Giving it all and refusing to lose

Rider of the Week

Matthew Johnson

RM3: Tell us a little about yourself and what makes you, you?

The people in my life make my world go ‘round, namely my family and friends, and I strive to live as a man the way God intended, though I stumble a lot. The older I get, the more I realize that life is all about relationships and impacting the lives of others in some positive way. I tend to use the words “grateful” and “blessed” pretty often but do not use them lightly. It’s the truth. I owe a world of gratitude to my parents for raising me to apply myself and give 100% in everything I do, whether the job is big or small. Core values important to me are hard work (accompanied by playing hard), honesty, and integrity. Some would say I can be an intense A-type and need to do a better job of stopping to smell the proverbial roses and they would be right, so am working on that.

RM3: When did you start cycling and when did you realized you really enjoyed it?

As early as I can remember as a kid, I was on a bicycle zipping around the neighborhood and through the woods. My Dad taught me how to balance on a bike by tying my shoelaces to the pedals, so I had to learn fast. I left a mark in a tree trunk in that learning process and that was all it took to stay upright. From middle school on, I was a mountain biker and rode all the local trails around Union, Mecklenburg, and Cabarrus Counties, as well as in the NC mountains (we’ve always been a camping family and bikes were always in tow). I did a few organized races on the mountain bike and think I placed 6th out of 67 in my first one, then almost vomited at the end. Back in those days, it was Renaissance Park, Cane Creek, and some may remember Poplar Tent close to Concord, which was my favorite trail with the infamous Gravity Cavity. The enjoyment was there from day one.

RM3: What drives/motivates you to succeed in cycling and in life?

To me, life is like a game and I hate to lose at anything (“refuse to lose” is a motto of mine) so whether it’s my career or sports or fundraising for something, I push to succeed and give it my best shot. Lots of times, just showing up at the starting line is a win but I’m stubborn and not crossing the finish line is never an option. If I’m being honest, a divorce that was not my choice a couple years ago was a major catalyst for change. In my past, I’ve been a bit of a party guy and thought well, I have two choices… I can go down a path that will likely end in harm on many levels or choose to do something productive with my time and so, I jumped on a road bike and began pounding the road.

At first, I thought 20 or 25 miles seemed like a long ride and soon after, discovered triathlon by way of a friend. I totally changed my diet to one of clean eating, hit the gym, shed around 50 pounds of weight, hired a tri-coach, and dove in head first as they say. In the first year, I took on (7) triathlons and a slew of other running and riding races/events. That same year, I signed up for my first full-distance IRONMAN 140.6 one week in advance like a crazy person and ended up doing pretty well. It has been life-changing to the say the least and I would not change a thing.

RM3: What do you enjoy about the cycling community?

This is an easy one! It’s the people. I’ve been blessed (to be a part of the Unknown Brewing cycling family and accepted to join the Unknown Tri Team. The camaraderie with other cyclists translates to meaningful friendships and there’s nothing like when you’re struggling with a long climb to hear one of your teammates slap you on the back and give words of encouragement to keep digging. Plus, there are so many ties with cycling into organizations to fundraise and benefit others – it’s just awesome and a lot of fun to boot.

RM3: Do you participate in many charity rides, and if so which one stands out the most to you?

Yes, guess I have done quite a few charity rides. RM3 stands out for a couple reasons – last year, we had a really strong turnout of Unknown team members there and also, I was born and raised in Monroe and graduated from Parkwood High School near Waxhaw, so it’s cool to ride around in old stomping grounds with friends from old and new. BSG is another that is special – as an Appalachian State University alumni, the “hills” around Boone are close to my heart and plus, those 100 challenging miles left a mark in my mind. I’ve done the 200 miler twice for Bike MS in Newbern, NC and really enjoy that one too – had one of my faster rides there several months ago (nice and flat!). 24 Hours of Booty is hugely important to me – cancer does not discriminate and can attack you, me, any of us and at any time. Raising funds and pedaling in the fight against cancer will always be in the forefront. There are so many who dedicate their valuable time and energy to creating, planning, executing, and pulling off all the charity rides. Without strong leadership and support from a host of gracious volunteers, none of it could be possible, so BIG THANKS to all those good humans!!

RM3: If you could cycle anywhere in the world where would it be and why?

Hmmm, it would probably be a tie between Switzerland and Norway. I’m a total sucker for the mountains (combined with picturesque water views), though I’m pretty sure those climbs would make me want to change my mind and pick somewhere well, flatter.

RM3: Where do you enjoy cycling in the Charlotte Area?

My home is on the south side of town so Ballantyne (Van Wyck, etc.), out to Waxhaw, and around my neighborhood along Colony and Carmel Rd. are my typical rides. I’d be remiss if I did not say the “Unknown Bike & Brew ride”, every Saturday at 2:30pm – “it’s on the T-shirt!”.

RM3: What do you find exciting about cycling?

Having done rides like BSG, Boone Gran Fondo, and the Hincapie Gran Fondo, there is a lot of excitement in those downhills. It seems like I attract rainfall when I ride so throw in wet roads with those mountain descents, and your eyeballs can get pretty big. Beyond that, the endurance aspect is something that gets my juices flowing – the mental toughness component I love… At least so far, if/when there are options for distance in a ride, I’ve elected to sign up for the longest distance possible 100% of the time. My coach would say this is probably not smart or wise, but I could have told you that about myself. J During a triathlon, I learned pretty quickly the necessity of knowing at what power to ride and sustain to keep those legs ready to hop off the bike and run. The bike leg of a tri is always fun and exciting and am always happy to see my bike in transition, which means I managed to finally drag my butt out of the water from the swim.

RM3: When you are not cycling what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Spare time – what is this thing you speak of? Just kidding… Wish I had more of it and when I do, there can never be enough time spent with family and friends. Other hobbies include motorcycling, cars, hiking, camping, snowboarding, tennis, fly fishing, yoga, and sleeping!

RM3: We all have some kind of bucket list items to accomplish, What are your top 3 in regards to cycling?

There are so many people who are much stronger riders than I and in Charlotte alone, I can name a long list of super-fast riders who I’m amazed by. Relative to my peers in triathlon, I’m actually a better runner than cyclist and really want to get faster on the bike and balance that out some. I can narrow this down to a collective one item… Remaining healthy enough in life to ride whenever and wherever I want and to do so at a speed where the A-group isn’t looking back too far over their shoulders’ to find me.

RM3: Remaining healthy to be able to ride for a long time is a great bucket list item!

Thank you so much Matthew for taking the time to answer some questions.

For more information about the RM3 ride please following the links below!

RM3: Matthew, Thank you very much for your support and for signing up for the RM3 ride. We look forward to seeing you out there!

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