For the longest time, most all I cared about when being on a bike was going fast, and trying to go faster.
I came into the sport of cycling like most others, as a kid wanting to get from one place to another. And the bike did a pretty great job of that – getting me there and back to school, to friends’ houses, and even to the local fish & chips shop when I was hungry. Soon, I discovered the local trails and riding over tree roots and learning to fly downhill filled my free time. Not long after, that love of going fast on two wheels morphed into a competitive drive, where my cycling experience now revolved around training plans, peaking and trying to stand on podiums. Fast forward many years down the road, and competitive cycling has allowed me to travel the world, see some incredible things and make lifelong friendships. All things for which I will be forever grateful. Cycling has given me so much, and the last few months I’ve been able to put on the brakes and connect with the sport in a different way that has been a surprising and extremely fulfilling experience.
When my 2017 competitive season finished in early August with the Tour of Utah, it meant hitting the pause button frightfully earlier than years past which often saw me racing well into October. Not soon after returning home from Utah, perhaps worried I’d wear a hole in the couch with all my newfound downtime, my wife forwarded me a job listing from Bicycle Colorado for a “Bike Educator”. [For those who aren’t familiar with Bicycle Colorado, it’s a non-profit organization that for 25 years has been the major voice advocating for better cycling across the state.] As both a former teacher back in Australia and someone who would be happy talking all things cycling 24-7, the position seemed to be a great fit. Thankfully, Bicycle Colorado agreed, and soon enough I was out and about in the greater Denver community sharing the cycling experience with people of all ages and walks of life.
My assignments varied from week to week. Some days I was at a school giving a talk to elementary-age kids on the importance of wearing a bike helmet–complete with wearing a fabric hat made to look like a brain which always provided plenty of laughs! Other times I would meet up with a group of kids and parents before school to ride with them on a safe route. One afternoon, I even carried a kids trumpet tucked under my arm as we pedaled back again at the end of the day. Perhaps programs I enjoyed the most were the ‘learn to ride’ sessions, which involved teaching groups of children or adults who had never before learned to ride a bike. It was a phenomenal experience to see a child’s face light up when she finally pedaled own her own or helping an adult overcoming his fear of humming along on two wheels and recognizing in his eyes that exact moment when he discovered the perfect balance for the first time. Every time we were successful, I often wondered what adventures these people now might take using their new cycling skills, whether it be as simple as an alternative transportation mode or fresh avenue for a healthy lifestyle.
As only a seasonal position, my short time as a Bike Educator flew by. From the first event to the last, each act of engaging with others to help them find solutions and passing on new knowledge was as rewarding as the next.
As an athlete, it’s very easy to live a small box, consumed by your own goals and day to day preparations on how you are going to get there. My past few months working with Bicycle Colorado has taught me how fulfilling it can be to spread your wings and connect with cycling in a different way. There are some amazing programs and people out there working very hard with the aim to make cycling better for all of us, and I encourage anyone reading this to challenge yourself and reach out to see how you can play a part. I’m thankful for the opportunity I had, and very much look forward to doing more in the future.
Photos by Brett Stakelin/Regis University