John Harris Makes Lemonade from a Year of Lemons
By John Harris
Professional cyclist John Harris honed his talents and engine by mixing crit racing across America with kermesse racing in Belgium, culminating in what promised to be a thrilling and successful year taking on the USACRITS Series with ButcherBox Cycling in 2020. The Providence, Rhode Island rider known for his signature mustache and all-in racing style joins us today to share how he recalibrated his focus for the year on his coaching business and bike studio, while still flying his Eliel colors out on the roads.
2020 has been an interesting year. I can neither confirm nor deny if it's been good or bad; the verdict is still out. After all, it's only August.
We've seen massive cultural shifts, divides, deaths, and growth.
The first part of "Quarantine" seems like forever ago. It was easy to spend time active or sad, but fully expecting life to resume as normal. As time would tell, things would not resume. It became increasingly difficult to motivate myself to train to the point of suffering over, and over, and over again. I didn't realize how much of a "carrot and stick" kind of person I was. Maybe I was just depressed.
Life in the pro peloton isn't a very lucrative business. Many of us need some sort of side hustle. For me, I chose the route of coaching. I've slowly built the program over several years, and I'm fortunate to have a brick and mortar location in Providence, Rhode Island. During this pandemic, I began to feel two different parts of me fighting for control. One part, I'm an athlete. Everything happens after the bike and I spend most of my time exhausted and cracked out of my mind. The other part of me is a bit more normal...he wants to grow my business and build something. Eventually, the latter of my personalities took the wheel.
I began to pour all of my energy into bringing my business officially on the books. I've also made a portion of my building into a full-service bike shop. I don't sell bikes, but I fix them, fit them, and sell parts. My coaching clients get service included with their memberships. Without racing, I wanted to add value for my athletes and give them a place to feel connected in the community. Also most bike shops are backed up about 5 weeks for service. Bring that bike over here.
Building the service area, obtaining wholesale accounts and business bank accounts, revamping my website, and figuring out legal papers and permits has been an incredible process. Exhausting, but enlightening. Small businesses get taxed a lot. However, after a few weeks of solid effort I've started seeing my customer base build, and I've reached new people within the community. The shop even just made an appearance in GCN's latest YouTube video featuring some of Rhode Island's best roads and its cycling community.
I've still been throwing down at the local time trial, I get out for BIG rides, and I keep the Eliel kit tan lines sharp, but my focus has shifted.
As I've grown up, I've had a lot of people in my life ask about my life plan. When will I be satisfied with my experiences on the bike and start a normal life? You begin to wonder.
Well, that's stupid. There's plenty of time in life to "do it normal"; what you don't have is plenty of time to do it differently. I have learned this to be true. I'm very fortunate to have support and to have been able to get where I am, and I'm not hanging it up any time soon. Racing and training bring me too much joy, even with the massive time commitment. However, with this weird plot twist of life we’ve all been handed, I've been gifted time like never before to focus on a career path AFTER cycling. For all that COVID has taken away, it has given me that.
So who knows, maybe 2020 isn't so bad. I've certainly grown. I think a lot of people have.
I'd still rather be racing.