FIVE LOADED QUESTIONS
for Juan Orellana
Q: That smile is legendary. Does your mouth actually have a corners-down mode?
A: You know what my job is, right? I challenge anyone to spend time on a SkyBike – any bike, for that matter — and not smile from ear to ear. I believe there’s a biological benefit, delivering more oxygen to your heart.
Q: What got your interest rolling in road bikes?
A: I seem to have done a lot of things backward in life. I’m Guatemalan, but raised in Pasadena, CA. I didn’t even speak Spanish until a family situation routed me back to Guatemala at age 10. I was shocked. No running water, no Frosted Flakes for breakfast, no PB&J sandwiches. Plus, I couldn’t understand a thing at school. So, I’m essentially an American kid far from home with no parental supervision, and the owner of a great little scooter. My cousin was a talented cyclist and wanted a road bike badly, so I traded my scooter for one. He was overjoyed, and the feeling hooked me forever. The best thing in the world is to make other people happy.
I came back to the USA, to West Palm at age 15. After a period of crazy-long hot showers and wolfing one peanut butter sandwich after another, I got to work so I could buy my first road bike – a Trek 1000. From those humble beginnings, I ended up buying and managing a bike store in Boynton Beach with my business partner, former pro golfer Robert Afton.
Q: How did your worst professional setback lead you to the joy of Skybike manager?
A: A rapidly expanding nationwide bike store chain acquired my store, and I became an investment partner. Its expansion, however, was a little too rapid for the economy at the time and we ended up in bankruptcy. Anyone who’s been through that can tell you it puts you back on your heels, and you re-evaluate everything. But because I was well connected in South Florida’s cycling community, Raphael Clemente, a former pro cyclist and now head of the West Palm DDA, reached out to me and asked if I knew someone who had the personality and knowledge to run the city’s new bike share program. The rest is history.
Q: How do you feel about being West Palm’s face of cycling?
A: I love our small city with its big-city ambitions. Bikes are just a tool to bring people together. They make the city more livable – more loveable. As West Palm evolves, I see the bicycle as a key in the shift to a happier, healthier, friendlier more sustainable community. I love the idea of connecting Clematis to the beaches to Old Northwood to CityPlace to The Warehouse District – and beyond. There’s no better way to experience downtown and its surroundings than by the seat of your pants.
Confirm or Deny: That you own boxers with a “sharrows” pattern.
A: I’m not sure if I should confirm this publicly, in case I get chased down by readers insisting that I prove it.
PHOTOS: GINA FONTANA & GREGORY DILLARD