a journal of cycling, adventure, and photography
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To Be Determined Journal

To Be Determined is a journal of cycling, adventure and photography, curated by a NYC-based cycling team known as TBD Racing or Team TBD. From criteriums to cyclocross to bikepacking and gravel it is all part of the TBD Journal.

When a Bike is More than a Bike

Four years ago, a younger, dumber, and less skinny version of me decided to buy a bike off of Groupon late one night, during non-sober conditions. I hadn't had a bike since childhood, but I had been thinking about it for commuting and general getting around. $250 felt like an expensive purchase at the time, and it took some consideration (and a few beers) to pull the trigger. That bike may have been the tackiest thing ever built – a non-brand, white fixie with bright blue deep wheels – but it set off a chain of events that I would have never imagined.

I only had that ugly thing for about two months. I got tired of its colors and traded it on Craigslist. I did that a few times, until I built up an Axiom frame from the Heavy Pedal early January 2016. Much had happened between the Groupon bike and this frame. I had learned to ride clipless. I bought a kit. I had started tracking mileage. I had dipped my foot into cycling, and building this frame was my way of formally adopting the sport as a hobby.

My Heavy Pedal Axiom, as of December 2018. (Original build was a bit different.)

My Heavy Pedal Axiom, as of December 2018. (Original build was a bit different.)

That bike became more than a hobby; it became a lifeline. 2016 turned out to be one of the hardest years of my life. A few weeks in, my sister was diagnosed with cancer. My girlfriend and I broke up. A hatred for my job began seeping in. I felt like a victim of everything because nothing was in my control. I was stuck both professionally and personally, and life took a very long and very sad turn. I knew I was depressed, but I was unaware I needed help or that it was even an option. I did not seek it out of pure ignorance, and instead I turned naturally to one thing that unequivocally gave me pure joy: riding that bike.

Some bikes are worth more in sentimental value than they ever will be in dollars.

Some bikes are worth more in sentimental value than they ever will be in dollars.

I rode almost four thousand miles that year, all of them fixed gear, all of them alone. I discovered the parks, 9W, river road, and many other popular NY routes riding all by myself, with just my thoughts and my music. I pushed myself very hard, harder than I do most training rides now. I made sure that it hurt, and I rode through the pain in my legs. I didn't know why; it just felt like the right thing to do, and I enjoyed it. Riding became my outlet, and weekend mornings were my escape. I would axiously await Saturdays, and on really bad weekdays, I'd go ride at night.

As everything else in my life seemed stuck in limbo, I did four centuries and two triathlons on this bike. I didn't know any better than to not ride fixed for these things, but I also didn't really care. It felt like accomplishment, and I needed that. I got pretty good at riding fixed, and I got pretty fit as a result of riding so much. It may sound ridiculous now, but the side-effect of improving my health re-taught my how to take control of myself again. It was bikes that held me up during my depression, and it was bikes that helped me climb out.

We all have bikes that hold a special place in our hearts, for different reasons. This is my bike, and this is why it's so important to me. It helped me learn a lot about myself, about bikes, and about the importance of mental health. Life has turned around since then. My sister ended up beating cancer, after fighting tougher battles of her own. These were the events that preceded my racing career, which has itself brought me an incredible amount of joy, experiences, and many new good friends. Cycling is now a bigger part of my life than I ever thought it would be, and I am eternally thankful for it. It all goes back to this fixed gear bike, and the silly Groupon purchase that got me there.