How Cycling Changed Me – Will Etti


Name: Will Etti
Age: 45
Hometown: Silver Spring, Maryland
Occupation: Public administration
Cycling time: 14 years old
Reason for cycling: After a devastating car accident in 2009, cycling helped me heal both physically and mentally.

I am American by birth, but I was raised by parents who emigrated to the United States in 1968. My parents divorced when I was 1 year old and I was sent to Nigeria to live with my grandmother. when I was 2 years old. I returned to the United States when I was 15, and my relationship with my mother was difficult. At first, running became an escape for me, but eventually I found the bike.

I usually used my bike to ride bikes with other kids, as well as to go to the grocery store and sometimes to go to work after school. I also used my bike to go to college, and rode six to seven days a week to college. However, after college I did not ride a bicycle for a long time due to a terrible car accident.

On December 30, 2009, I was struck by a drunk driver who had both drugs and alcohol in his body. I was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury which took two years of physiotherapy to learn to walk, use my hands, turn my body and more. My knees hit the steering wheel hard in the accident, which also required knee surgery. (My knees were never the same.) I also struggled with migraines and PTSD, and my whole body ached for a decade. It also made me gain 100 pounds because I couldn’t do anything without severe pain.

Courtesy of Will Etti

Eventually I started running again to help me lose weight. I became a certified long distance running trainer with the Road Runners Club of America. But with my knee problems, my orthopedic specialists suggested that I try the bike. So in 2016 I started making indoor cycling part of my physical activity routine, and in 2020 I added outdoor cycling. I fell in love with cycling as a child again, and it allowed me to be active with little impact on my knees. I was able to burn tons of calories exploring different neighborhoods.

Now, I cycle three to four days a week, and total about 150 miles a week. I joined two cycling clubs and thanks to club outings I was able to develop my riding skills. The club provided me with so many resources and helped me complete my first metric distance (64 miles), my course of the century (103 miles) and my duathlon.

Will’s essential equipment

Probar meal bar: I love these meal bars because I am allergic to gluten. They are gluten free, nutritious and tasty for long journeys. I especially like the blueberry muffins.

→ Tailwind endurance fuel: I like them because they are easy to digest and don’t cause me stomach or GI issues.

Chamois Butter: Most riders know why – I like it because it keeps me from irritation.

Varlo performance cycling clothing: Even after hours of driving and sweating, this equipment is very comfortable. I generally like to coordinate with the color of my bike, helmet or socks, and the company offers colors that are easy to match with whatever I need to ride.

Currently, I am installing my indoor trainer as the weather changes. Last winter, I cycled four to five days a week on the indoor trainer. In the meantime, I cycle outdoors two days a week and ride indoors one to two days a week. Two days a week I also focus on strength training. My current goal is to use a smart trainer to get stronger during the winter, working my pace and climbing technique. I hope to use the developed force of winter to do some hundred-year-old races in the summer of 2022.

The bike makes me feel alive. There is an adrenaline rush when you are in the area in a nice peloton line of 20-40 riders all looking like superheroes in cycling gear – it’s beautiful to live with. Additionally, cycling helped me through a very difficult divorce and custody process in 2019, and provided me with support and community that helped me navigate life transitions. I love the camaraderie with other riders and the way information is always flowing. I learned so much about improving my cycling experience, bike handling and nutrition. And I also like to share my own recommendations with others.

Cycling is a lifelong learning process. Each person’s journey is unique, but cycling has given me long term benefits that have changed my life physically, mentally, socially and even spiritually. Allow yourself to enjoy the process and the journey, and try not to be too hard on yourself. Be present in the moment and have gratitude. Being able to ride is a privilege and a blessing, so savor it.

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