Brent Bellm and bikes go way back. As a college student, Bellm, who is now the CEO of Bigcommerce, an e-commerce platform for small and midmarket businesses, went to Zurich for a five-month internship and brought along a touring bike. He planned and took solo cycling trips: 10 days across Germany; seven days across Switzerland.
Then, while attending Harvard Business School in the mid-1990s, he shifted focus. A buddy who had a number in the Boston Marathon got injured two months before the race. Bellm swooped in to take his spot--and went on to run more than three dozen marathons, ultramarathons, and Ironman triathlons. But while skiing in 2000, he missed a turn and slammed his knee into a rock, which forced him to dial back the time he spent pounding the pavement--and gave him the chance to rekindle his old flame.
"I'm really pretty thankful that the knee injury brought me back to cycling," he says.
Did it ever. While running PayPal Europe from 2005 to 2009, Bellm explored the Continent on his bike, especially the magnificent vistas and challenges he found in the Alps, the Dolomites, and the Pyrenees. "I'm a short, skinny guy," says Bellm. "In cycling, that makes me a good climber."
These days, with Bigcommerce having raised $125 million in funding and employing more than 370, Bellm, who's 44, cruises down the asphalt of Austin, where the company is headquartered. He spends eight to 10 hours a week cycling, riding solo on most Sundays and with a group of fellow devotees on most Saturdays. "They're old guys like me, but really, really fast," Bellm says. "It's the same route, every single Saturday, a loop around the western part of the city called the Dam Loop." That's about 50 miles, but Bellm likes to tack on a scenic lake segment, boosting the day's mileage to 70 or 80.
Every autumn, he ramps up for the Texas State Road Race cycling championship. Last year, he finished fifth overall and third in his age group. But to him, bike riding is more than mere competition. "If there's a problem at work or in my personal life, or an issue that needs to be resolved, that's what my mind gravitates to," Bellm says. "It will work it through until it's done."