Jordan Rapp

Birthplace: New York City, NY, United States

Growing up split between the busy streets of Tokyo, Japan and the vast suburbia of upstate New York, meant cycling wasn’t really on the radar of a young Jordan Rapp. But although he discovered cycling late, he sure made up for lost time.

Where did you grow up?

From 2 to 9, we lived in Tokyo, Japan. Over the summer, we would return back to a small (very small) cabin (with outhouse and outdoor shower) on a lake in upstate NY. When I was 9, we moved back to the US to the suburbs north of NYC right along the Hudson River. Very suburban, but with a lot of green space. We lived very close to a state park, and there was a trail that led to the park system about 2min walking from our house. So lots of opportunities to be outside.
 
Who introduced you to cycling?

I suppose it depends on whether you mean riding a bike or RIDING A BIKE. My Dad taught me to ride a bike when I was about four or five. I had a yellow BMXer. I don't remember what kind. Just that it was yellow. But I got into "real" cycling like a lot of Americans - because of Lance in 1999. But it took me until 2000 to save up enough to buy a "real" bike. I had a real POS fully rigid "mountain" bike, though it was about as offroad capable as most SUVs. I bought my first real bike - with skinny tires and clipless pedals - in 2000.
 
Do you remember your first cycling experience?

I'd say my first real cycling experience was after Lance won the 99 TdF. I decided to ride my bike from my parent's house up to our lake house. It's only about 38mi. But I did it on that crappy MTB with knobby tires. It took me about 2.5hrs. By far the longest I'd ever ridden. It seemed like forever. I had only one bottle. And it was the summer. And it was really hot. I rode my bike, literally, right into the lake when I finished. I'd say that was my first true cycling experience. I was a bit of a late bloomer I guess...
 
What was your first bike?


I suppose it was the yellow BMXer, but the first bike that made me fall in love with cycling was my 2000 Litespeed Tuscany. That bike made me fall in love with riding. So I'd say that was my first bike. It was the first bike that was also truly mine. Every other bike I owned had been a hand me down from within the family. I think what made it uniquely mine was all the really bad wrenching I did on it. I was determined to wrench my own bike. But armed with only Zinn's book and a set of Park Tools, I was not so well equipped. I knew how to fix cars. But bikes, that was a new experience...
 
Where did you usually ride your bike as a child?

I didn't. Pretty much everything in Tokyo was walkable. Or you'd take the subway. So we just didn't use bikes. I walked a lot. I rarely remember ever riding.
 
How important was cycling to you as a child?

I rarely used the one I had. It just wasn't something that ever really registered with me. Biking was something my mom did to commute. It wasn't something cool. And it wasn't something I ever really thought about. It was, on occasion, an easier way to get over to a friend's house in Japan. And in America, everything was way too far for me to ride. Suburbia is BIG.
 
How do you think cycling influenced you as you grew up?

As a youngster, it didn't. But I would say that I "grew up" a LOT in college. And cycling was a huge part of that. College was when I discovered endurance sports - rowing - and I used cycling for cross training. But it was that whole process of learning everything that endurance sports can teach you that really made me fall in love with my bike and with cycling. It came to me at a time in my life when I was really ready for it. I may have been 20, but I was pretty young in a lot of ways. And cycling helped me grow a part of myself that I hadn't ever really been in touch with.
 
Other cycling memories from when you were young?

Favorite cycling story was my first "long" ride on my road bike. I'd never ridden more than an hour on it. And I rarely rode that far. So I just used my rowing gear. But one weekend, I decided to ride 50miles. I just rode out on the main road from Princeton for 25 miles. Then I basically just collapsed on the side of the road for about 15-20min. And I still had to ride back. I barely made it. But the really bad part? Rowing shorts are not meant for cycling. I walked bow legged for about three days after that. It was bad...
 
Why do think it’s important for kids to be riding?

Looking at what I love about cycling now, it's amazing to me that I didn't discover it as a kid. I think about how much I could have done and discovered that I didn't. And I wish now that I'd ridden my bike. Especially as kids get more and more sedentary (which I was not), and spend more and more time on computers and the internet (which didn't exist when I was growing up), cycling gets kids in touch with being active and being healthy and with being outside. And, even more than that, with being in control, to some extent, of where they can go, which is enormously powerful. You can ride a LOT further than you can walk.

 Tell us about your charitable efforts with World Bicycle Relief.

World Bicycle Relief is my way of paying forward everything that my bike has given me. Through a lot of folks' generosity - both the people who've given items for my raffles and the folks who've bought tickets, I've been able to raise almost $60,000 for World Bicycle Relief, and much of that money has been matched by anonymous donors that the WBR crew has been able to bring on board. $60,000 is enough money to sponsor four schools of 100 kids with bikes and also with two mechanics to take care of the bikes. But each bike gets used, in general, by about 20 people. So almost 8,000 people have seen the benefits of just my own small contribution to WBR. That's powerful stuff. The people and the mission of what they do is remarkable. I'm humbled and proud to be associated with them.
 
 

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