Hazel cover photo

"I got into biking when the pandemic first started and I’ve been clipped to it ever since."

By: Hazel  February 09, 2021

Hazel started biking in March 2020 when the pandemic hit and has grown to love everything about biking, what it's done for her life, and how much she is learning about herself as a person.

My name is Hazel, I’m 27, and I live in Huntersville, NC. I got into biking in March of 2020 when the pandemic first started, and I’ve been clipped to it ever since.

At the time I was working for NASCAR and was traveling to about 15 races a year, but we didn’t get to travel much in 2020 once COVID hit. During the 2019 season, I met some people from a race team who started talking about mountain and road biking. We were all at dinner one night and they mentioned they rode 30 miles to the racetrack from their hotel…I thought to myself – There is no way they did that on a bike! I sat there with this puzzled face, once of them noticed and asked, “what’s wrong?” - and I said, “You meant on motorcycles, right?” – all of them laughed at me before explaining they were on Road Bikes. I called them crazy before they said they would get me to ride with them one day, but I was very against riding 30 miles in general, let alone riding a road bike.

Fast forward to the end of March 2020 - the pandemic - we had our work hours reduced, so I started having a little more time on my hands. They had the same thing happen, so they would all go biking after work, I finally caved and agreed to go try Mountain Biking. I figured worst-case scenario, I hate it and I’ll never do it again”. This way they would at least stop asking me about it.

I was able to borrow an older bike and a helmet from one of them. They went over a few general things on the bike for me to remember before starting the trail. It was a beginner trail, about four miles long, with a little bit of everything to get me started. I was nervous, and I had no idea what to expect. Growing up I rode bikes around the neighborhood and to school – but I had never Mountain Biked. So when I went on the trail and I immediately almost hit a tree. They stopped me to explain keeping your eyes up to see in front of you, not down. I immediately thought, ‘this is going to be an epic failure’. I had to figure out how to go over rocks, how to go over roots, and I was constantly scared of falling. I’ll admit, I did get off my bike a few times to walk over some rough spots that freaked me out. But I kept going and the trail got easier one pedal stroke at a time. I grew up as a figure skater, did gymnastics, and dance. I knew I had good balance; I just didn’t want to fall off the bike. And by the time we got done, I was completely hooked! Smiling ear to ear I ask, “can we do that again?”

By mid-April, we had gone back a couple times, still using the bike I had borrowed. I was doing longer rides - my third ride was 12-miles long - and I just couldn’t get enough. Which meant it was time to buy my own bike! Since I was so new to the bike industry, I had no idea what kind of bike I needed, so I asked one of the guys to go to the bike shop with me.

We started researching and immediately I was very nervous to buy a bike because in case you didn’t know, they are not cheap! We went to a bike shop, and before even talking about a budget they asked great questions about where I ride, my riding style, what my goals were, etc. and he showed me 2 different bikes which of course I loved both. Once we narrowed it down to the two, I finally asked about cost and told him my budget. We went over everything possible, but I told him I needed a little time to think because it’s a big purchase. We left the shop, went home and as I was thinking about it, I watched one video on “5 reasons to get tubeless tires,” and by reason 3 it was decided. I called the shop and said I wanted the bike…with tubeless tires of course! When we arrived back at the shop to pick up my new bike, I was informed they put it on hold for me because they just knew I’d come back for it. New bike day is always so exciting!

I started riding around the neighborhood that afternoon to test it out and absolutely loved it. I’ve always enjoyed being active and I knew biking would be a perfect addition to my life.

But…I ended up having that bike for just under a month. I was having a great time with it until I realized my biking skills were surpassing the level of the bike. I was able to climb and go over obstacles fast, but I struggled to keep the speed on the downhills when my rear tire felt like a pogo stick. I tried adjusting my speed, I tried lowering my tire pressure, it just was not getting better. Which meant it was time to upgrade to a full-suspension bike. One of my friends was gracious enough to let me try his full-suspension bike first, and it was amazing how fluid things were while riding downhills. Off to the bike shop, we went; I explained the situation and what I was looking for. I was given a full-suspension bike to demo ride for a day, loved it, returned it. Brought my bike back the following week to trade it in for the new one!

I became pretty much obsessed with biking, and I still am. At one point I was riding at least 30 miles a day, sometimes I would even reach 60 miles, just because I really wanted to be on the bike as long as possible. This summer I went up to Michigan to see my family and biking became part of my everyday routine. I made some friends biking up there at the ski resort that turns into a downhill bike park during the summer. One guy who I specifically asked to help me get better at climbing and I talked a big game and got schooled by him. I got back to North Carolina it was very different for me to be back working full time. In order to fit riding into my routine a little easier, I ended up getting an indoor trainer for the cold or rainy days. I just want to keep riding as long as possible, it’s impacted my life in so many ways. I even switched jobs because of it and decided to leave racecars to work for in the biking industry. I used to hate not traveling to races and I loved being on the road, but now the idea of traveling means I can’t ride my bike as much, so being home more isn’t a problem.

I’ve really grown to love everything about biking, what it's done for my life, and how much I’m learning about myself as a person. This summer up north, riding long distances, pushing my own limits, and learning to ride on a mountain I don’t know. I’ve become more resilient from taking myself out of my comfort zone and learning I’m mentally and physically stronger than I ever knew. People think it's crazy how much I ride, but it’s something I can’t give up.

Next up - I would love to learn how to bike-pack and just be on my own completely - ride for a weekend and camp out in different places by myself, seems like a great way to see new places.

My advice for anyone who is thinking about trying biking in any form; just TRY it! The worst that happens is you don't like it and figure that out. But I’d also say make sure you go with people who understand you’re new to it. I was very lucky to have friends who were patient and saw my potential before I did. Even the guys back in Michigan were super cool about me not being on the same level. Not once have I ridden with someone who made me feel like I’m holding them back. Sometimes high-level riders don’t know how to teach, and that’s okay! Teaching someone to ride a mountain bike isn’t easy, everyone I’ve gone with has been great about explaining things and being mindful of the fact that I had never done this before. They were all great about

me asking questions when I didn’t understand something. So just try it, and if you don't like it, you don't have to do it again.

The second thing I’d tell anyone getting into biking – be a sponge. Ask questions, ask different riders for help on things. One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to biking. Just because I ride a certain size bike doesn’t mean you have to. Just because I go over a root a certain way doesn’t mean you have to. Find what works for YOU! Not everyone else. Ask people on trails if you need help, biking people are usually great at helping others. Remember people who bike, love to bike, and love to help other people bike – join the group rides, say hi to people in the parking lot, if you go to a new trail ask people how it is, or ask someone to go with you for help.

And lastly, make sure that you're comfortable with what YOU’RE doing: the money YOU’RE spending, the equipment YOU’RE buying for yourself. One thing you cannot cheap out on is a helmet, make sure you always buy the good one. You always want to have the best safety on your brain.

Always remember to respect the bike, take care of it, send it for tune-ups when needed, and get new tires when it’s time. Find a bike shop you trust to take care of you and your bike when needed. I got really lucky with that, my bike goes to the same shop for all its service needs, and I know all of the techs take great care of my bike. For me, one of the biggest things that helped my success was having a community around me – everyone starts as a beginner, they went through clip training, they all had to learn to do certain things better. You can look at forums and videos as tools, but it's just about getting out on the bike and trying new things, just seeing what’s working and what's not. I promise if you really give it a chance, that bike will be worth every penny, and then some.

Riding has opened my entire world and I can’t wait to see what happens with it next.

I hope more people get to experience biking as I have!