I met Ben at Greener Postures Yoga Studio. I overheard conversations about cycling and decided to reach out to learn more. Ben has persevered through several cycling accidents and has technically biked around the world and then some.
Here is a glimpse into Ben's life.
When did you first get involved in cycling?
I’ve been riding since I was eight years old. I got involved seriously when I was in high school and living in Toronto. A friend of mine bought a road bike and I was envious of how fast he went compared to me on my hybrid. So, of course, I wanted a road bike as well. When I got my first road bike, a Trek 2100, a few of us would head out racing each other after school and on weekends. I remember riding on the Leslie Spit in Toronto - it’s essentially a peninsula coming out of the city and at the tip of it, there was a lighthouse. On our way inland, I was half-jokingly challenging my friend, giving him a 1-minute head start to see if I could beat him to the gates of the park. I chased him for several kilometers, breathing hard, sweating in the humidity. I caught him just before we crossed the gates, exhausted, beating him, even though he was riding a more expensive, French-made bike. My friends were impressed. “Ben, you’re an animal!” they exclaimed. Of course, that lit my fire. I was hooked. I began cycling competitively soon after. My friends, unfortunately, did not.
What is Tall Sock Racing?
Tall Sock Racing was formed by Chris Poulin and Kent Ryan. Todd Strehlke and myself were then brought on to form the team board. There were many other cycling groups at the time, but none had the camaraderie and friendly competitiveness we were looking for. We got a kick out of one of our riders who wore tall, knee-high socks, and thanks to him, our name formed. For 2018, Tall Sock Racing has 19 riders, of whom 2 are women. We learn from each other and support each other's lifestyle through our weekly training rides. When we ride as a group, we practice race dynamics and sprints, averaging a speed of 25+ miles per hour.
You have your own blog “53 x 39 – Life on a Bike.” For the non-cyclists can you explain the name and how you came up with it?
53 is the number of teeth on the front chainring and 39 is the number of teeth on the smaller chainring. This is the standard gearing that professional cyclists use. When people read my blog, I want them to know that I’m serious about racing and that I’m not just a recreationalist. The title gives readers that signal.
You self-describe as an “Overseer.” What do you oversee?
You could say it’s my philosophy. This term derived from playing chess. You always have to think ahead 7-8 moves before your next move. It’s about taking a step back and watching interactions and life unfold in cosmic order. Many times, I’ll only inject myself into situations and speak when it’s needed because I feel like my voice carries a lot of weight, or so I've been told.
I'm sure you've heard the quote "without risk, there's no reward." Can you talk about your cycling crashes and how it led you to yoga practice?
I think I would have found yoga, but later on in life had it not been for my 3rd cycling crash. I fractured my vertebrae in 3 places and was out for 90 days. After that, I was able to ride again, but one day, I had a splitting headache, caused by a previous head injury. Yoga had been on my mind since my 2nd crash, so I thought to myself, “Now is the time.” From there, I went to a community class at Greener Postures Yoga Studio and afterward, I felt like a new person. I'd never felt that refreshed and at peace.
What is one challenge and one lesson you’ve learned from your experiences?
Both my challenge and lesson are in reflection of my accidents. It was challenging for me to rebuild and get better after my injuries. My lesson was to persevere despite my physical condition. I wanted to ride again. I had to keep pushing forward and be relentless until I got back on my bike, all the while listening to my body and soul.
Do you think yoga has brought a spiritual practice into your cycling?
No, [it’s not like that]. Cycling has always been spiritual for me. I think yoga has brought a different dimension to it, in that with yoga I'm noticing more about my body. Teaching Yin Yoga has taught me a lesson about being cognizant and empathetic of people. Everyone is different and everyone is built differently. When you realize this, then your perception of people broadens more.
Without cycling and yoga, where do you think you would be in life?
I actually can't imagine it. I might be playing video games... more, I still do. Also, maybe an artist. I come from a long history of creative people in my family.
Speaking of family, how did you end up living in Maine?
I moved to Maine for a job but that wasn’t the only reason. You know how in Bicycling Magazine, they say, “Come to Maine or Vermont and tour by bike!” Well, I thought, “Why not live there and have a vacation almost every day?” It's called vacationland for a reason! I had visited Maine a few times before and now I enjoy the lifestyle.
How important is having a daily routine and setting goals?
Whatever goal you set has to align with your daily routine. I always want to get better at cycling and reach my goals. For example, this morning I woke up at 5:15 am. I got ready in 15 minutes and on the bike at 5:30 am to get in an hour workout before going to work. Working out has to be automatic if you want to reach your goals. You need discipline, dedication, and commitment.
What is your one "can't live without it" app you use?
Strava, but I also use Zwift, which is a virtual reality application. You power your own avatar and ride virtually with cyclists from around the world. You can interact with them by giving them signals, waves, thumbs up, "Ride on!" or "I'm toast!" shoutouts.
If you could have one dream ride, where would it be and why?
Anywhere in Mallorca, Spain. It’s on my bucket list. It has near-perfect weather, beautiful terrain and bike camps.
What is your proudest professional accomplishment?
Working at the same place for 11 years is a bit of an accomplishment, almost unheard of given job mobility in the tech industry - but I know I’m not done yet. There’s still a lot of knowledge and experience to absorb and impart. One highlight in my profession was being able to speak at a Maine-IxDA event when we gave Lightning Talks about User Experience and Design in general. My part was about, “The Human Side of Design.” There were many people looking to get into the profession but didn’t know how. I think our five speakers gave them a good taste of what it’s like.
What is your favorite inspirational/motivational quote:
"Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power." - Lao Tzu. It’s a good reminder you are not in competition with anyone else.
In one word describe yourself:
To Connect with Benjamin & Tall Sock Racing
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