Women’s Cycling Interview: Coach and Racer Joy McCulloch


Joy McCulloch
Photo: Danny Munson

Joy McCulloch is a coach and elite cyclist from California. Through years of experience working with riders of all abilities, she offers some solid advice for women looking to reach their potential in bike racing.

Name: Joy McCulloch
Age: 34
Hometown: Angwin, California
Residence: Yucaipa, California
Work: Owner and Head Coach, Big Wheel Coaching

What are some of your earliest memories about bikes?
At 5, I was riding down our long gravel driveway with my brother, sister and baby sitter. I biffed it and split my chin open, receiving my first five stitches. I kept riding my bike to commute to the pool, hang out with my friends and stay in shape to play basketball all the way through college.

What brought you to the sport of cycling?
After spending the summer between high school and college teaching mountain biking in North Idaho, I fell in love with the dirt and two wheels, leading me down the long road of competition. This road led to me becoming a pro mountain bike racer and eventually crossing into the elite road racing field.

What do you love about bike racing?
I love the challenge of racing bikes. I have learned it is a chess game and usually the strongest racer doesn’t win. Learning the art of racing is really rewarding and being crafty in the races can be so much fun! I also love being able to see new places and exploring different cities while traveling to races around the country.

What is it about bike racing that motivates you to put in all the hard work and endure the suffering that goes along with it?
Training can be really draining mentally and physically. I always think that the races will feel “easy” after all the torture I have put myself through during training. All the hard work gives me confidence to go into the races prepared on and off the bike to reach my goals. These goals can be really diverse! Whether it is to win, not get dropped, finish in the top 50 percent of the peloton – they are all equally important.

Where do you enjoy riding your bike the most?
At home, for sure! We live at the base of the San Bernardino Mountains, and I can ride my bike for four hours with only hitting one stop light. I really enjoy riding new places in diverse cities, but when I am able to clip into my pedals at home, I sigh a big sigh of relief knowing that I don’t have to think about where to go, what intersections to avoid, or how to get back home. I can just RIDE.

What advice would you give an aspiring cyclist?
We all started where they are! It may have been last year or 15 years ago, but each cyclist has gone through the pains, stress, fears, and challenges that the new rider will encounter. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other riders and racers to ask questions and be mentored through the process.

What advice would you give someone who wants to start racing?
Join local group rides where you can fine-tune your group riding skills and ability to be confident handling your bicycle. Fitness is only half the battle for a bike racer. Being able to handle your bike safely within the group is paramount. Taking part in group rides, you will experience a high learning curve in a less competitive environment so that when you go to the races, you will already have the tools to successfully handle and race your bike.

And race A LOT, as often as you can. Each time you race, have a goal such as not breaking in the turns, moving up through the group, conserving energy and more. Although you would love to win, that is secondary to learning the craft of bike racing.

What advice do you give to women who are new to riding a bike?
Ask questions and find a mentor or group that you feel comfortable with. Cycling is an extremely social sport and doing it with others can be very motivating and encouraging. Joining a local club or group can be the key to keeping you excited about riding, training and racing. It can also help break down some barriers and give you a platform to ask a lot of questions of experienced cyclists.

What is your biggest cycling goal?
To keep improving in fitness and in racing savvy! I see more wins and team results on my horizon as well!

What cycling accomplishment are you most proud of?
I have had the honor of being a domestique for some of the most amazing women in the peloton. I love being part of a team result, and I have been able to be part of several yellow-jersey teams on the NRC circuit. These experiences have been extremely enriching and have challenged me beyond anything I could have ever imagined. This spring, I won the SCNCA Elite Women's Criterium Championship race and the SCNCA Elite Women's Time Trial. Having one, let alone two, championship jerseys is something I never thought was possible! Being a bike racer has been a gift.

Other than race results, what kind of impression do you want to leave on the world of cycling?
I would like the world of cycling to see that I am a fierce competitor who is gracious in victory and in defeat. I also would liked to be viewed as a rider who embodies the definition of a teammate to a “t”, while bringing out the best in those around me while laying it all on the line.


What is your favorite non-cycling activity?
I really enjoy working with my coaching clients, who range from recreational athletes to elite racers. They are so much fun! I also have a lot of fun going to TRX and yoga classes with my friends – great way to connect and exercise.

What do you do in your downtime?
I really love food! Making food at home is the coolest and sharing it my husband, Brian, makes my day. I also love to write and blog, but those have really been put on the back-burner.

What kind of offseason vacations do you take?
My husband and I got married over Labor Day weekend because we knew it would be race-free and he would have a holiday off of work! We went to the Grand Tetons for our honeymoon, so we have kept the tradition alive by going to local state parks for hiking and mountain biking. One day, you will find us in a Eurovan traversing the local mountains to get recharged.

If you weren’t a cyclist, what would you be doing?
I want to be a chef! I can also see myself being a physical education teacher again and working more with kids. I really enjoy interacting with people and helping them achieve their goals, so I can see myself being more entrenched in the fitness industry, working one-on-one with people of all walks of life.

What non-cycling athletes or teams do you root for?
I really like the Baltimore Orioles since I got to go to games for $3 there during junior high. And UConn women’s basketball for sure.

Do you have a nickname?
JoyJoy and Big Wheel are the most recent ones.

What’s your favorite movie/book/song/dance move?
I don’t dance; strange, I know! I really like the movie “So I Married an Ax Murderer”. I’m just getting back into reading (listening) to books and I loved Racing in The Rain. The song that just about sums me up is “Happy” by Pharrell Williams.

If you were on the Price Is Right, what would your dream Showcase Showdown be?
I have to admit, I have never watched the Price is Right! I grew up without a TV which did well for my imagination. But my dad always told me that if I won a truck from the radio to take the cash-value so I could pay the taxes. So I am going to go with CASH!

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