Recently, we received a letter that was mildly critical of the
staff of Bicycling Life for not identifying ourselves better. There is a reason for a lack
of clarity at the masthead; we are an impromptu association without much organization, and
we expect our numbers will grow. Besides, few web sites clearly identify their owners,
webmasters, and writers, and the organizational sites are the worst at doing so. We have
provided a clear statement of our purpose and policies and have signed all of our
articles; how many sites have that? Nonetheless, we must rise to the challenge. However,
rather than giving unimportant details, we are going to tell a little about each of us and
then a lot about how we bicycle to work.
Frank is a 52-year-old college professor living in Ohio who's been riding to work for
23 years. He is married and has two grown children. His beard is greying. He is fairly
introspective, decidedly musical, just a little contrarian and just a little overweight.
He is not into spectator sports or TV. He's a certified Effective Cycling Instructor, and
past president and current safety chairman of his bike club.. He is the guy who knows all
about bikes in his community.
Frank commutes a 1972 Raleigh Super Course which he has rescued and upgraded, including
special braze-ons, such a cantilever bosses, but Frank still uses toe clips, friction
shifting, and 27" wheels. The bike is equipped with racks and fenders. He uses a
generator light, and both front and rear blinkies. He and his wife Peg have
Cannondale touring bikes, a tandem, mountain bikes, and a couple miscellaneous bikes
cluttering up the place.
Wayne lives in North Carolina and is 41, but he has been recently carded when buying
wine nonetheless. He and his wife Susan bike and hike a good bit. He says they are
vegetarian, but in a "normal way." He's a racer, fitness nut, jack of all
trades, master of none. Like Frank, he's also the local bicycling guru.
Wayne and Susan own 8 bikes, with the flagship being a Santana tandem. Wayne commutes
on a '83 hand built Trek that recently had its downtube warranty replaced by Trek. It has
friction shifters, SPD pedals, and home-built wheels. The race bike is a Rivendell, also
with friction! Susan's bike is a late 80's 12-speed celeste Bianchi Limited road bike. She
uses toe clips and straps and has a NightRider Pro 15 watt on the front of her bike and a
3 inch SAE amber reflector and red blinkie on the rear.
John is a 50-year-old software engineer living in Alaska who runs his own business. He
has been commuting full time since about '89 and part time before that.
John rides either of two mountain bikes to work in bad weather or the winter, one
equipped for rain with full fenders and the other equipped for snow and ice with studded
tires and shorty-fenders. Both have good bright light sets front and rear. He also rides a
recumbent bike which he says is not good on the ice but quite dry in the rain and a sporty
Canondale for summer days and fast commutes.
Bob has just turned 60. He is a librarian in Nebraska, and has been commuting to work
since 1973. He enjoys music (especially classical and swing), reading, and Nature. He is
married and has two sons in their late teens.
Bob has ridden a Specialized Crossroads Elite for four years (11,000 miles to date). He
rode a spiffy Austro-Daimler AD-10 for 18 years before that. He has a blinkie on the back
of his helmet, and a VistaLite 10-volt sealed-lead rechargeable battery light on the front
of his bike.
Our Commutes to Work
|Miles to Work
Notes: 1 summer/winter; 2 would include 1/2 mile walk, so a 17
minute bus is substitued on rainy days
How do we dress on the way to work and clean up after we get there?
Frank is a teacher and ride in the clothing they will teach in, which no longer
includes a suit, but requires nice clothing. Frank wears dress shoes, and showers before
leaving and doesn't find a shower at work necessary. Frank wears a windbreaker, maybe a
sweater, and a rain cape when needed. Wayne is working at home, so "his"
distances above are for his wife Susan, who he usually accompanies, so he gets twice this
mileage. Susan is also a teacher, but wears athletic clothes on a vigorous ride and
showers at work. John is a software engineer, and he wears cycling clothes to commute. He
finds cleaning up unnecessary as he keeps his speed down going to work. He changes after
he arrives if he will be meeting customers. Bob wears dress clothes to bike and work in
when the weather permits--October to May. When Nebraska heat sets in, in May, he puts his
dress shirt and slacks in his backpack, and wears loose running shorts and an old shirt.
He has a washcloth and towel at work to wash off before he changes clothes in the summer.
Where do we put our bikes?
Frank just wheels his bike into a laboratory. Wayne, of course, rides back home, but
Susan parks hers just outside the building where she teaches, below her window. If it may
rain, she parks it on the other side of the building under cover. John puts his in a
covered alcove. Bob puts his in a corner of his work area in the library. He used to lock
it up outside the library--never had a problem there.
