Spotlight on Colin Gould: mechanical engineering master’s student, musician and long-haul cyclist

By Shelby Condit, Media & Communications Intern, CSU Energy Institute

Colin Gould is a master’s student in mechanical engineering whose research focuses on combustion science. He is working under Professor Anthony Marchese at the CSU Energy Institute and will soon defend his master’s thesis. “My work involves the observation of dual-fuel droplet combustion in a rapid compression machine, which is located in the laser and combustion lab at the Powerhouse. The work will further inform the understanding of dual-fuel [diesel and methane] chemical kinetics,” Gould explained.

Photo taken at the Powerhouse Energy Campus using a high-speed video camera. Top row: ignition of a heptane fuel droplet. Bottom row: dual-fuel ignition of heptane and methane

But before continuing his study in combustion science, Gould took a break from research to ride his bike from Burlington, Vermont to his home town of Lafayette, Louisiana. The trip ultimately totaled close to 6,000 miles!

“I had every intention of finishing my master’s,” he said. But that didn’t stop him from enjoying his cross-state bikepacking trip. “I have no regrets about the fact that I took it,” he continued.

Colin says he’s been cycling since he was a kid, and when he moved to Fort Collins for graduate school in 2013, he fell in love with the town’s bike friendly roadways and attitudes. Fort Collins is the perfect place for anyone with a love of innovation and the outdoors.

The trip took him close to two years to plan, including the early days of dreaming up a north to south trip down the East Coast in the fall.

As expected from any adventure, it did not go as planned. In this instance, it was a good thing. Gould’s childhood friend is part of a trio of Cajun musicians, and he learned they would be going on tour and stopping in Burlington around the time he planned to arrive there to embark on his bike trip. They had a bike rack and an empty seat for him.

What started out as a solo tour on a bike became a tour with a band. He often joined in their shows playing fiddle, drums, or the accordion. He says the best part of the trip was connecting with people through music along the way, reuniting with old friends, and finding new ones.

While traveling through D.C., he and a friend stopped in at the Smithsonian Institution to view the exhibit on innovation, where Fort Collins is designated as one of six places of innovation in the U.S. and the only designee in energy innovation. “The Powerhouse was featured prominently,” he added.

Colin Gould’s bike route from Burlington, VT to Lafayatte, LA; sourced from Google Maps via Colin Gould.

The bike tour itself lasted from September to December and totaled over 1,550 miles of biking, and over 4000 miles of driving with a bike and pack weight that totaled 85 pounds.

Gould says the hardest part of the bike trip was the solitude. After spending weeks in a musician’s heaven, there was a new dynamic. “I love that it gave me independence, but it was really hard,” he said. “Think of every bit of joy and fun you derive from other people and then just remove that.”

Colin Gould on Governors Island in New York City

Gould also says the trip eventually became sensory overload. He had traveled thousands of miles, and towards the end, he was ready to wrap things up. Sometimes part of an adventure is getting tired of the adventure. He made it back home to Lafayette in time to celebrate Christmas with his family. But he’s not without gratitude for the opportunity. “This type of trip is not possible in some life circumstances. Most people can’t just take five months off.” Read more about Gould’s bike trip on his blog here.

As if studying mechanical engineering, playing music, and road touring weren’t enough to keep him busy, Gould also moonlights as a photographer. For the bike trip, he rigged his camera bag to the front of the bike for easy access. He took over 14,000 photos, and is still making his way through to find the best of them. See what he’s shared so far and more of his portfolio on his Flickr account.

Gould has accepted an internship with the Brendle Group in Fort Collins, which will begin in June. Join the Energy Institute in congratulating him on his next adventure — this time in engineering.