“Just do it, f@cker.” This is what my brother Brendan told me when I asked him for bike commuting advice. It is, by the way, the most Brendan response possible, except for maybe snarf, snarf, snarf. BrendO is justified in his snarky retort though. Really, bike commuting is quite simple. Step one, get bike. Step two, sit on bike. Step three, now bike, silly. But if you’re like me, talking myself out of a cruise on my townie for a chores run or a coffee shop visit is far too easy. Ya know, because it’s kind of gray out or it might start to rain later or I might have to carry something cumbersome or blah, blah, blah. I’m just acting lame or lazy or I feel indolent complaining justifies a three block drive. The snow has almost all but disappeared on the streets of my Colorado hometown. It’s time to roll and roll often, and so should you.
My current schedule is a little funky. I have been traveling for work a lot recently, which in the outdoor industry is known as super duper rad, bro. But all this travel means that when I come home I draw the blinds in my office, lock the door, drink 17 pounds of coffee, and write most, if not all, of my ass off. I’ll do this for a few days and then it’s back to travel time for a handful of days doing something cool outside. During time at home, a Main Street cruise can unfortunately be my only outdoor adventure, so talking myself out of it is not only lame, but also a poor mental, physical, and spiritual health choice.
A healthier lifestyle is a positive byproduct, sure, but being a kid again made Phoenix resident Ed Buckel get on his road steed. “I was big into bikes when I was younger but my priorities changed once I got a driver’s license,” Buckel recalls. “A few years ago, kind of out of nowhere, the idea of cruising around my neighborhood sounded like fun. So, I did and it immediately rekindled my long lost love of bikes. I jumped in headfirst. Riding my bike just takes me back to my childhood. It’s hard not to smile and enjoy the ride.”
Buckel rolls through his neighborhood daily now and rides nearly 20 miles each way to work a few times a week. At the beginning of each week, he brings extra biz clothes and toiletries to work. Riding to your job is awesome but attending a meeting in sweaty chomois and a pitted out Lycra jersey ain’t cool.
Along with deodorant and some clean slacks, Buckel changes his route every few months to keep things fresh. He uses apps like Bikemap, BikeBrain, or Google Maps to plan his path. “I’ll admit, it’s a thrill to walk into the office with my bike and see everyone’s amazement that I didn’t drive,” Buckle explains. “It’s an even bigger thrill to have people in the office say I inspired them to buy a bike or ride their old bike that’s been sitting in their garage for years.”
For Denver-ite Meghan MacDonald, after years of highway frustrations, returning to her bike was a relief. “I used to work out in Aurora and had a 40-minute commute by car each way,” she says. “As soon as I got a job that was a 15-minute bike ride from my house, I immediately got myself a sweet new commuter bike.” It’s faster for MacDonald to bike than it is to drive. Denver, you may have heard, is a bit, ahem, crowded these days. She takes great pride in blowing past idling cars filled with traffic jam angst. No matter the time of year or weather—her new snow bike is the bee’s knees—she rolls to work.
According to MacDonald, the key for a happy bike commuting life is not pinching pennies. “The cheap man pays twice,” she kids. “Spending a little extra money for a decent bike is huge.” To make the ride more enjoyable and to keep her back from breaking, MacDonald packs her belongings in her bike’s panniers and reminds herself that she is not in a peloton. “Commuting is not an athletic event. You don’t need to go overboard with the spandex to ride your bike. I ride in the same thing I wear to work, heels included. No problem.”
My brother Brendan O’Connell also wears high heels when he’s bike commuting (Burn!). Just kidding. He wears whatever his wife Yvette lays out for him that morning (Double burn!). Brendan started biking around Chicago more than a decade ago, both out of financial necessity and to combat the lovable O’Connell pudge from getting too out of control. “I think it was a combination of wanting to get some physical activity, save money by not spending it on the train, and environmental concerns,” he says. “I’ve been doored only once, which is pretty good for 12 years of biking…knock on wood.”
BrendO is many things, a talented musician, a grower of a disgusting neck beard, and an incredible father. He’s passing along bike commuting altruism to his children. “We try to talk to the kids about our carbon footprint with cars, public transportation, and biking as much as we can,” B says. “Of course they complain occasionally but learning to bike whenever possible is an essential lesson for the health of our planet and yourself. More often than not, they dig it.”
Carbondale, Colorado biker Brian Holcombe is also passing along a life on two wheels to his children. “I remember cruising all over town when I was a kid,” he says. “It was such freedom. And our world is facing some big issues, obviously, from a resource-scarcity and ecological perspective. I like to think that riding bikes is one small thing, among many, that our family can do to make a difference in our little town.”
Holcombe started cruising in college and has tried to ride or take mass transit ever since. In fact, biking is at the center of his family’s origin. Holcombe’s “meet cute” with the love of his life, his future wife, and eventual mother of his children was on a bike. Holcombe and his future bride, Tracy, met at the local watering hole. After close, when Holcombe was stranded due to a bike lock malfunction—combinations are hard to remember when you’re a few pitchers deep—Tracy rolled up on a tandem with an empty backseat (place audible “awwww” here). “I had been immediately interested in her when we met, but it was full on from that moment,” Holcombe recalls. They used that same tandem in their wedding two years later.
As for advice to those thinking of making cruising a more significant part of their life, Holcombe offers similar advice as my brother, albeit in a PG manner: “Do it! Get a bike that you love, put on a front and rear light and baskets, and make yourself some reasonable goals. You don’t have to start out by demanding that you ride to work every day. How about twice a week? Or that trip to the grocery store? Pedal it. Who knows, in 15 years you might be the wonk that’s putting on every layer in the closet to commute when it’s 15-degrees out and snowing.” It’s time to roll, friends.
Photo by Ezra Caldwell/Fast Boy Cycles
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