Lees-McRae alumnus Brendan Bengston ’21 talks coaching and trail-building in Colorado

In May 2021, Brendan Bengston graduated from Lees-McRae with the intention of being a financial adviser. With his newly earned degree in Business Administration, with a concentration in finance and accounting, and his minor in Cycling Studies, Bengston set off on his path. It only took a few months of financial advising, however, for him to realize that he was meant to go down a different trail.

“I’m running a crew now of about 15 people and we are building out a state park,” Bengston said. “I realized I couldn’t handle sitting in an office.”

Bengston now works with Singletrack Trails, a trail-building company that constructs sustainable trails across the United States. The company is based in Colorado, and Bengston does most of his work there.   

“Right now, we’re building 16 miles of trail that access a peak of about 10,000 feet in Colorado,” Bengston said. “It’s supposed to be one of the biggest state parks in the nation at some point. They have real grand plans. There are some hiking-only trails and some mountain bike-only trails. We’re building out the entire trail system.”

Even though working with Singletrack Trails wasn’t Bengston’s original plan, his love of the outdoors led him to work with the company one summer while he was still at Lees-McRae. Over that summer he worked on the construction of Palisade Plunge, a 32-mile downhill mountain bike trail that runs off the top of the Grand Mesa.

Not only did this summer job lead to his future career, working on mountain bike trails also piqued a personal interest for the former collegiate cyclist.

Bengston’s participation in competitive mountain biking and road cycling both in high school and at Lees-McRae, along with his academic work in the Cycling Studies minor, led him to another venture: High Cadence Coaching. While still in college, Bengston started coaching young riders competing on their own high school teams in Arizona.

“I have always liked coaching. As soon as I graduated high school I went back and started coaching on the high school mountain bike team whenever I was there for summer breaks,” Bengston said. “When kids get the results they want or are super stoked to get on the podium, that feels really cool. I want to help them reach their goals. I write a personal training plan for each rider with workouts on it, and then spend time on the phone with them to hear how they’re doing. Maybe they go out for a ride and their legs just have no energy, so we have to adjust things.”

Now that he lives in Colorado, and many of his original riders have graduated from high school, Bengston hopes to expand High Cadence Coaching and get involved with some of the high school teams in Colorado.

“Cycling in general is expensive, but coaches are really expensive, so I just try to make it way more affordable. It’s not really about the money for me, it’s about getting kids to ride bikes,” Bengston said. “Cycling is weird and having connections with people is often how you get invited to big races. It’s nice to be able to connect them with the people I have met over the last eight to 10 years of racing.”

Bengston also hopes to continue to grow within Singletrack Trails, eventually getting involved in the business practices of the company and making use of his degree and expertise in finance and accounting. He points to his professors at Lees-McRae for much of the preparation and education that has allowed him to be successful in both ventures.

“It’s been a big change. I’ve never managed people before, so it’s cool to be doing something different,” Bengston said. “The business professors all have such real-world experience. They’re not career-long professors and they teach you real-life applications. I just think that Lees-McRae did a better job of preparing me than a larger school would have where I may have just sat and read textbooks.”

By Maya JarrellMay 26, 2022