We had the opportunity to speak with Tim Johnson as he prepares for his upcoming assault on the cyclocross scene.
What is your relationship with cycling?
It's all encompassing. Pretty much everything I do and anything I think about or plan for is in relation to cycling?
How many times do you race each year?
I used to race 90-100 times per year, and now it's about 75. So… a lot.
What's your motivation to ride?
I'm trying to succeed. Its difficult to describe, but when I train, I'm training to try and be better. When I race, I'm racing to try to win. It's a pretty clear thing. I've chosen cycling because I'm still shocked that I can do this for a living… that ANYONE can do this for a living. I feel like I have a secret handshake into a job that I never knew existed. I have to keep trying to do the best I can because it could all go away in a second.
How do you prepare for rides?
I usually just try to eat well so I don't start a ride and fall apart in the middle of it. I really like cottage cheese and fruit with cereal on top. Little rides don't require much preparation, but longer rides require a lot of mental preparation. Some training rides are so hard that you just don't want to do it. I kind of have to build up to a really hard training day, and it's that way for races, too. You have to say "Okay. I can do this."
We race in the fall and winter, and it can literally take 45 minutes to get dressed. You have to wear the right amount of clothing… not too much, not too little… is it going to rain or snow… ? Now in the summer, it takes 3 minutes and you're ready. It's quite variable.
Is there anything that makes you nervous?
I'm anxious about not being ready for something. I was the kid doing my book report the night before it was due. That was okay then, but it doesn't work well when you're trying to be a professional athlete. I'm anxious that I'm behind the eight ball at all times, so I have to really really try. I'm anxious about getting flats. I'm anxious about having the chance to do something big in a race and when I reach for it, it's not there.
How do your non-cycling friends and/or family view your lifestyle?
It's out of their periphery. I've had a friend for 20 years who doesn't ride, but he lives in CO so he's around it a lot. He's always the first one to tell me "I met someone who said he knew you, dude!" But he just thinks it's easy and fun—which it is—but there's this whole backside to it. It's this nonstop thing and requires a constand level of commitment and doesn't allow you to flake out.
What makes for a successful ride, outside of winning?
I'm a really social rider. It's hard for me to ride by myself unless I'm training. I need something to do while I'm riding. I love to ride with people and meet new people. If I get home from a ride and I've met someone new or had a great conversation, then that's success. My brain starts cranking when I'm on my bike, and if I have someone to talk to then it's even better.
How far will you travel to ride casually with other people?
When I started I used to ride to a ton of rides, but now that we travel so much I have a hard time going somewhere TO ride. But that said, I'll still go to NH to find some mountains and hills.
Are there any special measures you've taken to ensure a comfortable ride?
Don't pump up your tires. If you ride on softer tires, then you aren't worries about flatting. Just roll along at 70 psi instead of 120, and it actually feels kind of good.
What do you like about your Cannondale bike?
My favorite thing about my CX is I can hit the gas as hard as I can hit it, and it feels like it's giving back me back what I put in. When you've ridden a lot of bikes, you can tell when they're soft, and not rigid in the way you want them to be. So I'm happy that mine is.
How'd you get into cycling?
I was a little rat on my skateboard and BMX bike. We started riding mountain bikes as far away as we could… just into the woods to hang out… and go on little adventures so our world got bigger and bigger. It outgrew the cheapo mountain bike we could grab from Sears when we were 11. So when I got my first real mountain bike, this whole other world opened up. I met people who were into riding, so I traveled races in New England, and then in other parts of the country, and then started getting on planes, and then the whole world. I've been all over the world because of the bike.
What would you be doing right now if you weren't cycling?
I'd be on the phone or answering emails.
Who takes care of your dogs while you're away?
My wife is also an athlete, so we have to juggle what we're doing with the dogs. But my mom will come by and take the dogs out. She lives nearby.
Do you have any injuries?
I've had some good crashes. I had a head injury with amnesia for 4 days. I had a broken ankle that had to be repaired last year. This year I've been pretty good. The nagging things you feel when you're training or racing… you'll always feel this. But I don't have anything too major. I started working with a personal trainer in the last couple years, so that support system is key.