Commuter since: 1999
Photo: Karl Laun
Workplace: Minneapolis (Warehouse District)
Bike shop: One on One Bicycle Studio, Minneapolis
How many bikes? Two, as soon as they replace the frame I totaled in my last “incident.”
The commuter bike: An '80s era Raleigh Super Course, donated by a friend who upgraded years ago and took pity when I totaled the frame (for the second time) on my Bianchi.
Equipage: A messenger bag is all I bring. At various times I’ve carried laptops, a 12-pack, a complete change of clothes, books and a pretty wide array of other items. You can figure out a way to transport more than you think.
Essentials: I try to travel light: besides my bag and whatever it’s holding at the time, headlamp, rear light, lock. I always wear “pants savers” when I’ve got long pants on.
Luxuries: I should add fenders, because I’ve ruined a couple pairs of pants with greasy road spray. It would be fun to get a bike computer for speed and distance.
Clothes: Lycra-free. Riding clothes are business casual when the weather is dry and not too hot (keep it on for work). When it’s hot or wet, riding clothes are stuff my wife wishes I’d thrown away with emergency clothes at work or something I haul in. I’ll throw a reflective vest on in the late fall when I’m riding home in the dark.
Typical route: I feel lucky to have a route that is almost entirely bike lane or bike path. I take the University of MN bus/bike route from the State Fairground to Dinkytown, wind through campus, head over the Stone Arch Bridge, jump on W. River Pkwy, and then I’m just a few blocks from my office in the Warehouse District of Minneapolis. It’s about 7.5 miles each way; 30 to 40 minutes, depending on energy levels, stoplights, and headwinds. See TCBike map.
What got you started? My initial goal was to get some exercise on a regular basis. With work and kids, and some apathy towards indoor exercise, I wasn’t getting to the gym. Seemed like a way to workout without taking much time out of the day.
How often? 4 or 5 days a week, March through November, depending on snowfalls. Not equipped for winter biking.
What makes it work for you? Casual attire is the norm in my workplace. Indoor parking for the bike. A route I really like. It’s not that much slower than car commuting, and on a sunny, 70 degree morning, the time flies.
The Best: I truly felt like an urban biker one weekend when my family was out of town. Stopped for a brief happy hour after work on Friday. Swung by my friend’s exhibit at a North Minneapolis art show on the way home. Went to the bank and other errands on Saturday. Took the bike to church on Sunday (12 mile round trip). Never started the car.
The Worst: The two trips to the ER, one of which I remember.
The Weirdest: I’ve killed two squirrels, without losing my balance either time.
The Funniest: “Pimp my bike” – the guy with the mullet, and an oversize sound system on a modified trailer. Very unique.
Favorite stop/sight: St. Anthony Falls any time of year, but especially after heavy rains or winter melt. When the wind is right and the falls are cooking, you can sometimes feel the spray. I’ve spotted herons, cormorants, and even a bald eagle from the Stone Arch Bridge.
Advice? Bikers, take a more considered approach than I did. Get a decent bike (not a $25 special with shot tires), figure out your route to maximize bike-friendly traveling, get comfortable gear, start slow if you need to – parking along the way to work and riding partway can be a more enjoyable (and sustainable) way to start than going from 0 to a 20-mile round trip the first day.
If you get serious, a back-up bike will avoid the frustration of missing the first beautiful day in two weeks because of a bike malfunction (or sacrificing your vanity by cranking up the seat on your partner’s bike so you can ride in on SOMETHING).
Motorists, when you see a bike, don’t throw the rulebook out the window. If you get to the 4-way stop first and the bike stops so you can take your legal turn – please take it!