How do we carry stuff?
Frank has a handlebar bag that holds his bike stuff and cape or sweater and bungees his
briefcase onto the rear rack. Susan uses a messenger bag. John uses a fanny pack.
Bob has a backpack which he straps to his rear rack. It carries his lunch (as well
as clothes in the summer or when it's raining).
When do we not ride?
Frank uses a car when it's raining, below freezing, or when he's short on time. Susan
takes the bus on rainy days. John is not discouraged by even heavy snow and will take a
car only when he has a doctor or dentist appointment. Bob rides every day except when the
streets are slick with ice or snow, or when there's too much snow on the street to get
through. (Even then, he may ride sidewalks to get to cleared streets.) When it rains, he
just figures he'll get wet, so he wears old clothes and shoes, and carries a complete
change of clothes with him. He changes in the restroom at work.
What are our commuting routes like?
Frank's usual route is a residential road for half a block, across a busy arterial, a
short cut through a parking lot, a quarter mile ride on a handy pedestrian/bicycle path,
then roughly two and a half miles on a residential collector street with low to moderate
traffic, mostly wide enough to share lanes. The remainder is on arterials, but with mostly
low traffic. The last mile is on busy downtown streets, with one shortcut through a
parking lot. The trip to work is flat to downhill except for two short, steep hills in the
last mile. The trip home has one minor climb and one long, pretty steep one.
Wayne and Susan's route is one tenth of a mile of residental street, then three
quarters of a mile on a narrow two-lane collector which curves and has some limited sight
distance and hills. Then they travel down a hilly five-lane arterial with fifteen foot
outside lanes for about two miles. Finally, they wind their way through a congested
John uses mostly urban arterials, with half a mile of bike path that he often avoids as
it is usually unmaintained in winter. He crosses one limited access four-lane divided
highway (freeway if you will) at a stoplight-controlled intersection. He passes through
one other signalized intersection, and many stop sign intersections. Some sections are
almost rural in nature. Others are busy shopping centers. In the warmer months, John likes
to take a long ride on the way home at least three days of the week for at least twenty
miles. He rides down town to watch the tour ships come in, or he rides out to a glacier to
watch the tourists.
Bob rides a mile through residential areas (grid style streets) and a park--then half a
mile along a wide side street, not heavily traveled. The last half mile is along a one-way
downtown street, with several lanes, and parking on both sides. When he has time, he takes
"the long way home," a seven-mile ride. This starts out on heavily traveled
downtown streets where he always takes the lane, then moves to wide residential streets,
then narrow residential streets with parking on both sides. After three miles he gets onto
a bike path which at first parallels a highway, then follows an abandoned railroad line.
He gets off the bike path and rides residential streets again for a mile to get home.
There's a lot of shade on most of this route, except for the downtown section. Much of
this is fairly level, except for two hills--this is Nebraska, after all.
What benefits do we get from riding?
Frank writes: "Cycling keeps me in shape, physically and psychologically -- I feel
noticeably better on the days I ride. I like seeing spring develop, I love hearing
the first mockingbird of the year. I like varying my route (when I have time) and
exploring different neighborhoods on the way. I like getting an hour's ride in, at a 'time
cost' of only half an hour, since driving in the car is a complete waste of time. And I
guess I just like proving that you can use an environmentally beneficial mode of
transportation, yet hold a respectable professional position!"
Susan and Wayne try to use the appropriate technology for the task, and a bike is
perfect for their commute. They save the car for when it's really needed. The
early-morning exercise gives positive benefits throughout the day.
John writes: "I like it. It's cheaper. It keeps me in shape. I find a lot of tools
along the way ;-) I really like winter commuting in that it's usually quiet, peaceful and
Bob enjoys riding--being on a bike--as well as hearing cardinals calling, seeing bunny
rabbits and squirrels and flowers. He also enjoys not spending money, not polluting, not
having to worry about parking spaces and parking meters. He likes being physically fit,
which means he sometimes pushes the pace a bit--but is no racer! He'll take the bike to
return a video or pick up a gallon of milk, reserving the car for larger outings.
So that's who we are: middle aged professionals who love cycling and fit it into our
lives. What we do isn't especially adventurous, or difficult, or virtuous (well, maybe a
little virtuous), but we bicycle more for pleasure than for virtue. We ride because we
find it to be sensible, easy and fun. We ride because bicycling adds to our lives and
makes them better.
And of course, you're more than welcome to join us!