We sat down with T.J. Eisenhart, an American cyclist currently riding for the Hincapie Racing Team, to get the scoop on all things cycling, training, and his passions outside of the sport. Here's what we found out.
What first drew you to the sport of cycling?
When I was 8 years old, my family and I traveled to Spain to visit my brother. While we were there we had the incredible opportunity to see the Tour de France race through the Pyrenees in northern Spain. Ever since that first experience, it became a tradition to watch the Tour [de France] every July. I remember absolutely falling in love with the sport as I sat there with my family watching it on TV. Finally, when I turned 11, my dad got me a bike to ride with him and my brother. To this day, I still remember that day so clearly. The bike was a burgundy Trek with little flacks that would sparkle in the sun, with gold highlights. I was so excited to finally get out and ride with my idols, my pops, and my brother!
What’s your favorite time of day and place to ride?
Because I’m an artist as well, I absolutely adore beautiful lighting! I love waking up to catch the sunrise to witness that beautiful first light as it hits the red rock and desert of southern Utah where I live. But I always take a little spin on my town bike with my beautiful fiancé to go catch the sunset. That’s more of a time to purely enjoy the day, to pay gratitude to the great day that we were given with the love of my life.
What is your training regime like? Break it down for us.
So right now because it gets so hot in southern Utah, I wake up at 5:30 am, walk downstairs to make a fresh cup of coffee and eat a great breakfast (usually some pancakes). As I eat I’ll listen to music and start to think about the training I have for that day. I’m usually out on the bike by 7 am. My training varies based on the time of the season and what races are about to come up. Usually will head out do a nice 30min warm up, after that it’s interval after interval. Once I’m back from training, I love spending my day with my fiancé. When she leaves for work that’s when I’ll go out to my art studio to start painting. Painting is my outlet, especially when training is super hard. It’s a great balance in my life.
Tell us a little more about the turquoise necklace you wear around your neck when you ride.
My turquoise necklace...ha that is a funny story. The necklace belonged to my mama. One day I was looking for some hair product and opened a drawer in the bathroom. It instantly felt like it just floated up from the drawer. I instantly fell in love with it. I thought the color was absolutely gorgeous. I put it on and I haven’t taken it off since. The next day I keyed to team camp with the Holowesko Citadel boys. On the first ride, everyone was joking about it. When we got to the first climb of camp I ripped up the climb. When I got to the top Brian said to me, “Dang man, you killed it. Think how fast you would have gone without the rocks around your neck.” I said back to him, “These are the only reason I went as hard as I did.” As I thought more and more about what it meant to me, I realized it was this constant reminder to slow down and enjoy life. It turned into this totem, always this reminder to keep me centered.
You travel all over the world for races. Where is your favorite place you’ve traveled to and why?
I get asked this question all the time and this is such a hard question to answer,. I truly feel like there is beauty all around this incredible planet. Some of my absolute favorite places I’ve been probably would be Colombia, Japan, and Croatia. Those three really stand out to me. I love the vibes I’ve experienced at all three.
What is your primary goal for your cycling career?
This is honestly something I’ve asked myself a lot recently. I used to have these goals of winning the Tour de France or all these other races. But as I’ve come to find myself, as I’ve realized more of what my purpose is in this life, as I’ve met the love of my life, my dreams changed. My greatest goal in this sport is not to win crazy big races; that would just be a bonus. My greatest goal in this sport and in my personal life is to spread love. In cycling everyone is crazy about rider's weight and power. I ride to find vibes, not power. What I mean by vibes is that feeling I feel while on the bike, that special moment when it feels like you are the only human on this planet, when you feel your breath, breathing in and out. It’s when the mind starts to fade from the fatigue of training and you start to allow yourself to be one with your surroundings. If I catch that feeling, whether it's for one second or for a few hours, it doesn’t matter. Just as long as I catch that vibe.
What are two things you can’t live without while on a ride?
Definitely my phone and my earbuds. I love, love, love listening to music. I love when the pedal strokes align with beats of a song. My phone because it supplies the music and also to take photos. I love to share my experiences or feeling or the vibe I feel while out riding.
You are also an accomplished painter. How long have you been painting for and what is your favorite medium/style?
I’ve been practicing art since I was a baby. I remember my mama would always buy me a sketchbook to sketch to keep me quiet during church.. From that, my mama saw that I absolutely love drawing. He saw my potential in my art since I was a small child. So she signed me up for art classes to learn and expand my knowledge. I’m so grateful to her for pushing me in my art. Now my favorite medium to work with is acrylic paint, but I also use a lot of different mediums in my art now. I start with charcoal and move to the acrylic and depending on the piece, I will also use spray paint.
You depict an Astronaut often in your paintings. Does it have any special meaning?
Yeah, the Astronaut was a complete accident. My sister asked me to paint an astronaut for her little boy for Christmas. So I did, and next thing I knew it exploded. People loved the piece, so I kept painting him and later began calling him the Explorer. Now, the idea behind the Explorer is to not fear this world, your mind, your soul, or who you truly are. The Explorer I made was a representation of me. As I would go out and travel or train or truly any experience I would have, I would think about the feeling I would feel. I always start with the background first. That’s where I put the vibes and the feelings. Then I add the Explorer. To me, it’s him exploring that feeling. I want everyone to feel this. Not to fear, but to explore.
Favorite Rhone products?
In all honesty, there is not a piece we received that I don’t love. All the products fit very well and are super comfy, but yet amazing looking. That’s super hard to have comfort and style in one. However, I love the Micro Terry shorts and the Reign short sleeve shirt. So comfortable!
To see more from T.J. follow him on Instagram: @tjeisenhart