Editor's Note: Since moving to Cincinnati in 2009, Sam Klontz has commuted from his downtown apartment to his office in northern Kentucky--about 25 miles round trip--via bicycle almost every day year-round. Co-founder of the Cincinnati-area amateur road cycling team BSM Cycling, Klontz sold his car last year and relies on his bike almost exclusively for transportation. Whether it's 90 degrees and sunny or 20 degrees and windy, he rides to work. Despite the extra hour he must allot for bike commuting each day, the extra clothing and food he must carry, and the inevitable sweatiness upon arrival at the office, he remains committed to bike commuting, and he considers himself to be a bike activist. In honor of Bike Month (and Bike to Work Week), I asked him to share his story, along with some photos from his daily commute. Above, you'll see the bike he rides daily, amid a parking lot packed with cars.
Story and photos by Samuel C. Klontz,
Bike Commuter and Co-Founder, BSM Cycling
My passion for cycling dictates most decisions I make. Transportation, vacations, clothing, 90% of my conversations with friends, and my spending habits can all be traced to a more than mild obsession with the bicycle. When I was asked to put into words some of the reasons why I bike commute it seemed like a simple and joyous task.
Then I sat down and began to think hard on why I started, where my motivation came from during the 5 degree winter days when I could barely feel my face, and how much longer I can live car free.
Creative juices did not immediately begin flowing as I had hoped. Then the proverbial lightbulb went off. I pumped up my tires, put on some BSM team spandex, and pedaled toward the deserted roads to get lost!
Over the last few days of riding to work, riding with friends, and riding to explore I have compiled a list of reasons that help me to explain my love to riding to inquisitive people. So here it goes ...
I ride to work because it helps to enjoy my commute to work as opposed to the disdain of being stuck in traffic.
I ride because for every honk, shout, near miss, or other safety concern, I hold the hope that one person comes to understand the importance of “sharing the road.”
I ride because burning calories instead of gas costs less for everyone.
I ride because even after almost 2 years of bike commuting, I still hold out hope that my company someday will provide in a locker room, shower, and place to hang my gear that is not all over my cubicle!
I ride to develop an intimate understanding of my city, its contours, its shortcuts, and hidden routes.
I ride because I am one against many, and like so many revolutions, it has to start with one!
Perhaps some of these will strike a chord with you. Regardless of what your reason(s) may be to get on a bike, consider the option of biking to work or one of your various destinations during the day and night. I am of the opinion that even the most novice of bikers belongs on the roads with cars. The best way to conquer fears is to face them and beginning a bike commuting routine by operating in a small radius will start you on the path. Consider setting a goal for yourself of not driving 3 days a week after work. If you have to run errands, can you bike to the destinations? Can things to be picked up fit in a backpack? Perhaps most importantly, are you comfortable being sweaty upon arrival?! If you live in an area that is simply deemed not safe to ride on certain roads, look for multi-use paths that get you close. The more time you spend on two wheels, the more you will develop your path of “least resistance,” that is the best roads that are mostly free of cars, that pass by the best coffee shops, parks or other points of interest.
To begin your adventure, you need to outfit your bike for the urban environment. Good tires are a must. Proper tread and tire inflation will not only help you stay upright, but absorb poor road surfaces to a degree. You also will want something resistant to punctures, because in our fast-paced environment, it can be aggravating and time consuming to stop and repair a flat.
Flat repair brings me to my next suggestion. Carry a patch kit. Odds are we all know someone who will come get us in a pinch, but why not be prepared to change a flat tire when it happens? This is a simple mechanical skill, but one that improves with practice. So expect frustrations and even making a few of those “HELP, I flatted” phone calls. Most local bike shops will happily show you how to repair a flat, even offering a basic class on how to maintain your bike.
Invest in some bike specific gear depending on the distance you plan to commute. Those “funny” shorts with the “butt-pad” are engineered as such for a reason. Spend some time riding without them, (maybe 10+ miles) and you will understand. As in most outdoor athletics, layers are crucial. The weather in Ohio and Kentucky changes by as much as 20 degrees from my morning to evening commutes. Some mornings I have barely any skin exposed to the wind, and I may be in short sleeves and shorts on the way home.
The MOST important is without a doubt visibility. If you will be riding at low light conditions equip lights to your bike. And always stock a spare set in case the batteries are low or they stop working for any reason. The brighter the better, those drivers need to see you! I do not go as far as the reflective yellow vests, or anything quite so bright. But when I see someone who is sporting their RYV, I have likely seen them before they have seen me. And thus their clothing did its job. Your senses will be heightened when you step into the drivers’ arena, and in most situations you will find yourself acting first to preserve your own safety. But as cyclists sharing the roads with drivers, we must make their jobs easier in seeing us, and being predictable in our movements.
Finally, go forth and ride. If you take nothing else away from my musings, it is that riding a bike is incredible fun and great exercise for the body and mind. The best cyclists I know, whether they are competitive, commuters, young, or seasoned, have that commonality: they ride their bikes, as much as they can, and enjoy as many revolutions of the pedals as possible. Most of us who ride do double duty as drivers. We may see that “crazy” person biking to work throughout the year and wonder how they do it . . . I am here to tell you that one day they decided they would just give it a try and see how it felt. Best of luck to you in your cycling endeavors. (Check out SparkPeople's article, "A Beginner's Guide to Biking to Work."
Would you give bike commuting a try?
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