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I Ride to Live; I Ride to Thrive

Rob Nelson - Rider Engagement Representative

It sounds odd to say that a sport or hobby can save your life but that’s what I believe riding bikes has done for me. There have been more days than I care to count where I wouldn’t have had the impetus to get out of bed were it not for the beckoning of my bike. The stigma attached to that admission makes it hard to write this–a voice whispers “you’re weak”; and I’d believe it if it weren’t for the fact that I can ride my bike up mountains and race down them.

I found cycling at a low point in my life–maybe that’s what made me open to this unlikely pursuit. After a difficult semester in college, I had essentially dropped out. I was sick and tired and tired of being sick. I felt wayward and without hope. And then, flipping through the channels on a lazy summer day, I came across the Tour De France and somewhere in that brightly-colored peloton, I recognized my salvation. I couldn’t tell you exactly what grabbed my attention but it swept me up.

I immediately devised a plan to get a road bike. I knew little of the sport of cycling—I lived in the South Carolina low country, not the European one–and I had no one to guide me so I consumed cycling media with a monastic zeal. I bought a Trek 1.5 but it might as well have been a Madone. I rode, I trained, I bonked, I raced, I failed and I came back for more. I went back to school and joined the university cycling team. I met friends, raced bikes, felt healthy-felt happy. 

Rob Racing on Clemson University's Cycling Team
Rob on Clemson's Cycling Team

10 years, or so, later a doctor in Miami asked me, “when was the last time you were thriving?”. It was a simple question but it struck me as profound. My wife and I had traveled across the country, from Montana, to see this doctor who specialized in a disease that had threatened to ruin my life. When was the last time I thrived? I had been so preoccupied with trying to live that I never dared to think about thriving. My mind rifled through the past few years of sickness and darkness and hopelessness–the physical and mental struggles. I cast my mind back a little further to those early years of cycling–the racing and the progression, the dedication and perseverance. I had ridden my bike plenty in the intervening years but I no longer felt like a cyclist. Riding bikes had been my identity and it affected a change in me, physically and mentally. I vowed to get back there. 

Rob Watching Tour De France from Hospital Bed
Cyclist battling health issues

I started training again; started racing. I got dropped often and kept coming back. We up and moved to Western North Carolina and I landed a job at Cane Creek. I lived and breathed bikes. I became a cyclist again.

Years on from that doctor’s visit I ride my bike every day that I am able to. I also work for a company that prioritizes health and happiness and allows me to ride when I need to. I no longer just see bikes as fun machines but also as healing things. I now ride to be a better father and a better husband. I ride to quell an anxious mind and I ride to mend a battered body. I ride to live; I ride to thrive. 

Rob with his Daughter
Men cycling on Road

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