Why I Love Cycling by Melissa Wong

March 2, 2020

Just under two years ago I got on a road bike for the first time, and now here I am introducing myself as a new member of the Highgate Racing road team – I could not be more excited! I am currently studying at Queen’s University, and also compete with the Queen’s Varsity Cycling team during the school year.

“So, why cycling?” is a question I get very often. It’s not very common that someone my age gets into cycling, especially without a connection such as a parent who is already involved in the sport. This is a question I don’t find easy to answer because I have so many different reasons, but here’s my best attempt!

First and foremost, cycling brings me into the flow state, or “in the zone”. I love that I lose track of time when I’m riding, and I’ll rarely find myself staring at the clock waiting for minutes to pass, of course, unless I have to be back in time for something! I enter another world where I can solely focus on being on the bike without worrying about anything else; I finish a ride more energized and ready to tackle whatever else is on my plate. It’s also a time for me to clear my head when I go ride alone – just me and my thoughts. It’s amazing how in tune you can get with your emotions when you’re away from distractions, and being on my bike allows me to get into this headspace.

Then there’s the mental aspect of cycling. Not every ride is going to go perfectly, and I’m not going to wake up every day keen to do every workout. But, being able to keep finding that “silver lining”, no matter how small, time and time again is how I know I am passionate about the sport. I did the bike portion of a duathlon last October, and that day happened to bring 5°C weather, 55km/h wind gusts and some rain. Being the sometimes overoptimistic person I am, I thought “no problem! I’ll be racing, so a short sleeve jersey and shorts should be fine”. Let’s just say it was a shivering until I got home and took a warm shower kind of day. After the race though, looking at my Garmin and seeing how much better I did compared to the year before despite the less than ideal conditions felt really good even though it was a
mental battle during the race.

Cycling is also equally an individual and a team sport, which I find pretty cool. There’s no hiding from my weaknesses the moment I hit the road. I can line up with my teammates at the start line and we can work together, but I know I need to have the fitness to stay with the group otherwise nothing else matters. I’m the only one who can put in the countless hours on the trainer and wake up early for lift sessions – my fitness wasn’t going to improve by itself! That level of accountability is something that really motivates me to train harder, not only for myself, but also for my teammates.

At the same time though, the team aspect of the sport is a big part of why I love it. My Queen’s teammates have taught me just about everything I know about cycling, and they’re a big part of why I am where I am today. You go through the highs and lows of the sport together; I’ll never forget riding up Blue Ridge Parkway with my friend who had also just gotten into cycling last year, jamming out to tunes up the 1900m of elevation the mountain offered and marveling at how incredibly gorgeous the views were at every switchback.

That same trip in North Carolina we got just about every type of precipitation possible and I’d be lying if I said that didn’t somewhat dampen our morale at times. One of the days we had gone home to eat lunch after a rainy first ride. Despite throwing everything in the dryer, I still had to duct tape plastic bags over my socks before putting my shoes on because they were completely soaked. Knowing my teammates were also in the same boat though, and encouraging each other through the second ride brought us closer together – plus, it makes for a fun story now! Not to mention all the race weekends where we trekked six or seven hours down to the eastern United States in March, just before exams started. We were all working overtime to get our school responsibilities sorted during the week to be able to leave Friday afternoon, race our bikes, and come back in the wee hours of Monday morning to start another week!

Finally, cycling has taught me to really believe in myself, and that I’m more capable than I think. Every athlete inevitably experiences doubt about whether they are good enough or when they compare themselves to other athletes. But seeing how far I’ve come since the first time I hopped on a road bike, both in terms of my mental and physical game makes me to want to keep training and get better every
day. And sure, there are rides where I still get dropped, but then I remember that two years ago, riding 30km was a big achievement to me. I didn’t even go to the gym regularly until grade 12, and now I can say I’ve done rides that are over 100km! That’s a really big difference – although I do recognize that I’ve still got an infinite path of improvement and work ahead of me too.

All in all, cycling has taught me many important life lessons, and I’ve met some of my closest friends through the sport. I feel incredibly lucky to have found something I am so passionate about and that helps put me in a very positive headspace. I also want to give a mention to Chris Hatton, who was the Queen’s team captain for the 2018-2019 school year. The first week I was in Kingston he offered to show me a route at whatever pace I was comfortable with since he knew I was still relatively new to the sport. He never saw my inexperience with the sport as a handicap to the team, but rather only focused on my potential, and I strongly believe we need more people like Chris in cycling, and in this world in general!