‘Part-Time Cyclist’ is a new series where we meet everyday people who love racing bikes. We’ll uncover the quirky characters behind grassroots cycling, learn how they juggle ordinary life with their passion for the bike, and find out what motivates them to pin on a number each week.
In this first instalment, we spoke to Aaron Paul of Sydney Uni Velo Club, best known for his Ned Kelly-like beard and his Jens Voigt-inspired tattoo.
How did you get into cycling?
A lot of years of work and drinking and everything left me quite heavy. I had a few mates that rode and I decided it was time to do something about it. A bike seemed like a pretty good way to start that process. That was seven years now when I first found a bike and started riding.
How did you get into racing?
Three years of heckling by mates that I finally gave in to. And then I worked out that I actually quite enjoyed it.
Whats your day job?
I am a train guard with Sydney Trains and predominantly work afternoons and nights.
How do you balance cycling with the rest of your life?
I’ve got a very understanding coach in Dan Van Der Laan. He sort of sets me a fortnight. I hit it as a best as possible and if I need to move things around… It’s taken a long time but I’ve learnt, as I feel I need to pull the pin on a day, I do it.
I’ve just learnt that if you can’t do it, you can’t do it. If work takes over then it does, if cycling can take a few days, then it’s good.
You basically just learn to balance. Work’s what puts bread on the table, cycling’s what keeps the brain happy, so you learn to balance the pair.
I don’t have a typical week. I can work anywhere from 2 [days] on, 5 off to 10 on, 1 off. I send my roster through to Dan every fortnight. He sort of structures a week. I do my long days where I’ve had sleep, and then days where I’m not sleeping I do my short days. My days off are spent on more relaxing rides and enjoying myself than trying to go out and hit numbers.
What are your goals for racing?
Masters TT medals would be nice, but other than that, racing’s just fun. It’s a good excuse to hang out with people, go and thrash yourself for an hour and have a bit of fun. Heffron’s just fun. I’m never going to be a Div 1 racer when it comes to crits and road racing and that, but TTs are sort of where I find my happy place, switch the brain off and hurt.
Tell us about your “Shut Up Legs” Tattoo
I’ve always loved the fact that Jensie’s just an animal. I was at work one day and had two hours to spare. I sort of wandered across the road and walked back to work with a “Shut Up Legs” tattoo. I had people looking at me kind of funny because I had a leg wrapped in Glad Wrap bleeding and was still at work. I’d thought about it for a while, and one day it just happened.
For the first six months I had it, it kept popping up on social media everywhere. I actually had a lot of people walk up to me and be like, “You’re that guy on Facebook,” and I’m like, “Yes, that is that guy on Facebook. That is my leg.”
I think the height of that was I ended up on Brown Cardigan [a Sydney-based meme blog] with a lot of people really questioning, “What is this idiot’s tattoo?”
Yes, that was a good week.
Your other signature is probably your beard. tell us about that?
That was about four years ago. I got chipped at work one day for not shaving, and four years later I still haven’t shaved. I went, “I’m not going to shave this week,” which turned into, “I’m not going to shave this month,” to three-and-a-half, four years now and it’s still here. It’s become a thing.
According to Specialized, it’s actually quicker, so we’ll see.
What’s it like having a partner who’s also into racing?
Some weeks it’s great, some weeks it’s testing. When one of you is having a good week on the bike and the other one’s having a bad week, it can up the stress. But when everything’s good, it’s great.
Nothing better than being able to get up in the morning, both of you have a long day to do, and you just go out and pedal kays, and the banter, and just go out and enjoy your time together. With my work the way it is, the days when we do get to go and ride together, it’s a great way to just chill out and spend time together, so it’s good. I really enjoy it.
What’s your favourite race around NSW?
It doesn’t really favour one type of rider. If the bunch stays together up Blood Hill, a sprinter can get it. Or if someone really wants to have a dig, they can go and make a mess of the field with relative ease. So I think Calga’s probably one of my favourites for regular, “keep-getting-into-it” days.