Wheels in Motion

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The model of determination, Scott Murphy became interested in cycling almost by accident, but, after discovering his hidden passion for the sport, he quickly turned his hobby in to a habit. Now he’s teaching others in Austin how to shape up, build endurance and enjoy the ride.

Like a lot of young professionals of Generation X, Scott Murphy hadn’t given the bicycle much thought since high school. So a few years ago when a friend asked him to participate in the Hill Country Ride for AIDS, well, let’s just say it was a daunting prospect for a guy who didn’t even own a bike.

At the time, the HCRA was a two-day, 110-mile ride and Murphy wasn’t certain he could trek five miles on two wheels, much less make it for a full weekend. But he completed that first five-mile training ride, and then the next, and the next.

“I found that I really enjoyed it, and I kept getting better,” Murphy remembers. He finished that first race with a sense of accomplishment, bought a good road bike and continued to ride.

These days, Murphy participates in most of the Austin area’s organized rides like the Rosedale and the Wurst Ride through the Hill Country.

“Riding is great low-impact exercise and in Austin it’s extremely scenic,” he offers. “On the bike, you get to see things you normally wouldn’t see.”

On a typical Saturday, Murphy will start riding no later than 8 a.m. and continue on until at least noon, riding from his home in Northwest Hills, down Shoal Creek and all over town. On weekdays, he’s all about the stationary bike at the gym. “It’s a big component of health for me,” he says. “If I’m traveling and I don’t get to cycle, I can feel my stress level rise.”

It took Murphy a couple years – and a more serious road bike – to be able to ride 100 miles in one day. With the century milestone behind him, he focused on helping other riders achieve their own goals by becoming a training ride coach for the HCRA.

“Every weekend starting in January all the way through the ride in April, we’re leading organized rides. It starts out with shorter rides and builds up so that the beginners, like I was, can increase their endurance,” he says. “But it’s not just about riding; we teach the rules of the road, bike maintenance, things like that. As one of the organizers of the training rides, I want to make it as effective as we possibly can.”

Determination is one thing. But on frigid February weekends, when a cozy bed is far more appealing than a cycling tour de force along Central Texas byways, Murphy says it’s the community of cyclists he’s riding with that motivate him.

“I know what a difference it makes to have people behind you,” he says. “It’s the relationships that you build up on the training rides, becoming part of that community, that is going to help you get through ride day.”

Murphy has even turned the tables a bit, convincing other adult cycling virgins to come along for the ride. One friend, whom Murphy convinced to join the ride a few years ago, is now participating in organized rides across the country and is “far more involved than I am now!” Murphy laughs.

Murphy suggests that biking will continue to become more popular in Austin, particularly since gas prices are causing many people to reevaluate their transportation needs. He says he’s already noticed more Austinites riding their bikes to work.

“I definitely saw an increase in that this summer. It’s not just a way to be fit, but a great alternative form of transportation,” he says.

But the addition of more bikes and bicyclists means increased responsibility, and Murphy does have a request of his fellow cyclists: Follow the rules of the road.

“As more and more people cycle, it makes it difficult for all of us if everyone doesn’t follow the normal rules of traffic,” he says. “If you’re flying through red lights or weaving through cars, it creates issues for everyone because drivers who see that aren’t as kind to all riders.”

In the eight years he’s been riding, Murphy says he’s never had a bad experience on a bike. Well, there was that one time with the snake. Out on The Veloway in South Austin, Murphy cruised by a sign reading “Snake Crossing,” and seconds later came up to a sharp turn, skidding his bike and barely missing a nearby slithering reptile.

“I slid across the pavement,” he says. “Really nice road rash on that one!”

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