Get Familiar: Duke Agyapong
We would like you to get familiar with Duke Agyapong, an extraordinary cyclist based in London. Born and bred in this bustling city that Patta has been very active in, even before the Patta London chapter opened. Duke's roots trace back to Ghana, where Duke fondly calls home. With an unwavering passion for cycling, Duke's mantra is simple yet powerful: to inspire others to ride, just as they were inspired to pick up a track bicycle and conquer boundaries. Duke's journey in the cycling world revolves around training, racing, and pushing the limits of their abilities. However, Duke’s impact extends beyond just personal achievements. Duke proudly represents Mash SF and Fixedgearlondon, two prominent names in the cycling community, embodying their spirit and ethos through his riding.
By fearlessly taking on challenges, Duke Agyapong exemplifies the transformative power of cycling, demonstrating how it can transcend borders and unite people from diverse backgrounds. Through their dedication and perseverance, Duke encourages others to embrace the freedom and joy that cycling brings, irrespective of the obstacles that may exist.
In this interview, we delve into Duke's inspiring journey, exploring the motivations that led them to pursue cycling, the values they embody through their riding, and the impact they aim to make in the world of cycling. Join us as we discover the fascinating story of Duke Agyapong and the incredible energy it brings to the London cycling scene and beyond.
Can you tell us about how you first got into cycling and what drew you to the sport?
I first got into cycling through fixed gear. In seeing Massan Fluker shred San Francisco on the MashSf tape, it made me want to at least try cycling myself. Growing up in south west London I didn't really get to experience the rest of London - and the track bike was the perfect tool for exploring. The wonder of exploring is what keeps me always coming back to cycling.
How has your experience as a bike mechanic influenced your approach to riding and racing?
If anything - my experience as bike mechanic has taught me that there's ALWAYS a lot more to learn! I also apply that to riding and racing, asking all the questions to find what works for me.
You mentioned that your main cycling disciplines are fixed gear, track cycling, gravel, and road. How do you balance training and competing in these different disciplines?
My current goal is to build a strong enough fitness base that can support all the disciplines. I'm still quite new to racing, so would like to soak in all the experience and make them transferrable. If you look at Tom Pidcock, Justin Williams, Alec Briggs - they all have experience from other disciplines! Whether it helps with handling or having an insane engine. Having fun is always the primary goal, so it makes switching between disciplines a lot easier!
What does your ideal training ride look like, and how do you stay motivated during long rides?
My ideal training ride is a long one! Roughly 130miles -65 miles rolling along b roads to Cambridge. Have lunch somewhere, and then ride 65 miles back! I stay motivated through knowing that my journey may help someone else. Whether it's someone dealing with depression or someone wanting to get into cycling. Plus getting to ride your bike is a privilege in itself, it's given me so much, so being able to share it with others is a blessing.
Can you tell us about your favorite race that you’ve competed in, and what made it so special for you?
Mission crit 2018. Hugely grateful to James Grady for throwing this race in San Francisco every year. It was the year I flew out for mission crit, I didn't have the best cornering skills as of yet - but I had a blast regardless! I raced the B race and filmed a MashSf segment not long after. Being out there really broadened my horizons - showing me that bikes really are a tool, connecting you to an international community. I got back to London, started riding my bike more and won 2 road crits a month later. So I guess that trip really pushed me to keep going!
You mentioned San Francisco as your favorite place to ride. Can you describe some of your favorite routes or experiences while cycling in the area?
My favourite route in San Francisco was a route that Gino took me on. It took us across the golden gate bridge all the way to Mount Tam (Mt Tamaplais). From navigating the grid system plus the up and down hills of the city - to the mountain climbs and breathtaking scenery. We even managed to ride through a fog as we were so high up! It was a perfect balance between chaos and serenity.
How do you approach racing against different levels of competition, from local riders to World Tour?
My approach to racing and riding different levels of competition has always been the same - just give it a good go and learn as much as you can! Red Hook Crit was a race that brought riders of all levels together. From alleycat racers to world tour level riders. Ide Schelling being an example, racing around Brooklyn to now racing for Bora-Hansgrohe. There's always so much to learn, so showing up and holding on and giving it a good go can benefit you in ways you might not even know.
What advice do you have for someone who is just starting out in cycling and looking to improve their skills and fitness?
My advice would be to just keep it fun and if you want to improve fitness too - keep it consistent! It's a tough balance to achieve at times, but the benefits are incredible. Plus learning new skills can really boost your confidence on a bicycle!
What role does cycling play in your mental health journey?
In the past, cycling became a way for me to punish myself especially when I was having a bad episode with my depression. But I've since managed to work through it and cycling is now something I'm really enjoying again. Cycling helps me process. It helps me stay grateful and really see the good things in life. Being able to escape outside of my mind both physically and mentally sometimes gives you more perspective and things often don’t seem as bad.
What advice would you have for someone looking to begin their mental health journey?
My advice would be to take it slow and to be kind to yourself. In my experience, being kind to myself includes taking care of myself. Do the things that make your days easier and don't be too hard on yourself as there will be days where you can't show up. Trying your best has many different forms but the hardest step is always usually the first. It's definitely a journey with good and bad parts, breakthroughs and what can feel like setbacks sometimes, but trust that the journey in itself is worth it.
How has traveling the world through cycling opened up your eyes?
Travelling the world through cycling has opened my eyes to the infinite possibilities there are out in the world. Growing up, I didn't think that cycling was a sport for black people because I didn't see many black faces. Only in researching about its history did I see faces that resemble mine through Major Taylor. The importance of representation! Travelling the world gave me people to look up to and learn from in a way that connects to me as a black person.
Is there enough queer representation within cycling and what step do you feel need to be made?
Along with black representation, there is nowhere near enough queer representation. However I do feel there is change on the way. Albeit slowly but surely. Cycling still has a long way to go and I think the next step that could be taken is in creating more safe and inclusive spaces. There are a lot of clubs that have now taken the steps necessary and I see a lot more representation locally - however it still has a way to go before we see queer representation on the world tour stage.
What advice would you have for someone looking to get into cycling?
Get a bike (inexpensive or as expensive as you would like!) find some friends or a group. Solo is fine too! Just go and have fun. Turn the pedals! It’s not always about going fast, racing - there’s many forms cycling comes in, you just have to find what works for you most importantly. Find what makes you smile!