Through June, we are featuring our cycling athletes in our “strong legs” series. This week, meet Jeff Rodriguez, sales person at our Brooklyn store in Park Slope. Jeff is an avid bike commuter by way of Strava, and up-and-comer to watch on the racing scene for 2014. He’s just getting started.
How long have you been riding?
I learned to ride as a kid in the Dominican Republic, but I’ve been riding on my own since I was fourteen years old. I was sneaking out on my mountain bike to ride around in the city and go bombing down Canal Street.
What’s your first bike memory?
Oh, I remember it well: My first bike was a Huffy, all black with neon orange splatter paint. I popped wheelies and jumped stuff. I would ride on the street when no one was looking. I was only nine years old, but I felt like such a grown up.
What kind of riding do you do now?
I do a lot of commuting. I ride to work from Bushwick, about six miles or so. It’s got some nice parts and some really sketchy parts, but that’s part of riding in New York! I’m also getting into longer rides.
Why do you ride?
Because I love it! You’re in control of everything on the bike. It’s a feeling of total freedom – how fast, how slow, if you ride in nice weather or crummy weather, you can have fun and compete or take it easy. It’s total freedom.
How has your mobile phone impacted your riding?
I really love the app, Strava. It’s like Facebook for biking. You can follow all your buddies; even when they’re not there, you can compete against them and try to beat their time. It’s a great way to track your progress. You just turn on the app when you ride, and it records all the segments you rode through, plus your overall time.
I’m currently leading the Gates Green Light run, a six-block stretch where you have to time the lights just right. Our manager, Emily, is annoyed that I beat her. [laughs]
If I beat a stranger’s time in a segment, we’ll show up in each other’s leaderboards. It’s such a fun way to challenge yourself and others as you ride, and to watch yourself improve.
How did you get into racing?
My interest in racing is all because of Strava, really. I just love it, seeing how I’m getting stronger and better. I want to see how far I can go.
I haven’t raced formally yet; I am working on training this summer, and will be training through the winter. Then I’ll be in decent condition to get into racing for the next couple of seasons and really start competing. I plan to do local races, Floyd Bennett, and I also enjoy climbing so I’ve got my eye on the Gran Fondo, which is known for its great climbs.
What advice do you have for people who want to start training, too?
Riding with others is good advice, and I do that often. Emily is more experienced than me, and I am enjoying learning from her. You can also just race against yourself. Strava is so great for that – even when you’re on your own, you can compete. And have fun! That’s the most important part of riding.
Where do you ride in the city?
We’ve started doing a lot of night rides after work. I like what we call the “Four Bridge Tour”: Over the Brooklyn Bridge into the city, back over the Manhattan Bridge and up to the Williamsburg Bridge. Then, back over the 59th Street Bridge. It’s fun to ride at night, because the bridge is empty, and there are less pedestrians and cars to worry about. It’s a lot quieter.
What advice do you have for people biking in NYC?
I encourage people to always be aware of your surroundings. Be two steps ahead of where you are, be aware of the cars and what they are doing. Also, be respectful and mindful – of vehicles, pedestrians, and other cyclists. That’s my advice: Be vigilant, and be respectful.
What’s your vision for riding in NYC?
I want it to become safer. It’s really terrible, having people getting hurt, getting doored, and the accidents scare people off. We need stricter laws for vehicles. If you hurt a cyclist while driving, it should have a real consequence.
If you could ride anywhere, where would you ride?
I’d love to go back to the motherland, Dominican Republic! There’s a great ride out there, through the island. Riding around my home, in the tropics – it’d be amazing.
How many bikes do you have?
I usually commute on my aluminum bike but sometimes I do commute on my P. bike. It takes longer, but you can jump anything you see. It’s a tank. It’s just so fun, I love riding it.
If you could get that old speckled Huffy back, would you take it?
Oh, absolutely! My P. bike basically serves the same purpose as what I had then. Even if I didn’t work at a bike shop, if I had a corporate job, I would still ride my P. bike, in a three-piece suit. It’s that fun.
Jeff is a staffer in our Brooklyn store, at 476 Fifth Avenue, between 10th and 11th Streets. When not in the shop, you can also find him on Strava – @jeffrodriguez.