Thursday, February 26, 2015

2015 Commuter Profile Number 2: Lillian

Lillian fixes her tour-mate's flat tire on a trip across Arizona

• What is your age, roughly speaking?  29.61 years

• What is your occupation or area of study?  I work as a bike mechanic!  And I clean stalls at a horse boarding stable on weekends.

• What is your most frequent destination on your bike?  Work is a pretty boring answer, so I'm going to have to go with the other half of that trip: home!  That said, Spuds Produce, Groc.Out, and the Evergreen Bike Shop are top hits as well.

• How did you hear about the Bicycle Commuter Contest?  I can't remember!  It just seems like everyone knows about it.  

• How many times have you participated in the Bicycle Commuter Contest?  Just once, but I only moved to Olympia a little over a year ago.  I participated in one the year before in Smithers, BC, and inadvertently participated in many more just by the fact that I ride almost everywhere.

• What got you started riding your bike to get around (practical cycling)?  When I was a young lass I lived 2 miles from the place where I kept my horse, and didn't like having to pester my older brother or parents for rides.  One time I got in big trouble for riding home just after dark, and that led to an enlightening realization: I could ride DAY OR NIGHT as long as I had lights on.  From then on, I was FREE! I also found if I rode my bike to school, I could sleep in a little later than if I took the bus.

• How many years have you been getting around by bike?  Let's say 17, but before that I'm sure my parents rode with me to the store now and then.  My mom is fantastic about going places by bike and bus, although she keeps it slow and mellow.

• Describe your current average or usual trip (distance, terrain, urban/rural, etc.).  Nowadays I just ride about 2 miles from where I live, up the hill to get to work.  I'd much rather brag about last winter, when I had a 22 mile round-trip to the DNR facility on 93rd Ave, and enjoyed busting through the roundabouts on Littlerock as the scenery changed from urban to rural.

• How have you adapted your habits to make practical cycling work for you?   I tuck my pants into my socks, and when I go into a grocery store, I've stopped trying to pretend I didn't get there by bike in the soaking rain, I just rock the hi-viz and the helmet while I get my grub.  Honestly, I've been doing it so long the line between "adaptation" and "this is normal life" is blurry.  When I've looked for employment, I always take bike-able/bus-able distances into consideration, and have learned how to stubbornly yet tactfully refuse well-meaning offers of people giving me rides in their car so I don't have to bike that far/in the rain/dark/etc.

• What are some of the benefits you have experienced from commuting by bike? Sexy sexy legs!  Exercise keeps depression at bay (especially important in the winter), and bicycling is built-in, mandatory exercise.  I won't make myself go out for a run in the rain, but if I have to go grocery shopping, I'll have to get out there on my bike.  I probably save some money, but as the fleet of bicycles increases in number (I'm up to 8 now!) it can be hard to be sure where that saved money is going... I also appreciate that I'm not wearing out my car--it's a 1995 and my goal is for it to last until 2025.

• What are some of the challenges you have experienced, and how have you overcome them?  I'm now really impatient when I can't find convenient parking, and when I drive my car I abhor traffic, sometimes wanting to pull over and take off by bike (which is usually in/on my car when I drive, just in case).  

• What is it that keeps you going, especially when the going is tough (weather, darkness, inertia, etc)?  The everlasting guilt of being a liberal Northwesterner who knows she oughtn't pollute.  I also find that the more my friends & acquaintances have built a reputation for me of being hardcore, the more I want to not contradict them by caving in and using my car.  The other thing that helps is getting gear you love that really works--it's so much easier to get out there when your coat keeps you dry, your visor keeps your glasses clear, your bike is comfortable and adequately geared, and your lights are bright and reassuring.

• How do you choose your route (most direct, least traffic, most scenic, etc)?  I'm usually running late, so most direct trumps other factors.  When I'm not late, I like to avoid traffic and/or have the fewest number of stop signs and traffic lights.  Actually I take that back--I like the exertion and intense focus of riding in traffic that I just about keep up with (i.e. downtown cities), but it's the tiny-shoulder get-out-of-my-way 40 mph stuff I avoid.  

• What style of bike do you ride to commute?  I have a hybrid with a suspension fork and disc brakes.  It's heavier than I'd like sometimes, but very utilitarian.  I occasionally ride my road tandem if the boyfriend or a friend and I are going somewhere after work.  I retrofitted my very first adult bicycle (a 1997 Univega mountain bike) with a 3-speed hub, which is tons of fun but needs some work at the moment.  It helps me keep it casual and playful now and then.  

• Any words of wisdom for the beginning practical cyclist?  Gear can certainly make life more comfy, but don't get caught up in it if you don't have it yet or can't afford it.  Ride what you got, and once you ride more your experience will guide you to what you might want to invest in.  As a mechanic, I see tons of diversity in what makes a "commuter" bike, and the best customers are the ones that love love love and ride ride ride their bike regardless of its type.  Oh, and don't be afraid to stop in to your local bike shop even if you don't need to buy anything--shop employees are friendly folks who love cookies ;)

• What’s your favorite thing about practical cycling and/or the BCC?  I like how popular the BCC in Olympia--it's fun to see so many people out and about!

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