I’ll never forget the turn my life took in March of 2005. I was finishing up a graduate program in the materials science department at the University of Michigan, basically breaking stuff and trying to figure out why (which, ironically, is essentially the same thing I do now).
I’d soon have my ticket to guaranteed riches in my hand and if all went well, my choice of job prospects in the oil and gas industry – one of which promised months of adventure at sea on a floating rig (“I’m on a boat, yo!”). I always did like dinosaurs as a kid.
Bikes had long been an integral part of my life at that time, too, however. I started spectacularly losing races as part of my high school club team in 1990, landed a part-time job at a bike shop three years later building lovely Ross Mt. Washingtons, launched a mountain bike suspension-focused web site in 2000 basically on a whim with no business plan whatsoever, and would continue wrenching and riding on bikes throughout my adult life, much to the chagrin of my mom who was still waiting for the return on the four years of college she had paid for nearly a decade earlier (to this day, she still doesn’t understand what I do for a living).
The bike thing didn’t always make sense then but as you all well know, bikes aren’t always logical.
So you can imagine my reaction when I received an invitation from the then-tech editor of Cyclingnews (BikeRadar’s sister site) to do some freelance writing, basically in response to me sending a smartass email pointing out some esoteric technical error in a pro bike profile. I had always voraciously consumed bike magazines and web articles but never thought much about how that content was created (magic seemed plausible at the time).
Suddenly, here I was on the other side of the fence, working for practically nothing and spending nearly all of my free time typing away on a computer.
I loved it. My long-term girlfriend at the time thought it was utterly insane. We broke up shortly afterward.
James Huang, in happier times
I distinctly remember walking out of my thesis defense the following winter. It was a typically cold and snowy night in Michigan and I should have been preparing for some engineering job somewhere. But instead, I was about to load up the cheapest moving truck I could find, pack up my little Subaru (which I still have), and move to Boulder, Colorado for what was then a most uncertain stab at actually trying to make a living writing about bikes. I mean, people surely got paid to do this sort of thing, right?
Nearly 11 years after that fateful exchange, here I am, still typing away. I’ve ridden more bikes and different pieces of bike equipment than I could possibly count, I’ve met and worked with enough amazing people that even this cynic no longer thinks that everyone sucks, I’ve visited more of the world than I ever would have imagined, and I’ve self-imported enough European Haribo that I probably should have applied for some kind of license. To say that my cup is full would be quite the understatement.
By all accounts, I’ve held one of the best jobs in the cycling industry – and now, I’m about to walk away. January 30 will be my last day here at BikeRadar and what a ride it’s been. I’ve had a good run here and BikeRadar has been good to me but 11 years is a healthy stretch by anyone’s measure. It was just time.
I wish all of you well as you continue your voyage through the bike industry's perpetual – and perpetually infuriating – cycle of change and I'm confident that there will be others here to help guide you through it. Here’s to a lifetime of creak-free pedaling with fully charged batteries but rest assured that if something goes awry, there will be something far more expensive, less durable, and way, way cooler than what you have now to tempt your wallet just around the corner.
As they say, change is good, right?