Cycling: Hobby, Passion and Profession
Nick Hardrath could teach us all a thing or two. It’s one thing to be active, but it’s quite another to turn your health and fitness activities into a profession. In addition to competing in Ironmans and numerous other triathlon and road races throughout North America, Nick pays the bills by designing graphics, kits, hardware, and more for cycling and sport teams. Learn more about Nick, Hardrath Design, and consider how your active lifestyle can influence other areas of your life!
1) Hi Nick. Thanks for taking the time to chat with Runtastic. Let’s start at the beginning: What made you hit the trail the first time, and how did biking come to play such a big role in your life?
Aside from the first bike my parents gave me in elementary school, I distinctly remember saving up and purchasing my own mountain bike when I was 12. I went to my local shop and picked out the model, color and accessories – it was an intimate experience and is one of the few purchases I still get just as excited to make as an adult. The bike gave me the incredible new freedom of riding to baseball practice and exploring new areas of the country. It was, and still is, an easy way to get outside and take in nature, explore things at a slower pace, get exercise, and break away from the mundane tasks of everyday life.
2) As you grew up and moved around, your biking habits must have evolved. How has biking remained a part of your life in Milwaukee, Wisconsin? Tell us about the “bike culture” in the city.
The move from a small town (population 600) to Milwaukee, WI brought exposure to a different environment and a deeper, more complex cycling culture. Access to so much more, including trail systems created specifically for road and mountain bikes. Exposure to daily die hard commuters who rode year round; to road cyclist who trained hard for summer racing; to triathletes and recreational cyclists who enjoy the weather and charity rides. My habits transformed as I latched onto all things cycling. Group rides, charity events, raising funds for the local bike federation (Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin), joining a team, racing, supporting local bike shops. I realized I wasn’t the only one that had the feelings of freedom while on a bike and embraced the culture I was becoming immersed in.
3) How do you see Runtastic becoming a bigger part of the cycling community? In what ways do you think apps and online fitness communities can help new and experienced riders alike?
With running and cycling, I enjoy keeping track of mileage or the amount of time during the activity. You can dissect the information and analyze it as much or as little as you desire. If it’s a simple commute to work, it’s nice to see monthly totals. On average, I usually reach 250 – 300 monthly miles commuting. While it doesn’t seem like a large number daily, it is easy pre- and post-work exercise. If everyone tracked these miles, it would really show the larger impact of cycling on a community (environmental and traffic impact, for example). Tracking could also aid in more trails being built for cycling and running infrastructure.
For those who are more active, Runtastic can be a competitive tool for challenging yourself or others. What’s the longest ride you can complete? How many days can you ride consecutively? It helps unite people that enjoy the same hobby. Runtastic provides an easy way to track rides without feeling overly analytical.
4) Too few people are able to turn their passion into a profession, but you’ve done just that. How were you able to integrate your talents and passions? Advice for others looking to do the same?
So many parents tell their children to do what they love, and mine sure did. My passion has always been art, in one form or another. I grew up with a toolbelt on (Dad), sometimes filled with paintbrushes (Mom). With the aid of my high school art teacher and shop instructor, I was turned onto Industrial Design and Graphic Design. During college, I was asked to design my first cycling kit. It was so much fun taking the personality and sponsors of the team and creating the aesthetic for the team – I was hooked. My work covers Product Design, as well as Graphic Design. Roughly 75% of my work is graphic work for the endurance and adventure sports markets. It worked out well that my passions meshed well with my work. Looking around at local race shirts, I knew most were stock art that lacked personality. No team or event is the same, same thing should go for the aesthetic identities.
If you have a passion and see room to make it part of your job, start off small with a solid plan of attack. We live in a world of constant change; almost everything is based off of something before it. Take what you see and make it better in your own way. I created a blog and started to post projects to keep motivation and to keep projects coming in.
5) Quick question: Do you have a particular project or product you’re particularly proud of? If so, which one and what really makes it shine?
I’ve received great feedback on two cycling kits for 2013 – The Early Bird Women’s of Northern California (www.earlybirdwomen.com) and Team Velocause of Milwaukee, WI (www.velocause.org). Supporting the ideas behind projects really makes designing a pleasure. The cycling kits usually contain a jersey, bib shorts, jackets, arm and leg warmers, gloves, etc. The fun is developing the identity or overall look of the clothing and logos for the teams.
6) Where do you see yourself in ten years? How will biking be a part of your life?
I don’t think there’s any question at this point that cycling will always be a part of my life. Aside from the active pursuits of cycling, I would like to give more time to advocating recreational paths and safe city riding. Knowledge is power. It seems that drivers who aren’t active, aren’t fans of people on bikes; people on bikes aren’t fans of aggressive drivers. The more we can help steer away from this mindset, the better off everyone will be. The Netherlands are doing a great job – the bicycle cultur e and infrastructure there is fantastic.
7) Another quickie! What’s your favorite race of all time and why?
Ironman Wisconsin is a fantastic race. It was my first Ironman and I was able to share the entire experience with my girlfriend, Heidi. My favorite ride to-date is the Scenic Shore 150. It’s a 2-day tour that winds along Lake Michigan. It’s fully supported with rest stops, and you get to raise funds for a great cause. Does it get any better?
8) Final question: What are your suggestions to those who want to hop on the saddle, but feel like they don’t know where to get started? What words of wisdom for future cyclists?
Everyone is different, cycling is no different. There are so many different types of riding, so many great places to ride, and so many people to meet in doing so. Start off slow and get some basic tips from other folks who ride. Find some safe routes or get a group together and make it a fun outing. I find that leaving the daily stress behind and just going out for a nice ride is one of the best balances in life – it truly is contagious.