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Five Badass Bike Commuters

February 26 2018

So who ARE these folks embracing wind, rain, snow, and freezing temperature to ride to work in the winter?!  Here are the stories of five bicyclists who enjoy their cold weather commutes.

David Brown, 31, works as a test engineer at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and bikes year-round because the traffic at the shipyard can be so bad.  “I hate waiting in a car…I can bike home in 10-15 minutes while driving can sometimes take 40 minutes”, David commented.  He adds, “I started biking because of the traffic, but I suppose after doing this for the better part of a decade, I mostly just enjoy the ride!”

He’s up for the challenge of biking in the winter and tested himself on a January day of -2 degrees and wind chill of -18. “I did it…needed to get my trips in to earn the Yeti mug!”.  David adds, “It helps to have a support group at work with other smart commuters to keep you motivated.”

David is pictured with his new (deep purple!) Verenti bicyle.  His advice is, “Just like any other winter sport, layering is the biggest thing you can do. Knowing the temperature and what layers you’ll need is key.”

Parkie Boley, 57, is a Seacoast biking legend.  Everyone knows Parkie – from the kids at the bus stop and to folks downtown who all wave and say “hi” as she rides by at the same time on her daily commute.  A Kittery Point resident, Parkie works as the Child and Family Program Coordinator at Families First in Portsmouth.

Parkie has been commuting year-round for fifteen years. She reflects, “Because I prefer not to drive, I did it in good weather…so why not do it in the cold?  I feel better being able to conquer winter. You just need more clothes!”.  Parkie rides around 5,000 miles a year because, “I’m happy when I ride my bike”.

Parkie co-taught the “Biking in Winter Clinic” last October sponsored by SABR and CommuteSMART to share her passion and experience with winter cycling.

Steve Huntress, 55, racked up the most miles bicycled in the 2017 Conquer the Cold Challenge by logging 1,549 miles.  Steve commutes year-round from Kittery Point to Exeter Cycles, a 42 mile round trip. He cycles to work because “It’s a healthy way to save a bunch of money…and for the joy of it.”  He adds, “There are so many beautiful days in the winter”.  He rides his old fixed gear steel Serrota in the winter, then  switchesto his favorite, a Cannondale Synapse, the rest of the year.

A cyclist since his riding to Traip Academy and a former bike racer, Steve rides over 12,000 miles annually to keep healthy.  Steve reports that the worst part of is commute is the bike path through Pease which can get icy.  Fortunately the Portsmouth DPW has been responsive to his requests to add salt and plow.

Wearing the correct clothing is key to winter bicycling.  Steve advises, “Keep warm clothing and punch away at riding.  The more you get out there, the easier it’s to know what to wear.  All of a sudden, 20 degrees is a warm day!”  Steve notes that he doesn’t ride when he feels it’s unsafe.  “And those days are fewer than people think”, he adds.

We met Charlie Nickell, 33, last December when SABR was handing out free bike lights on the Memorial Bridge thru a Maine Bike Coalition program.  We hailed him and he stopped to chat with us and accepted the Conquer the Cold Challenge.

Charlie was riding that day to B2W Software where he works as a tech writer. He’s been bike commuting since he was in 5th grade (on his BMX bike!).  “I’ve always done it, no matter where I lived”, reports Charlie. “I’m a life long lover of bikes.  I commute from Kittery to Portsmouth because its FUN and more convenient than having to park and walk.  And there’s a bike rack in front of my building.”

Charlie doesn’t keep track of his mileage, just rides for the joy of it. He bikes with his wife and daughters aged 3 and 9, often to Prescott Park or the library, but is concerned about the lack of safe places to ride with children.

His advice to year-round bikers is ride defensively and be visible.  “Wear neon and reflective gear.  When I see people biking at dusk in dark colors, I shudder”, Charlie comments.

Matt Woolley, 39, Seabrook resident and middle school music teacher, got the inspiration to bike commute from his father.  When his dad’s 1984 Hyundai broke down he started commuting to work on round trips as long as 18 miles for 22 years (and received a MassCommute lifetime achievement award for it!).

By biking to work, Matt’s family downsized to one-car and got rid of a student loan.  Matt says he rides “to be fully awake, energized and ready to engage 100% with my students.”    Matt comments he’s become a bit of a celebrity with his students as they give him high fives when he passes them on the way to school.

With three young kids at home, it’s hard to get to the gym, so bike commuting is a free and accessible form of exercise.  Matt reports losing ten pounds since he started his four-mile bike commute.

Matt’s advice for winter riding is to dress as if you’re skiing down a mountain and oil your chain every other day.  Matt suggests, “Give it a full two to three weeks before you decide if it’s for you. Now I ride on autopilot and get lost in other thoughts…like maybe getting involved in local politics.”