Q&A With Nate English: Berkeley-Based Bike Guru

Cycling at Mt. Diablo
Cycling at Mt. Diablo Oleg Shpyrko
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When he’s not working at Mike’s Bikes in Berkeley or coaching athletes, Nate English is riding his bike – a lot.

For the last two years, the Berkeley resident has raced for the professional cycling team Kenda/5-hour Energy, and though he started out just running recreationally in college at UC Berkeley and riding his bike for fun, he quickly realized he actually wasn’t bad at this whole biking thing.

Whenever he rode with cycling friends, he could always keep up and generally felt pretty strong. “Oh, I thought, I seem to be halfway decent,” says English.

English threw himself into cycling in 2008 and proceeded to win nearly every local race available, upgrading from the lowest cycling category to the highest in just one year. He went on to win the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic in 2011 and took fifth in the time trial at the US Pro Nationals in 2012. And last year, English was 14th at the popular and prestigious Tour of California .

“It was a pretty fun experience,” says English. “I knew that everyone I know in the Bay Area would be following it.”

English is trying a triathlon this year, but he’s still keeping his regular schedule. He works at the bike shop most days and trains in the mornings up on the Strawberry Canyon Trail or swims at the pools on Berkeley’s campus. Compared to many of the professionals he's raced against, English keeps a relatively low-key schedule. He coaches himself, rarely trains more than 20 hours/week (compared to 30-35 for some of his competitors), and makes dinner at home.

And instead of peddling on the peloton, he’ll be out watching his friends in the Tour of California when they roll through later this month.

If you’re planning to watch the Tour of California when it cycles down the state, you won’t want to miss the stage up Mt. Diablo in the East Bay on May 13. “Diablo is the coolest, for sure,” says English. Expect the road up the mountain to be lined with people, costumes, and giveaways from local retailers and sponsors. Since the road is closed to cars before and after the professional riders come through, most spectators opt to bike up. Just remember to bring food and drinks. And sunscreen.

Veronika Lenzi

English actually rides Mt. Diablo in some form, either all the way or halfway or by making a big loop, once a week during a normal training block. It’s a local favorite that isn’t to be missed. The route most people consider “official” for bragging purposes – and the one that the Mt. Diablo Challenge bike race covers which you can still sign up for – starts at the Athenian School and heads up South Gate Road all the way to the summit.

But be warned: While it only takes English 43 minutes to get up the mountain, it may take you significantly longer.

The Tour of California runs May 11-18, starting in Sacramento and heading south.

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