Tim Johnson is a professional cyclocross racer for Cannondale p/b cyclocrossworld.com. He will be leading a one-day cyclocross clinic in NYC thisÂ Saturday June 28 with Pete Webber from Pete Webber Cycling. Registration for the camp can be found here:Â http://petewebber.com/cracking-the-code-tim-johnsons-cyclocross-secrets/
Tim is one of only five male US riders to stand on a UCI Cyclocross World Championships podium, winning a bronze medal at the 1999 Worlds in Slovakia. He is also a six time National Champion.
EN – For those that don’t know you, tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? How did you get into cycling? What led you into the discipline of cyclocross?
TJ – Growing up just north of Boston allowed for lots of opportunities to ride bikes, any type of bike. I was always the kid on my skateboard or bmx bike after school, and while delivering my newspapers. After spending lots of time riding MTB with my buddies, I became friendly with some older guys at the bike shop nearby. Without a drivers license, I became the lucky kid on the hotel room floor or in the back of the van, whatever it took to get to the races! CX came after the MTB world champs in 1995, it was fall and Stu Thorne (my friend and mechanic since then) asked if I wanted to join him at a local CX race. At that point, CX was what I wanted to ride whenever I could. Road racing followed over the next few years, and I turned professional in 2001 with the Saturn Cycling Team, at that time, one of the best teams in America.
EN – You are arguably one of the most universally well-liked riders in the professional cyclocross peloton. What is it about your attitude/personality and style of racing that you think has drawn in so many fans?
TJ – Whoa, that’s a bit much, don’t you think?! If someone got the impression that I like what I do, andÂ might feel a little better about jumping on board, then great – job done!
EN – In the last few years, you have gotten deeply involved in bike advocacy. What led you in this direction? Explain a little about two groups that you are involved with, The MudFund and People for Bikes, and your well known Ride on Washington and this year’s Ride on Chicago.
TJÂ – My first time attending the National Bike Summit in Washington DC changed my perception about the importance of competitive cycling. Until then, in my mind, racing was first and advocacy wasn’t even in the picture. Seeing how much work it takes to make bike riding safer and easier in cities and towns across the US made me realize that my approach to biking wasn’t necessarily doing much for anyone, besides me! We started the Ride on Washington the following yearÂ withÂ hopes of helpingÂ to growÂ the connection between the two groups, racers and cycling advocates. Since then we’ve raised over $250k for PFB and just finished our 4th event with Ride on Chicago earlier this month.
The MudFund is just a small way to try and make it easier for young cyclocross riders to stay in the sport. It’s expensive, and when other things like a girlfriend or boyfriend, school or real life become the most important thing, it’s easy for talented riders to move onto something else. I barely made it through those years and I know how hard it is to make it work. It started with a movie called “Das Pro and the Rookie” link -Â http://vimeo.com/50010594Â andÂ we used the money from its production and DVD sales toÂ enableÂ the first round of funding for the athletes that applied. We hope to expand it this season and support more riders from around the country. In Louisville last year during the MudFund Derby City Cup, we were able to have all juniors race for free – that incentive brought in the most junior riders they’ve ever had!
EN – Another related issue that you have recently spoken about is rider behavior and etiquette in groups. How did your interest in this topic develop?
TJ – Every bike path, lane or other bike-friendly infrastructure piece that comes to life takes quite a bit of work, and it also takes an effort. When rider/driver conflicts continue at fault of “our own”, it really takes away from the overall mission. Not everyone can sit in at their local meetings or take the time to volunteer on advocacy projects, but at least they might understand how poor behavior on the Tuesday night ride doesn’t help anyone. Ask any non-cyclist about what they think of when driving behind a rider and unless their rabid in their hatred, they’ll probably tell you they are afraid of killing one of us. That is something that can be helped by being a better road user – not blowing stop signs, lights or riding all over the road. If we ride more deliberately, obeying the laws that are in place (even if they suck) and try and be courteous to drivers (and other riders, for that matter), we might save some tension. I’m not saying that I can fix the problems that are out there and I’m not saying being nice will turn all drivers into teammates of ours, but at least it’s something everyone can contribute to and might make some situations a little better. Funny thing is, the riders that have been riding the longest and are the “ride leaders” can sometimes be the worst others can learn from. I know in my area, unless a ride has some expectations laid down, or a true leadership, then good behavior can unravel into a chaotic mess. I like to ask how many people have been on rides where someone “almost died” or “close calls” happen often…it’s sad how many respond with a “yes”.
EN – How did the idea for your one-day cyclocross camps develop? Describe a typical camp and what a participant can expect to learn and come away with.
TJ – Pete Webber and I started the camps in 2012 after speaking about it during the Ride on Washingtown (he’s an alum and our Ride Whip). I’ve been asked for years to coach or to help people improve, but I hadn’t found the right way to get involved. With Pete, it’s great. He has a clear curriculum, can teach in a progressive manner and really helps people understand what it takes to become a better rider, nevermind just a cyclocross racer. Helping new riders or 15 year bike riding veterans gives me a chance to see our sport thru someone else’s eyes…it’s always different but so fun to be part of!
EN – Anything else people should know about you, or would be surprised to know?
TJ – I think I might have to start another instagram account to handle all of my turtle and animal photos…