Featured Cyclist: Joe Hooker – Collegiate Cyclist

Joe Hooker 2012 NU Cycling Team

Every cycling career starts somewhere. The story of this collegiate cyclist began in his home state of Pennsylvania. Meet Joe Hooker. Joe is originally from Pennsylvania. He is currently in Chicago, attending Northwestern University and studying industrial engineering. Joe is also the current president of the Northwestern Cycling Club, re-elected to a second one-year term.

Joe fondly recalls his earliest days in the sport of cycling. When he was young, he would ride with his dad through the picturesque Ridley Creek State Park, just outside of Philadelphia, in eastern Pennsylvania.

Ridley Creek State Park eastern Pennsylvania cyclingJoe also remembers his introduction to competitive cycling and bike racing. While attending Springton Lake Middle School, the school hosted a race affectionately called Tour de Lake. Joe and his sixth grade friends got a team together. In that first year, Joe and his team raced to a second place finish. The boys were captivated by the thrill of bike racing. They continued to train through middle school and it paid off. The next two years, Joe and his team placed first.

In exploring his options for college, Joe came across the Northwestern Cycling Club. He knew he was going to join the club even before his first day of college. In his freshman year, Joe ran the website for the team. He was elected as President of the team heading into his junior year and was re-elected for a second term this past spring. Joe has also held the role as interim treasurer for the team.

Joe made his way to Evanston after high school. He wanted to find a university that was strong in engineering. He also wanted to venture a little ways from home, where he could meet new people. He decided Chicago would be a great place to study and bike.

When you ask Joe what he enjoys most about cycling, his answer shows great the complexity – and the draw – of the sport. “There are two opposite sides of the same coin in cycling,” said Joe. “It is such a social sport. You go out on a weekend group ride and you can ride with others and share a conversation. On the flip side, it is still an area of escape,” added Joe.  “You can train, go out and ride by yourself, do your own thing. It is a real feeling of freedom and when you train, you can push yourself to the limits.”

Joe is currently racing a road bike that he got from a friend and training coach. He makes time to train, even with his tough university schedule. “Training to race on a collegiate level definitely takes a commitment,” said Joe. “First, you need to have good time management skills. Second, you have to place a high priority on cycling.  There is no question it can be done. You can train, race and do well in school, if you get your priorities right.”

2012 NU Northwestern University Evanston Cycling Team

The team is finding a balance of their own this year. Rather than focusing exclusively on racing performance goals, they are working to raise awareness around cycling on campus. “At Northwestern, we’re not a varsity sport. We don’t have the support of varsity sports,“ said Joe when talking about the team’s goals this year. “We’re forming our own niche on campus, offering a solid social outlet and wrapping it around a serious athletic sport.”

The team does have ambitions to grow the sport in collegiate cycling at Northwestern and create the possibility for people to take a more competitive angle to cycling. “It is tough to find a balance across highly-competitive and too social,” said Joe.

All students of Northwestern can consider joining the team. As for who would find it the right fit, Joe says, “It depends on what you are interested in for cycling. There is something for everyone on our team. I’ve met some of my best friends on the team. I’ve gotten in to the best shape of my life while racing with the team.”

The relationships extend beyond the campus. As a sponsor of the Northwestern Cycling Club, Joe finds that “Higher Gear offers a very friendly atmosphere. It is a place where you just want to go in and hang out. The people that work there aren’t just trying to get you to buy what they offer. They form a relationship. The Higher Gear team is filled with nice people. That is what riding is all about.”

Joe continues to ride hard, study hard and prepare for the next chapter of his life. Joe finished up a summer internship at PepsiCo and is back to his final year of academics. Regardless of where school and his career take him, he is certain cycling will always be a part of his interests and passions.

 

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