PHILADELPHIA – A month after buying a bike to help him fight cabin fever during quarantine last year, Siddeeq Shabazz took his first group ride through Manayunk and Conshohocken with the KRT cycling team.
“They kicked my you-know-what, but I finished and I said, ‘I’ll see you next Sunday,'” he recalls. “It was amazing, despite the fact that I was being killed.”
Shabazz admitted that it was his lack of knowledge of how to properly climb hills that had been his biggest challenge.
âSo I decided to learn how to do this, and every Monday I did the ride on my own,â Shabazz, 31, said. “I don’t like to say early on about something that I’m not good at. I just don’t have the experience.”
Since that first group tour in May 2020, Shabazz has ridden over 6,500 miles on his bike, appeared on the cover of Bicycling magazine and, for the past year, has also led a weekly climb and descent for KRT. Cycling called “Nose Bleed Tuesdays”, a nod to the nickname for high seats in a stadium.
âI see how far you can go in a year and I’m not telling people that as a cheesy motivational tactic,â he said. “It’s because I’m living it.”
As a black cyclist in a sport that “no doubt” lacks diversity and representation, Shabazz said he hopes he can raise awareness and be a resource for black riders and other people of color interested in joining the cycling community. .
âI want to be a familiar face that people can talk to and get information on how to get into the ground floor,â he said. âThe mission militates for cultural diversity.
Shabazz grew up in Southwest Philly in a family of 12 children and is currently enrolled at Penn State Brandywine, where he is studying public relations with an emphasis on corporate communications.
He was attending school and working full time at an insurance company for the King of Prussia when the pandemic struck last year. When the insurance company closed its doors amid stay-at-home orders, Shabazz also lost access to the company’s state-of-the-art gym.
âI didn’t have a gym and couldn’t join because of the pandemic,â he said. “I was a runner, but I’m not the biggest fan of what he’s doing on your knees, so I thought ‘Let me buy a bike.'”
Shabazz bought his first bike for $ 70 online, but when it turned out to be too small, he bought another bike from a South Philly pawnshop for $ 200. His friend, who is one of the co-founders of KRT Cycling (which stands for Kings Rule Together), saw Shabazz post an article about his new business on Facebook and invited him to participate in this first group tour which gave a kick to her “you know what”.
Shabazz has since become addicted. At the height of the pandemic last year, he was riding at least 200 miles a week on his bike.
âBack when I started there was a lot to mentally escape from, from unemployment to my mom who was battling stage four cancer,â he said.
While the pain was palpable when he was stationary and confined to his home, when Shabazz got on his bike it was “nothing but the road,” he said.
âI’m one of the lucky ones who found an outlet that really helps me,â Shabazz said. “But for those who have a hard time finding that out, don’t let the stigma of getting help deter you.”
In October, Shabazz rode 55 miles with 70 people out of Trenton and ended up in front of the group with another rider who worked for Hearst Magazines, publisher of Bicycling magazine. Through this connection, Shabazz was invited to be a model for Bicycling, which is based in Easton, Northampton County, and appeared as a featured cyclist in the magazine’s April issue.
Just weeks before the issue was published, Shabazz’s mother lost her battle with cancer.
âBut she knew the problem was coming and that I had done the filming,â he said. “She gave me my hugs and kisses for it and congratulated me on it.”
Shabazz was asked to model for cycling again this year for a story on Functional Threshold Power (FTP) testing, a way to measure a rider’s level of performance. This time it ended up on the cover of the June issue.
âHonestly, it was surreal, I won’t lie,â he said.
But his 10-year-old daughter, Suri, kept him under control.
âAs I like to say, she’s not at all impressed,â Shabazz said with a laugh. “She thinks it’s cool, but she also plays it cool.”
These days, Shabazz rides about 100 miles a week on âThe Dark Knight,â his 2020 Giant TCR road bike with ultra-thin wheels, an ultra-light frame and a matte black finish.
He’s not sure where cycling will take him, but he plans to start a Philly kids’ cycling club and maybe get into racing one day.
âI think not forcing anything has gotten me pretty far right now,â Shabazz said. “I’m just going to continue to be a voice of positivity and inclusion for others in space and keep doing things with intention.”