7 Minute Read

My Story: How I Got Into Cycling

Every cyclist has their origin story and this one is mine. Image contains: Fuji Altamira bicycle, Newport Bay Nature Preserve, Newport Back Bay, sign, path, road.

How I Got Into Cycling

Perhaps my story is similar to yours, perhaps it’s different.

I’ve always enjoyed being athletic in some way. At least generally. From playing soccer and basketball on the playground in elementary school, to marching band in high school (yes, it wasn’t really a sport, but had a comparable sense of individualized competition), there was always something there for me.

However, once graduating high school, my sports regimen fell off a bit. I was still healthy, still went to the gym, but I think it really was more a social thing for me. I had a few friends from high school who all stuck around for a few years, and we’d all go together. Later, we got into tennis, which was perhaps a step towards something a bit more serious.

Roger Federer's Wilson branded tennis racquet laying on floor

We’d spend hours playing tennis, with my childhood friend frustratingly beating me and my other friends nearly every time. He was (and still is) one of those stupidly athletic people, as I call it. I honestly think he metabolizes lactic acid better than the rest of us do (he claims it has something to do with the unreasonable amount of onions he eats). We even later got into racquetball, with very similar results, once I moved to Newport Beach / Costa Mesa area (Orange County, CA, for those unfamiliar).

The fuzzy part, and then the stupid smile that still exists on my face today

I honestly don’t remember how exactly I started thinking about it, but I started seriously looking into mountain bikes. I just thought there was something so cool about them, but I guess I also had never really known anything about road bikes, either. They seemed hard to steer or twitchy I guess. I test rode a Trek Mamba and loved it, really considered getting it.

Right around this time, though, my buddy had mentioned something about test riding road bikes. I’m not sure if we were just on the same wavelength or not, but he had a good point to consider: you could just get on your bike and ride from your house somewhere. I hadn’t really considered that point before with a mountain bike - I’d largely have to drive it somewhere to go ride it where it is in its element.

So one day, we both went out to the Performance Bicycle shop (RIP) in the Tustin area and we each demoed some Fuji bikes. A third friend of ours, also from our same hometown and now living in OC, already had one of these “fancy” road bikes, and seemed excited to have friends to potentially ride with.

I was initially shocked at just how fast and how far you could go on one of these things! While out on the demo ride around the suburban strip mall, I remember thinking back to my Gran Turismo racing game days. Cars draft each other during races - could it possibly work here, too?

I asked my buddy to just stay riding forward at an even pace and I took point just behind him to give my theory a go. Lo and behold, I was floored at how I could notice this difference! Even more so when I am the engine!

Being fascinated by all things science and engineering, this was basically when I was sold on the idea of a road bike.

My first bike

I ended up biting off a lot of bike for my first bike purchase. I got a Fuji Altamira, which is Fuji’s “race” frame.

2013 Fuji Altamira first road bike leaning against glass in store at Performance Bicycle

To those unfamiliar, a lot of road bikes look the same to those unfamiliar with the nuances, but there are actually quite a few variations in frame design, and “race” frames typically force the rider into a lower, more aggressive position that is typically less comfortable over time. That is, unless you just get used to it, of course! There’s a lot of great, albeit very technical, detail found here.

To further my sense of crazy, I walked out of the shop with clipless (or rather, “clip-in”) pedals. Yeah, they definitely terrified me. They still sometimes do! I still remember one of my first rides - it was around the back bay of Newport Beach, which is a wonderful ride. I did it so many times when I lived there.

The first ride I have listed on Strava, though, was a ride from my house to Angel Stadium and back via the Santa Ana River Trail. I still remember one of my roommates being shocked at how soon I was back home, and it gave me a sense of pride to know that I had gone quite a distance without actually feeling as tired as I felt like I should have.

Full force into Road Riding

Turns out that when it comes to my buddy I was riding with, I’m pretty easily pushed into doing things.

While I was nearly always nervous about it, I knew it’d be a good challenge. Whether it was riding around the Back Bay more than once, or going further up Coast Hwy than I had done previously, I found myself relishing the experience.

Fuji Altamira road bike leaning against telephone pole on Santiago Canyon Road in Orange County, California

I’m pretty sure that pic above was one our third friend went with us on and fell asleep in the bathtub when he finally got home. It was quite a day for us!

The first big ride my buddy and I signed up for was the LA River Ride in July of 2013. We opted to go for the 70 mile route option, starting from the LA Zoo in Griffith Park and riding all the way down the LA River trail, paralleling some, ahem, unique areas of Los Angeles to Long Beach and then back.

Cyclist on bike during 2013 Los Angeles River Ride cycling event

That ride was exhausting. It was a lot for two, relatively new riders to tackle. We figured, “hey, it’s basically flat the whole way”. Nope. That’s not how that works!

We were masochists at heart, so we both additionally signed up for the 50 mile route of the Bike the Coast event in our hometown of Oceanside.

Cyclist on bike at 2013 Bike the Coast cycling event

AND the Solvang Century (the following season). That year in Solvang was the first time I attended the event, and I have every year since then (well, except for 2020 with it being canceled).

Cyclist leaning on bike at end of 2014 Solvang Century cycling event

The Bike the Coast event is where I got my first of what I thought was a pro looking photo of myself on a bike! It’s especially fun looking back on it now, because so much has changed for the better. It makes me smile.

What I loved about all these events

It was seriously cool seeing the energy and positivity around all of this. It really is unparalleled in my experience. I’m sure it’s very similar to triathlons and half/full marathons, but I like the emphasis on the bike itself in addition to your own self. It’s what you have and what you bring to the table. It’s your noble steed that you care for and use as a tool to propel yourself forward in a way that brings individuality to a singular entity and event.

I think there’s just something so awesome about being your own individual in a crowd of similarly focused and like minded riders.

It’s something I still enjoy to this day. Usually when I see other riders out on the road, I look at their bike first, or possibly their kit (bike-specific clothing, for those unfamiliar with the term). I’ll sometimes mention something about it to them if I’m feeling particularly carefree or I see something especially unique.

Cyclist attempting to ride comically small bicycle in grass wearing a pink dress

Basically, riding your bike is wonderful

It really is. I’ve enjoyed riding my bike basically every single time I’ve gone out. I’ve enjoyed geeking out on something that is not only fun, but something that has literally changed and transformed my life. I’ve lost weight riding it, I’ve become more health conscious, I’ve made life long friends, and I’ve traveled to do it.

My story certainly isn’t unique, but that doesn’t make it any less special. So let’s all ride bikes!

Arms around friends after running the Orange County half marathon event
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