My early cycling inspirations came from two certified weird-o climbers.
The first was a guy named Stephen Freas who camped out in a rock house at Pebble Beach in the Red River Gorge one winter and worked on freeing an old aid route called Halloween. I don't know how close he came, but he was the hardest core dirtbag I ever met.
He rode his mountain bike around and told tales of being a bike messenger in DC and of riding across Colorado in 11 hours. I am skeptical about his Colorado story, but it still inspired me. When Steve was in Chattanooga going to school I considered riding from Slade, KY down to see him. Never panned out, but it got me thinking.
My other inspiration was a one shot deal. Mark "Wood Hippie" was a fixture around the Red for a few years, though I don't know that he was ever much of a climber. But one Friday evening he rolled into Miguel's and said he had just ridden from Lexington in five hours. That blew me away. Now, looking back on it that doesn't seem like so much, but at the time riding a bike 50+ miles seemed like quite the accomplishment to me.
Those two people made me think differently about the bike. It was in the months not too long after meeting Steve that I started riding my bike a whole lot more and over much greater distances.