One Man's Journey From Alcoholism to Becoming The 'Forrest Gump of Sober Cycling'

By David Konow 11/07/16

Nick Basalyga is on a mission to help others battling addiction utilize cycling to stay on the wagon. 

One Man's Journey From Alcoholism to Becoming The 'Forrest Gump of Sober Cycling'

For many, exercise is a very important part of the recovery process. For one man, cycling has been the key to sobriety, and he wants to get people pedaling towards recovery with his non-profit group, In the Saddle. calls Nick Basalyga “the Forrest Gump of sober cycling.” In July he completed a marathon run from San Francisco to his native Pennsylvania, and he’s planning another bike ride so he can raise money for In the Saddle. “It’s a play on the addiction term ‘on the wagon,’” Basalyga explains. “And also the sentiment ‘I’m doing good. I’m back in the saddle.’ The other piece, of course, is that bike seats are called saddles.”

Basalyga wants addicts to see bicycling as a good way to spend productive time with others in recovery. “We’ll do group rides, community service, and support each other throughout our recovery,” he said.

Like many who struggle with addiction, Basalyga followed in his father’s footsteps. Basalyga started drinking at 16 and recalled that he “enjoyed the taste of beer, but I always drank to get drunk.” Basalyga was a promising soccer player until his alcoholism got in the way, and after a blackout that happened on Mother’s Day weekend, he finally called it quits. “My mom had already dealt with an alcoholic and now I saw how she’d have to deal with another.”

Once Basalyga got a Secteur brand bike, he found a great way to stay in shape and stay clean. “It totally lifted my spirit,” he says. “I mostly rode alone, but I felt free, confident, and at peace with the changes I had continued to make in recovery.”

Basalyga, who is currently six years sober, can still feel tempted to drink, but putting in some serious miles on his bike sets him straight. “Even now, six years into being sober, I know if I’m not exercising, being around people in recovery, and giving back to my community, I start to rationalize sliding back into bad behavior. And that’s the model I’ve used to build In the Saddle.”

Basalyga is hoping to raise $250,000 to secure a meeting place for In the Saddle and purchase cycling gear. He admits he’s nowhere near that amount right now, “but we’re far from the end, so I’m hopeful we’ll get there.”

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.