when his right hand slipped while tumbling to the ground. Despite the fact his collarbone had clearly deviated from its normal position, Ellis had a hard time convincing himself he had broken it, though he admitted those around him were more in shock than he was.
“Some people came by and saw it and were freaking out, but I didn’t realize I broke it at first,” Ellis said.
Clearly, Ellis is predestined to live on the edge. His thirst for an adrenaline-inducing sport began after spending his freshman year at North Forsyth on the cross country team, but the lull of running bored Ellis.
“Running is just like all fitness, but biking has fitness, skills—it’s a lot more fun because you go up climbs, but also get to go downhill. I don’t think most people enjoy running,” Ellis joked.
At least he didn’t. So after a freshman year of lacing up the running shoes, Ellis decided to start clipping to a bike. He recalled a duathalon from a Boy Scouts of America event he entered in middle school, and remembered that biking was the preferred part of the event.
Since his decision to hop on wheels, Ellis has invested in three different bikes and has become a top notch mountain biker and cyclocross rider.
“More and more every year, I’ve just become more competitive and moved up a level,” Ellis said.
Ellis was the only North Forsyth biker to compete in the NICA Georgia High School Racing League over the past few years, and he’s prepared, after graduating last week, to move on to King University in Bristol, Tenn., where he will race with the Tornado as part of the Southeastern Collegiate Cycling Conference.
“If you had asked me a year ago I didn’t know about (King University),” Ellis said. “But I ended up knowing a couple of the riders there, went up there and visited and realized it made a lot of sense for me to go out there.”
Ellis said the terrain in Bristol is similar to Forsyth County, which will make for an easy transition.
Ellis will add a new dynamic to the team. At 6-foot-5, he will be the tallest cycler for the school, as a freshman.
“Basically, I’m really tall for a cyclist,” Ellis said. “Most people are around 5-foot-10. It’s not a huge advantage because it’s about power to weight ratio. The really small guys are always better at climbing but I’m better at flats and riding through wind because I just have more weight moving through it.”
The skills necessary to be a competitive mountain biker don’t come without falls. Ellis has had to learn how to ride at high speeds while dealing with rocks, roots and other unexpected obstructions, while also training to handle hairpin turns on different types of dirt.
“It’s not like being on a road and riding on the same thing,” Ellis said. “You’ve got to learn how to corner on different types of dirt and get used to drops, rollers, small jumps.”
Ellis pays a coach in North Carolina who sends him workout routines to perform based on the event he’s preparing for. These routines include “power intervals,” where he rides two minutes straight up hill and repeats before taking an hour to do an endurance-based ride. He does this six days a week.
“After a few hard days I’ll take a recovery day or an off day where I don’t ride,” Ellis said.
Even after severely breaking his collarbone, Ellis can’t wait to get on his bike whenever he can.
“I think actually when I started there was less adrenaline because you’re on easy trails, but once you start riding more and start going faster with mountains, rock drops and harder terrain, you get more of an adrenaline rush from that and have more fun,” he said. “Once you pick up the basic skills you need to not crash you enjoy it more.”