My fascination with bike riding started when I was very young. My older brother was a fan of mountain bike riding, and sometimes he would take me along on his trips. I would get to ride on the back of his bike, balanced precariously above the wheel as we plummeted downhill. Although I sometimes got hurt bicycle riding, it was still one of the greatest adventures of my life. There was nothing more thrilling than riding along with my older brother! As soon as I could, I learned how to ride a bike. He was actually the one who taught me on my 10th birthday. Ever since then, riding bicycles has been my true passion.
Of course when I was a kid, bike riding was all about hanging out with your friends and tooling around the neighborhood. Occasionally we would race, but more often we would just cruise around together, enjoying the breeze going by. We would put cards in the spokes of the tires, put various lights on our bike to decorate it, and in general make it look as cool as we could. The bike was more than a way to get around for us. It was a chariot and a mean racing machine.
By the time I was 15, however, bike riding was getting more serious for me. Although most of my friends were getting to the age when they would give up their bicycles in favor of cars, for me the bike remained a passion. I still loved riding around with people, but I wanted to go further than that. I wanted to compete, I wanted to take long trips, and in general I wanted to make the bike a big part of my life. I didn’t actually start with racing, but with a trip. With one of my best friends, I went on a three-week bike trip about a month before my 16th birthday. My dad followed along in the van, keeping watch on us and making sure we were all right. It was one of the best times of my life.
It was then that I realized that I wanted to go into bike racing. We didn’t have the money to buy a racing bike, so instead I hung out at bike shops, acquiring used bike parts whenever I could. Soon, I had a passable racer built out of assorted pieces of this and that. It was ugly and nothing matched, but it rode like a beauty. I was ready for my first race!