Since I was fourteen years old, cycling has been a huge part of my life. Years ago.. somewhere in my mid teens, I got made fun of a lot for wearing my tights. A lot of things were said about me and cycling that were so negative and upsetting that it almost made me quit.
I came out fighting. A lot of my riding is done in a residential area and at one point, neighbors tried shutting my whole thing down because of nuisance. I fought it and won because the township could not find me doing anything wrong or illegal.
Times change though. As I’ve grown into my early twenties, the reception has been a lot different. It’s generally been positive in recent years. There’s a person here or there that will say something nasty, but once I invite them to do a full bike ride (42 miles), their tones change.
When I go out to get something to eat or go out to a store, I often get recognized as “the cyclist”. Some people want a picture and others just want to talk. There’s been a few dozen instances over the eight and a half years I’ve cycled that people have told me that I have motivated them to go on their own fitness journeys and I think that’s an amazing thing.
Back when I applied for my job (almost two years ago), I had nothing to write about professionally on my resumé. I helped friends move and got paid in pizza and beer. It was something I couldn’t really write about when applying to a job at the federal level. What I could write about was my blogging history (I have blogged on many websites since I was about thirteen), and my career as an independent cyclist who at the time had cycled 60,000 miles (just under 85,000 miles now).
They found it strange that I constantly rejected joining bicycle clubs despite being a highly sought after cyclist in the county. I then explained to them that I remained independent so I could cycle at my own will whenever I wanted to and not having set times and places to go. They accepted my answer and put it on file.
Fast forward a year and a half, Philadelphia had a bike competition and our external stakeholder had a position in the event and they asked if I wanted to ride on their behalf. They found out through my job about my cycling capabilities and they said it was what they needed. I signed on for the competiton with the caveats that I could remain clubless and ride at my personal convenience. They accepted the terms and I became theirs for the month. The competition ran October 1 – October 31. With 1,194 miles, I ranked first overall in the Philadelphia area for mileage. I also ranked nationally. Nationally, I ranked fifteenth for men and seventeenth overall out of 59,000 entries. Our external stakeholder was proud and asked if I would stay on for future cycling events. I agreed, as long as terms remained the same.
I’ve come a long way as a cyclist. From the beginnings of a struggling teenage cyclist on a BMX bicycle to the adult who rides for his job and becomes a nationally ranked cyclist.. it amazes me how far things have gone and remaining independent at the same time.