Kick Your Bicycle into High Gear

Cycling Story
FOR: Marine Drive Magazine (February/March)
18 Jan 2012
BY: Stephanie Lundberg

“My passion is road cycling,” says Derek Horton, head mechanic at Hornet Sporting Goods. “It keeps you active, it keeps you moving.”

He says he’s drawn to cycling above other sports not just because of its positive health effects, but also because of its versatility. “I used to run in high school, play soccer and all that kind of stuff. But it hurts, because of the pounding and stuff, it just hurts,” he says.

 “And [with] cycling, you can coast and recover. For me, cycling is more of a freedom as opposed to just a fitness thing. I never think about it as a fitness thing. It’s just, [I’ve] got to get out, work off the day’s stress, just get away from everything and relax.”

Horton started cycling 22 years ago – he had seen his friends riding and racing in competitions with the youth sports organization IronKids, so when his high school started an after-school cycling program, he signed up. “I would break it out and go on rides with these guys, from Sinajana down to Hagatna, all on a BMX bike.  And it was then that I was like, ‘this is fun, and I need a different bike.’”

He did get a different bike, and has been cycling ever since. He is a member and former vice president of the Guam Cycling Federation, as well as a long-time member of Guam’s International Cycling Union team. He competed at the 2000 Olympic games in Sidney, Australia.

One doesn’t have to want to race competitively to get into cycling, however. There’s a large audience for leisure riding on Guam, and also plenty of places to go mountain biking. “It’s different for everybody. My wife, she’s passionate about cycling, just as much as me in both parts. But she doesn’t have that competitive part. She can be against friends and it’s fun, but it’s that fun competitive.  Me, I have to beat everyone,” Horton says. 

“Cycling is pretty much for everyone. There are different types of riding out there – people don’t always have to race. They don’t always have to get a street bike, mountain bikes can go anywhere.”

Horton says those two types of riding – road and mountain – are often closely linked, but that road cycling is often the more challenging, especially for those seeking to increase their fitness levels. “Most of mountain bike training comes from road [cycling], fitness-wise. You do more specific training – deliberate training regimens – on the road. You build up the endurance, because conditions [on the road] are constant, efforts are constant. [With mountain biking] you’re terrain changes every two feet – you’re up, down, left, right, turn, hit a rock section, mud. It’s constant changes so there’s no constant effort.”

Whether they’re doing it for fun or fitness, Horton has several tips for those just getting into the cycling scene

Tip #1: Make the decision to start riding, and don’t do it alone.

“You don’t have to be a certain level to start riding – you just have to want to start riding,” Horton says. “And there’s groups for everyone, for new cyclists [as well]. That’s why I encourage [the GCF event] I Bike, that’s why I encourage group rides on the weekends, so people don’t feel intimidated.”

Tip #2: Learn the rules of the road, and actively follow them.

The same traffic laws that govern motorists cover cyclists, and aspiring riders should become familiar with the rules – and any additional biking safety tips – before they go out on the road.

“Learn the rules of the road. Cyclists do have a right to be on the road, but they also have to understand their role. Cyclists always have to watch out for vehicles. You’ve got to act like they don’t know you’re there. You ride like you’re invisible. That’s the rule of the road. Never take for granted that someone sees you and they’re going to yield to you.”

Tip #3: Suit up with the right equipment – it could save your life.

A bike is, of course, the obvious place to start. And wearing a sturdy pair of shoes and clothing that is light, absorbs moisture, and has some padding is plus. But there are other – very important – pieces of gear that every rider should have.

“Cycling is all about making yourself visible. If it’s dawn or dusk, I tell people ‘light yourself up like a Christmas tree.’ I’ve got reflector tape on the back my helmet, on all the rearward facing parts of my bike, taillights, and I’ve got a powerful headlight,” Horton says.

Above all else, however, is a helmet. It’s the most important piece of gear a cyclist wears. “Absolutely, without a doubt. I will not ride anywhere without a helmet. A helmet sold – $10 or $200 helmet, [it’s the] same safety standards, so it doesn’t matter,” he says.

“Some people think ‘oh, I look dorky, I don’t crash a lot.’ It just takes once. I tell people, just sit on your bike, hold on the counter, and if you fall over, that’s enough force to kill you. Just the force of striking your head will snap the spinal cord or crack your head. That’s all the force you need.

And then most people ride along at ten, 15, or 20 miles an hour – just think of the force of repeatedly hitting the ground, impacting a car, [or] hitting that pole on the side of the road. How many guys have died because they weren’t wearing helmets? Bottom line [is that] now we say: this person probably would have survived if they were wearing a helmet.”

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