Life on Two Wheels: Globetrotting with former adventure racer Monique Merrill | SummitDaily.com

Life on Two Wheels: Globetrotting with former adventure racer Monique Merrill

Page McClean
Special to the Daily

Editor's note: For countless Summit County residents, a bicycle is more than a machine — it's a lifestyle. Every week during the summer, we'll ask our most adventurous residents, "Where has your bike taken you?"

Life seems full of serendipity for Monique Merrill, the 46-year-old Breckenridge pro athlete, entrepreneur and, now, mother. With one wheel resting in Summit County and another racing around the world, she turned her passion for mountain biking into a successful and fulfilling career.

As a child, Merrill grew up overseas, primarily in Asia and Africa. She admits that attending international schools and moving every few years kept her away from team sports, but it gave her an invaluable worldview.

"That lifestyle made me want to continue to travel and continue to push my comfort zone," she said. "That's when I seem to be the happiest."

Merrill's early career ambition was to become a lawyer. Moving to Summit, though, changed her path. She bought her first mountain bike soon after she arrived in 1991.

"I think it was a graduation gift from my parents," she said. The sport reeled her in, and soon, thoughts of law school trailed in her dust. "I told my parents I just wanted to ride my bike."

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While she says her mother was not supportive of the decision, her father took a different tune.

"Does it make you happy?" he asked.

When she responded yes, he added, "Then I'm glad all your education helped you find something that makes you happy."

Despite their initial misgivings, Merrill said, "They were pretty proud when I made it to the professional level."

A professional athlete from roughly 2001 to 2009, Merrill is also the owner of Amazing Grace, Breckenridge's beloved natural foods restaurant. It was even her first sponsor, back when it was a health food store and she was just an employee. These days, longtime locals and visitors alike stop by her restaurant to catch up on community news and glean some singletrack insight from the self-proclaimed "trail guru."

After 25 years biking in Breckenridge — and around the world — Merrill says, "My home is here." She explains why the trails of her adopted hometown keep drawing her back.

"I started mountain biking and loved it. I loved being able to get out in the woods. It just blew me away that I could ride on dirt trails. I loved that I could lose myself in nature. I'd ride and start wondering about flowers, mines, mine tailings, old towns. Man, it was such a fun time. I was learning so much — the growth curve was straight up.

"I went from sport to professional racing. My route led me to XTERRAs and triathlons and then professional adventure racing. I got paid for eight years to travel around the world. I went to Fiji, Portugal, Norway, Sweden, New Zealand, France, Spain… Pretty much every state in the U.S. But I still love my bike, even today.

"I'm amazed that I can still find a new trail in Breckenridge after 25 years. I think we have the best trails, and I've seen trails all over the world. And they keep improving! I remember when I couldn't bank the trail. I remember when you had to go over twigs and tree roots on the curves.

"If you have an attachment with your bike, it has to be kind of spiritual, like the attachment I have. I just fell into it. I'm so fortunate I had a calling and I was able to follow it. Now that I'm a mother, I ask, 'What am I going to fall into next?' I'm just waiting for my heart to speak to me."