Rolling along: Senior cycler finds sport both exhilarating, calming

His legs burn from the constant pedaling. The wind stings his eyes. Beads of sweat roll down his face, yet he keeps pushing forward. He looks over his shoulder to see if any of his competitors are gaining ground as he approaches the next change in terrain. The obstacles senior Luke McCollum faces while racing mountain bikes has impacted his life in a positive way.

Luke has been biking for about 11 years after inspiration struck at a family trip.

“One time I was on a campout with my family at a bike park and I saw this guy who was going about 40 miles an hour down a ramp,” Luke said. “He jumped about 20 feet into the air, and it was an experience to watch. Later that evening, I went and bought a bike for the first time.”

Cycling has become therapeutic for Luke over the years by allowing him to use the sport to escape the stresses of everyday life.

“It’s a very calming experience,” Luke said “When I feel stressed or pinned up, I can hop either on my road bike or my mountain bike and listen to my tires hit the ground and have wind running through my hair. I don’t really have to worry about what’s happening around me.”

Although Luke loves biking for relaxation, it can take a lot of work and pushes him to get better.

“My endurance is horrible,” Luke said. “It’s challenging to keep myself going through the pain, but when someone is in front of me that I can’t catch, I want to keep going.”

Luke has been working with his coach, Robert Lightfoot, for about a year through the College Station Composite High School Mountain Bike Team.

“Luke has a very positive attitude,” Lightfoot said. “He is also very determined, which is his greatest strength when cycling.”

Luke and his teammates practice hours each week to improve their skills both mentally and physically.

“We have our designated team practices an hour and a half on Tuesday and Thursday, and then two hours on Sunday,” Luke said. “I also go on a roughly 20 mile ride every day.”

Along with Lukes commitment to riding, he is dedicated to his school work in the IB program and has found learning to balance everything is another skill cycling has taught him.

“A lot of times, it ends up impacting my sleep a little bit because a 20 mile bike ride can take anywhere from just over an hour to three depending on what I’m doing,” Luke said “It’s a challenge to work that in and my hour and a half practices and still be able to complete the work that I have for IB, but I always try to get things done when I can.”

Luke plans to continue cycling in college at Texas A&M next fall with their club team.

“Right now I’m on a mountain biking team, which means a bigger, beefier bike, and it’s a lot more about the terrain we’re riding on, but in college, I’ll be on a road team,” Luke said. “We’ll be on a road bike and that’ll be much more about just plain endurance and speed and technique, so that’ll be less about what I’m riding on and more about how I’m riding correctly.”

During Lightfoot’s time with Luke, he has seen him develop as an athlete. Though Luke doesn’t have a lot of experience with road cycling, his coach believes that he will transition well into the sport.

“Luke has learned the skills to control his bike over different terrain,” Lightfoot said. “Luke will have more technical skills than the average rider who does road cycling has which will give him an advantage if the road becomes less desirable.”

Luke encourages others to go out of their comfort zones and try cycling themselves as it is a great sport for people of different ages and abilities.

“A lot of people worry about not having a good enough bike, but realistically, you can start training and going through the motions on a 50 dollar Walmart bike,” Luke said. “It won’t be the best, but you can start now and you’ve just got to work up to where you want to be.”