The Stylish Persona of Taylor Phinney
The style and aesthetic of cycling is a bit of a mystery to those who don’t participate in the sport. However, fashion is central to those who love to ride. We’re honored to have renowned cyclist, Taylor Phinney give us an insider’s look at the stylish world of pro-cycling.
You’re from Boulder, Colorado, not exactly Paris or Milan. Where did you develop your sense of style?
I’m from Boulder where crocs were invented, not exactly a fashion hub. My family and I moved to Italy when I was 12 and lived there for 3 years, so I began to understand my sense of style from there. When I came back, I understood that jeans were supposed to fit. I credit my initial understanding of fashion from that time of my life. When I was 20, I turned pro with BMC and lived in Tuscany, Italy. I was being paid well and began to explore the fashion space in Italy. It’s a form of personal expression that I still enjoy to this day.
You’re an athlete, but also an accomplished artist. Why is self-expression important to you?
Self-expression is all you have as an individual. The world is very complicated, yet beautiful and simple. Every single human on the planet is unique and has their own way of expressing themselves; it reflects how you see yourself and how the world sees you. I believe that everyone is constantly expressing themselves at all times whether through their body language, or the way they speak… I’m more reflective now of that, it gives me satisfaction to discover my place in the universe. In that way art gives me satisfaction because it helps me figure out where I fit into the grand scheme of things.
Coming back from the accident, from an athletic standpoint and personal standpoint, what was your world like at that time?
I’ve learned a lot about myself during recovery. I’ve always been an expressive individual. After the accident, when I had my biggest form of expression taken away from me (my body), and I was “trapped” on a couch, I found that I naturally gravitated to finding some other type of artistic expression. I started flying planes at first because I missed the adrenaline rush. The greatest form of human mobility is being able to fly, and that helped me rediscover my love for just being able to ride my bike. I don’t know if I always had the appreciation for it, but being able to get back on my bike really helped me analyze all my thoughts and feelings on the open road; I had the ability to go anywhere. Along with that, I started painting and drawing which really took over my life. It’s just something I started doing and couldn’t stop. I’m satisfied by making something on a canvas that I like- it doesn’t matter if anyone else likes it. I just wanted to be able to share it with people in my life. For a while life was just about survival and passing on genes but now self-expression is all that’s really important.
How do you approach races differently post-accident?
It’s been both difficult and exciting. Any pro sport is its own bubble, and for cycling this is definitely the case. I came back into the cycling world feeling like I had just taken my mind and split it in half. Everyone watches what they’re eating and cared so much about these little races, and I was like, guys there’s a whole world out there! What are we doing? What mark on we leaving on the planet?
Through that questioning I rediscovered my love and passion for sporting events that take place on the world stage. Events like the one we’re competing in now (hint hint), it’s the ultimate sporting event. Really for any athlete. I’ve always had a love for it – especially with my parents’ athletic success. (Taylor is the son of former pro cyclists and Olympic medalists Davis Phinney and Connie Carpenter-Phinney). They literally stop wars for it. It really brings the world together and stops the world for a second – each respective country comes together to cheer on their racers. It’s easy to see the bigger picture in competitions like the Tour de France and the Classics. It’s more difficult to do the little races, all the dangers, taking the risks… So to answer your question, 1) It’s helped me rediscover my passion for big events and 2) It’s made it difficult to wrap my head around these little races that are dangerous.
The reboot for me post- accident was really reconnecting with the time-trial. It’s very painful and you’re by yourself and you get into this really intense crazy headspace where you’re just going from up to down… left to right, but there’s a real beauty to it that 99.9% of the population wouldn’t be able to understand. I’ve been doing a lot of meditation to help focus. You can learn a lot about yourself during the time trials, just as you do when you create something.
Art is a lot less painful than biking (laughs) but you still learn a lot about yourself.
Is there a transformation that happens when you put on your team BMC uniform?
Yeah, it depends on the intensity of the event. For example with the Tour de France, the National championships, I’m less talkative, I feel nervous. I’ve been trying to analyze what those nerves mean. For most of my career, I was trying to move away from nerves, but now I do the opposite and embrace the butterflies in my stomach. I’ve found that if I just feel them and try to digest them, that feeling isn’t bad. It’s a reminder that I’m alive and that what I’m doing is important and that I’m doing something that I care about.
Do you have any race-day fashion superstitions? (Example: Colored socks, bracelet?)
Not really – I think there is power in having some sort of trinket but I’m a forgetful person so I try not to rely on anything and go with the flow. I have my essentials, and that’s what I’m racing in.