We're both 24.
ñ What is your occupation or area of study?
Riley is the online store manager for Batdorf and Bronson. He studied nature photography and evolutionary biology at The Evergreen State College. Marissa is a copy editor at a web-hosting company and studied political economy at Evergreen.
ñ What is your most frequent destination on your bike?
Going to work and running errands around town.
ñ How did you hear about the BCC?
We heard about the BCC through word of mouth.
ñ How many times have you participated in the Bicycle Commuter Contest?
This is our first year participating, although we've always wanted to do so.
ñ What got you started riding your bike to get around (practical cycling)?
When we were going to Evergreen, we lived so close to campus that it made more sense to ride our bikes to class and work on campus. It was actually faster than driving or taking the bus.
Last year we moved to Steamboat Island, since it's about a 20 minute drive to town, we realized that commuting by car wouldn't be cost effective due to gas and wear-and-tear on the car. But riding the bus would take nearly an hour which is the same amount of time, if not longer, than riding our bike to town. We resolved to begin riding daily.
ñ How many years have you been getting around by bike?
We started commuting by bike about three years ago to get to class and work at Evergreen. Then we started regularly grocery shopping with our bikes and worked up to daily cycling from there.
ñ Describe your current average or usual trip (distance, terrain, urban/rural, etc.)
Every morning we ride along Madrona Beach drive with the sun rising over Mud Bay and waterfowl welcoming us to our day. We start from home near Steamboat Island, ride ten miles to drop Marissa off at her office on the Westside, and then Riley continues solo on the tandem bike into downtown Olympia. The commute takes between 40-50 minutes depending on how energetic and fast we're going.
ñ How have you adapted your habits to make practical cycling work for you?
When we moved to Steamboat Island last summer we had to adjust our schedules to allow for more time to commute. We adopted a go-to-sleep early, rise-early mindset so we could have enough time. When we shifted to riding tandem instead of individual bikes coordinating in the morning became much more important. Marissa's job has flexible hours but Riley has to be at work by 8am so Marissa had to adjust her schedule.
Since we're getting a lot of exercise with cycling, we don't have to worry too much about squeezing in a workout every day. That's a great thing about commuting by bicycle, it combines physical activity with getting where you need to go.
ñ What are some of the benefits you have experienced from commuting by bike?
We've experienced so many benefits from cycling: getting a chance to be outside everyday and breath the fresh air; saving money on gas; having the gratification that we're reducing our impact on the environment; improving our health; learning how to slow down and developing a presence of mind in our daily routine. Since you don't have the speed of a car, you have to plan for more time to get your destination, plus a little cushion room in case you need to stop and tinker with your bike along the way. That forces you to try to cram less into your day and reduces stress.
Riding a tandem bicycle also has additional benefits. We get a chance to spend time together as we commute, to chat about our work day or the passing scenery. With tandem riding, communication and teamwork becomes crucial to a successful ride; every long ride we complete feels like a small accomplishment we made together, which has drawn us closer. Another benefit to riding tandem is that if something goes awry while on the road, like our gears aren't shifting correctly, there's two people to troubleshoot the problem instead of just one.
ñ What are some of the challenges you have experienced, and how have you overcome them?
Marissa didn't have much experience with doing any sort of handy-work so learning the basics of bicycle maintenance was (and is still) a challenge. It's frustrating and annoying when you have to stop at the side of the road to fix a flat tire. At first it took her over an hour just to patch a flat tire, now she can do it in about a half hour. Riley has been helpful in showing her the ropes, and along with some help from YouTube videos, she's learning a lot.
Riley still does the bulk of the maintenance on our tandem bicycle so his challenge is ensuring that he keeps the bicycle running smoothly with weekly tune-ups, and cleaning. Waking up early enough to ride and scheduling is also a challenge, but something we've learned to work around.
ñ What is it that keeps you going, especially when the going is tough (weather, darkness, inertia, etc)?
What keeps us going is remembering all we've gained from biking (see our answer on the benefits). But for us, bicycling isn't just about saving on gas money or getting in shape— it allows us to satisfy our desire to live consciously and sustainably.
Having a partner while you ride also helps keep our resolve strong. Although we each have individual bikes, it's faster and more enjoyable to ride on a tandem bicycle, so when one person doesn't ride you feel like you're missing out. We work together as a team to keep one another motivated.
ñ How do you choose your route (most direct, least traffic, most scenic, etc)?
We chose our route to work based on reduced traffic and speed. We’re just lucky that it's also very scenic.
ñ What style of bike do you ride to commute?
We ride on a Rodriguez tandem road bicycle that was built in Seattle. When we ride solo Marissa rides a mid-70’s Schwinn road bike, and Riley rides a 1991 Schwinn Voyageur road touring bike.
ñ Any words of wisdom for the beginning practical cyclist?
You don't have to start by riding a million miles every day; try replacing one or two of your trips a week with a bicycle ride and work gradually up from there.
If you live in Olympia, invest in some fenders and a good raincoat to wear while riding so you can arrive at your destination clean and dry, fenders also make keeping your bike clean MUCH easier. Also, please wear a helmet. You just look silly when you don't. And of course, if you're riding at night, make sure to have some bright bike lights and visible clothing. Make a little toolkit with a patches/glue for fixing flats, a hand pump, spare tube, tire levers, extra batteries for your lights, a pair of disposable gloves (changing a tire is dirty work) and whatever else you find handy. That kit will be a life saver an in emergency. Finally, if you’re going to ride in the wet some electric shoe dryers (at work) and a dry change of riding clothes really make a big difference when it comes to having a comfortable ride home (putting on a wet pair of clothes after a long work day is no fun.)
ñ What’s your favorite thing about practical cycling and/or the BCC?