Former Rogue Valley resident Ray Storm has overcome numerous bumps and bruises to climb the ranks in mountain biking. - Photo courtesy of Ryan Kirk Photography

Storm Rider

Ray Storm's body throbbed with pain as he hobbled to the commuter rail station on the fringes of Oakland.

Two of his ribs had been broken and his liver and spleen were bruised after he crashed his road bicycle in California's urban East Bay about five weeks ago.

The 32-year-old Rogue Valley native was riding early that morning when his front tire got caught in a crack in the road. Storm felt a sudden jolt before slamming onto the street curb.

With his bike in tow, he carefully climbed aboard the train.

"I think people were thinking, 'What is up with this weirdo in spandex and why is he grimacing?'" Storm recalled.

Next stop? The hospital, where the professional mountain bike racer didn't stay for long.

"I spent a couple hours there and then rode back to my friend's home," Storm said.

The return trip was only 20 miles, after all.

"What are you gonna do?" he said. "You can't sit on your couch and be afraid."

Storm, who was born in Medford and graduated from Ashland High School in 1995, has suffered blows during his rise through the ranks.

Through it all, his ardor for the rip-roaring activity remains unscathed.

"You have so many excuses in this sport," Storm said. "But to walk away clean and honest, you always have to finish."

He's done more than that.

Storm has been ranked as high as fourth this season by USA Cycling for Ultra Endurance mountain bike racing. He was third in the Super Downhill category last year.

Storm — who uses his step father's last name — went by Ray Staples at AHS, where he played goalkeeper on the soccer team. He also attended Crater High.

Storm now lives in Corte Madera, Calif., where he is clearly no stranger to danger.

He has learned to embrace the agony that 100-mile rides evoke. He revels in memories of the people who said he wouldn't make it.

"My mother was the only person supportive of it," he said. "No one believed I could. So, to me, this is about never quitting."

More than anything, Storm would like to qualify for the U.S. national team and, ultimately, compete at the Marathon World Championships in Germany this summer.

To get there, the third-year professional must perform well at one of two national championships. He'll race in the USA Cycling 24 Hour Mountain Bike National Championships in Moab, Utah, Oct. 9-10. Storm said he may also compete in the Marathon MTB National Championships in Breckenridge, Colo., on July 4.

He placed 27th at the Mountain Bike Nationals in 2009.

"I was sitting in second and then got a flat," he lamented.

Storm, who returns to the Rogue Valley about twice a year to train and visit his family, switched from Super Downhill racing to Ultra Endurance this season.

"They are longer and when you are competing at that level and for that long, your body shuts down," Storm said. "You go through a series of dehydration and hunger, and then you bring your body back and do it again. You are always on this teetering edge of physical failure."

A serious injury and some personal battles over a decade ago rekindled Storm's childhood joy for riding.

After studying at Southern Oregon University in his early 20s, Storm moved to California and decided to play rugby. He joined the San Francisco Golden Gate RFC, a union club that competes in the Rugby Super League.

Storm tore both his hamstrings in a practice.

After several weeks of rest, he was convinced to bike with his adventure-loving roommates.

"They dared me to do some racing and I got hooked," Storm recalled. "There was no turning back."

Now, he's an ascending pro who won't let anything slow him down.

Not even gruesome foot injuries.

In February, Storm wore a poor pair of shoes in the 12 Hours of Santos race in Ocala, Fla. Though he managed a 13th-place finish in the 12-hour, 132-mile marathon, his feet paid the price.

"Throughout the race, my big toenails ripped off slowly," he recalled.

About a week later, Storm was back on his bike in the Spa City Extreme 6 Hour MTB Classic in Hot Springs, Ark., pushing the limits in the second of the series' final five races.

He captured fifth place.

Storm said he hopes to compete in a handful of small road races this month and then in the opening of the Team Big Bear Ultra Endurance Series in July. He currently attends College of Marin and works with children weekly, passing on his knowledge of cycling and mentoring.

"You are supposed to have a nine-to-five job and have a family, and here I am racing bikes," Storm said. "I've missed meals and there have been months where the power was shut off. I'm doing something that I am not supposed to do societally. But I feel like this is it for me."

Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or e-mail

Share This Story