Over coffee at Rapha Clubhouse in Boulder, we talked to Rocco Orlando about why he rides, his three favorite road rides, and the custom Pinarello Dogma F100 Giro Limited Edition bike that will be available November 17 on our site.
Why do you ride?
When I was a kid I had lots of anxious energy and I needed an output, I found it in movement. I was constantly moving.
While serving in the military for 10 years with multiple deployments, I ran and hiked lots to quell my anxiety, but it was never enough.
After the military, I had a high-paying job that demanded long-hours. To reduce stress, I'd go to the gym and complete 90-minute Stairmaster workouts, and like my activity in the military, it wasn’t enough for me to feel good. I still experienced panic attacks, anxiety, and depression.
I needed to somehow overcome this recurring condition that had plagued me since childhood. On a whim, I decided to move to Colorado for its mountains. I had never really skied. I was out of my element but was determined to learn. Then I discovered ski-mountaineering.
I would get up at 4:30 am, skin to the top of the ski-resort mountain by 5, and downhill to the base sometimes in below 20-degree temperatures. While it helped calm my nerves, it was a lonely activity.
I was swapping out some of my ski gear after my first winter season and looked around the shop, across the room a bike caught my eye. It was a Cervelo S3. Until this day, I had only ridden a bike to get around town.
The electronic shifting blew my mind, the aerodynamic technology was similar to Formula One cars which I'm passionate for. I was immediately hooked and on a whim I bought it.
I quickly learned by trial and error how to shift, ride up hills, and descend down the mountain canyons. In the first month, I rode over 2,000 miles. Within a couple months I got a coach and by July was racing crits. It was a rush but more importantly, it lifted me up, and gave me an identity outside of the military.
I found myself every night studying the science of how to increase my performance on the bike and then I would get excited about creating unique bike builds.
Now, I go to bed excited about my ride for the next day. Cycling has given me a renewed sense of purpose, I am autonomous and in control of my day. Compare this to the military where a commander would give me orders. Having control of my life through cycling has helped me overcome the depression and anxiety that I’ve experienced since youth then magnified when in the military.
Most important, cycling gives me a community. As an introvert, it’s challenging for me to meet new people. Joining Rapha and participating in their rides gives me a way to meet other cyclists in a welcoming space.
If you could be transported to 3 road rides anywhere in the US, what rides would you choose?
Two are in Colorado, which I have ridden, and one in Southern California, which I want to ride.
- Boulder through Lyons to Peak to Peak, then I have 20 miles of stupendous views of the Continental Divide and down through Ward or Nederland.
- Start in Vail up, ride through Minturn, up to Leadville, up Fremont Pass and ride back to Vail.
- Malibu Canyon Loop. Park on the east side of Topanga and climb up and over towards the ocean. Ride up Malibu Canyon, and then down and back into Calabasas then ride back to the ocean via Latigo Canyon.
Tell us about your Pinarello Dogma F100 Giro Limited Edition Bike, why did you customize it with pink and what was your reasoning for the component group.
For the components, there was no choice! I had to pick all Italian to reflect the heritage of Pinarello. This meant outfitting the bike in Campagnolo versus Shimano. In my opinion, Campagnolo brakes are better than disc brakes. I fly down Flagstaff and the bike quickly brakes. Except for the brake cables, everything else is internal so it’s not a hot mess. I like organization and structure where everything is in it's correct place, you should see my house!