Name: Marc O’Leary

Age: 34

Location: Plainfield, Indiana (Indianapolis suburb)

Occupation: Purchasing Manager, Ascension Health

Bikes: Norco Threshold, Specialized Allez Elite, Cervelo P3, Trek X-Caliber

Q: When and how did you discover cycling?
A: I’ve always been drawn to the freedom of cycling and the ability the bike has to get you places that you wouldn’t normally see by car or foot.  I remember racing around my parent’s driveway as a young kid, and as I got in to the middle school/early high school years I periodically used the bike to get to friends’ houses, go to the barber shop, go to basketball practice, and run errands for my parents.  I loved stitching together empty lots, trails, fields, parks, and sidewalks to get somewhere by bike.  But at that point cycling was never more than a fun distraction or mode of transportation.  Once I got my driver’s license my bike picked up more dust, aside from the occasional ride to class in college.  Finally, after 4 years of playing college basketball and another 3 years of still trying to live out my hoop dreams in rec leagues and dust bowl tournaments, I realized that my muscles and joints just couldn’t take the beating from running and jumping anymore.  I had recently moved to Plainfield, Indiana, a town with a growing network of rail trails and pedestrian paths.  I dusted off my old bike from my parent’s garage and started to ride the trails.  Again, the exploratory nature of cycling hooked me, just like it had as a child.  I was able to develop a greater sense of direction and familiarity with the town by riding the trails, and I quickly started to venture out in to the open farmland surrounding town as well.  My first ride out to the “country” was probably 2 miles, but I was seeing roads that I would have had no reason to be on outside of the bike, and I loved that.    

Q: Has your inspiration to ride changed since then, and what is it now? 
A: In the most basic sense, no, my inspiration to ride has not changed.  I derive the biggest joy in cycling from exploration and adventure.  To this day, I still try to throw in new roads, hills, towns, paths, etc. in to my rides as often as I can.  That said, with my lifelong background in athletics I was naturally drawn to the competitive side of cycling pretty quickly, so I am now also inspired to push myself to my limits in my training in order to improve and succeed in the races and events that I participate in.  Lastly, I’d say I derive inspiration from my kids as well – I want to lead by example and show them the value of dedication and hard work.  I want them to see that they can achieve lofty goals if they put their mind to it, and can still do so while having fun at the same time.

Q: How would you define your style of gravel riding?
A: Power over style.  Strength over finesse.  Plow through vs. float over.  My handling skills are lacking, so I just use my power to churn through the gravel.  

Q: Describe an ideal day on the bike.
A: Start before the sun comes up.  Meet up with a large group of friends.  Head out on a long route that contains as many “new” roads as possible.  Watch the sun come up.  Stop to refuel, hopefully at a small town diner or filling station.  Get back on the bike and find some more new roads.  Take pictures.  Race my friends up a few hills.  Drain the tank.  Roll home on fumes.  

Q: What are some notable trips you’ve done to enjoy cycling?
A: With a family at home (wife and 2 young boys), I typically don’t have the availability to take the epic, fully-focused cycling trips.  But I have been fortunate to parlay a number of trips and vacations in to some pretty incredible rides.  I have summited Mount Evans in Colorado; ridden extensively in the Nashville, Tennessee area; participated in the Santa Fe (NM) Century; climbed a couple of mountains in Virginia on the drive out to Richmond, Virginia, to watch the World Road Championships; explored gravel roads through nature preserves in Florida; and mountain biked in North Carolina.  But as you can see in my “ideal day on the bike” I don’t have to take a notable trip to have an amazing time on two wheels.

Q: You’re a Barnstormer Chapter Leader. What does that entail, and is there anything you hope to help other riders find within the club?
A: To me, being a Barnstormer Chapter Leader is all about helping others find the same joy in cycling that I have.  To do that, I need to be positive, friendly, and encouraging.  My goal is to break down barriers and expand the cycling community.  We have too many labels and subgroups of cyclists, and we need to realize that we all have the same fundamental passion – cycling.  I hope to help other riders find their inspiration, and I think one way that I can do that best is to recommend and help them find some of the best riding routes in my area.  You might not think Indiana has much to offer in terms of a variety of terrain, but we have surprisingly challenging hills, plenty of flat and fast roads, an extensive network of gravel roads, and more small towns and unique landmarks to explore than you can imagine.  Being able to share those gems with other cyclists is exciting to me.

Q: Everyone who rides has something unique to offer. Do you know what you might offer, in that regard?
A: I try to be as welcoming and inviting as I can to those I interact with in cycling.  If a new person shows up for a group ride, I make it a point to introduce myself and make some type of connection to something we both have in common.  I also regularly have people reach out to me via Strava, Facebook, etc. for advice on cycling, training, equipment, and race advice and I try to always respond timely and with as much detail as I can provide.  I was blessed to have some good role models and mentors as I got in to cycling, and want to be the same for anyone that reaches out to me.  

Q: What role does cycling play in your current lifestyle?
A: Cycling plays a huge role in my current lifestyle.  Faith and family come first to me, and my job puts the food on the table, but past those three things cycling is it for me.  Cycling keeps me healthy, keeps me in the right mental space by reducing stress, and as a natural introvert it breaks down barriers for me and gives me a common thread with other people that I can use to build community and friendships. Cycling is my outlet for creativity and expression (and, shameless plug, one of my favorite ways to do this is by trying to keep my sock game strong with DeFeet!).