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Remembering That First Bike Ride

By Ian Dille | May 11, 2016 | Rally Health

Who taught you to ride?

Ask a professional cyclist this question, and you’ll likely hear, ”I’m still learning.”  Yes, you become a bike rider the moment you balance on two wheels and pedal forward in a straight line. But from there on, the learning curve only gets steeper.

For some, the initial bliss of that first ride can lead to longer rides and more challenging terrains — and for a few, the adrenaline rush of racing. Almost all experienced cyclists can point to a key experience with a family member, teammate, coach, or community of riders that inspired them or taught a critical lesson.

The members of the Rally Cycling professional racing team are no different. Whether it was that  first awkward ride or the moment they decided to pursue cycling as a career, someone, somewhere taught them something important about riding.

Shane Kline’s Bumpy First Ride

I have three older sisters, and when I was around 6, I told them I wanted to learn how to ride a bike. I still remember my bike. It was this little Batman bike with tiny wheels. My sisters said, “Okay, we’ll set you up with some pads.” My family has a furniture business, so they went out to the wood shop and got a bunch of dust masks — the thin paper ones that cover your mouth and nose, like surgeon’s mask. They strapped the masks to my elbows and knees, like they were pads.

 

 

Young Shane Kline
The budding cyclist, at his first race ....

 

Shane Klein Training Camp
... and as a pro today

At my parent’s house in Pennsylvania, we have a gravel driveway with a slight slope downhill. We started up on the top of the hill, and I had sisters on each side. They’re holding me, and they’re like, “We’re going to push you, just keep pedaling.” Except, they kind of pushed me too hard. I start rolling down the hill and just crash instantly. But we kept trying. And after a few tries, I finally got it. That was my initial experience riding a bike.

Will Routley’s Family Affair

When I was 10, my family moved to Whistler, British Columbia. It was a town where nine out of 10 people ride a mountain bike. It’s almost mandatory. So, when I was 12, my dad and I started riding mountain bikes together. I had never ridden a mountain bike, and my little bike weighed nearly as much as me. My dad was 38 when he first rode a bike. So we basically learned how to ride together.

Rally Cycling | 2016 Training Camp | Men's Action | Deer Creek Rd. | © Sam Wiebe
Will Routley started out mountain biking with his dad

If you’ve ever been to Whistler in the summer, you probably know of the mountain bike race they have every Thursday night. They called it the Loonie race. You pay a Loonie, a Canadian dollar, and the winner gets all the money. At the time, the town had just 7,000 permanent residents, but you’d get like 250 people showing up every Thursday all summer. Every week, when I was at school I couldn’t wait for the race. I would try to convince as many kids as possible to come out, because then I’d win more Loonies. At the max, I won 50 dollars.

Eventually my dad and I started traveling. And the next thing you know,  we’re going to the provincial series, the BC Cup, and then you go a little further. We did road trips to Quebec and Ontario, and eventually did the Canada Cup circuit. Once we did a big road trip in the Prairies. I didn’t even have a driver’s license yet, but my dad let me drive for a pretty good long time in the Prairies.

I went to the mountain bike world championships as a junior racer once, and the under-23 worlds twice. I didn’t switch to road racing until I was 21, primarily to pursue becoming a professional athlete, because the support was better. My dad still races, too. He’s been second at the mountain bike world championships for masters racers.

We were lucky. If you’re new to road cycling, people often keep you at arm’s length, because you could potentially crash them. But the mountain bike community is really helpful and open, especially in Whistler. Even at small local races, there would be half a dozen world-class pros there.

Erica Allar and the Olympian

I got into bike riding because I met a girl in 7th grade who raced at the local cycling track, near my home in Pennsylvania.  I did one of the free beginner programs there, and eventually joined a team comprised of only junior racers. The woman who started the team hired a former Olympian, Jame Carney, to coach us. When the team ended, Jame stuck with me as a coach, and eventually we became a couple.

2016 Raly Cycling Training Camp | Women's Group Ride Day 1
Erica Allar learned how to put in the work from a rider who made two Olympic teams

Coming up through the sport I was so full of myself, I thought I was a badass. I would say things like, “I’m going to be a world champion.” But I never actually put the work in to be that good. I was so naturally talented, that I — well, I was obnoxious, really. Jame was the first person who came along and said, ‘If you put the time in you could be awesome.’ That was the first time someone else believed that I could accomplish something.

Now, Jame’s my coach, my training partner, and my partner. It was a bit of a learning experience for me, to have him tell me I’m doing something wrong on the bike and not take it personally. I had to learn how to separate how he said things, as a coach would speak to an athlete, not as a boyfriend to his girlfriend. But I feel like we’ve got it under control, and everything is really good.

Erica Allar and Coach Jame Carney
With coach and partner Jame Carney

He’s been an important part of my success on the bike. He’s constantly reminding me of the technical aspects, where I tend to lose form or technique, like when I’m climbing out of the saddle. I feel really lucky to have someone with the free time to ride with me, and the knowledge to coach me.

Ian Dille is a freelance journalist based in Austin, Texas. He has written for Outside magazine, Bicycling, and Texas Monthly, and is the author of the The Cyclist's Bucket List (Rodale, 2015).
Ian Dille
Rally Health