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This is David from Pittsburgh! He’s a teacher who has been bike commuting for the past four years. I hope you find his answers informative and inspiring.
Occupation: I teach production management at the Carnegie Mellon University, School of Drama in pittsburgh. After a 20 year professional theatre career, I have found the right job for me. Been training the next generation of theatrical professionals for 15 years now.
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
What got you started? I only restarted riding in 2012, when my daughter finally learned how to ride. She got really bored riding a block or so and waiting for a walking parent to catch up with her. I had been an avid rider up through the beginning of my early college years – but hadn’t really ridden since about 1984. So my wife and daughter bought me a cheap hybrid so I could keep up with her.
Once I got on it, I was like “Oh. Yeah. This.” I started riding a bit more and a bit more. Found the local rail trails, which are wonderful assets. Then I’d throw my bike in my car, drive part way to work, and ride in the rest of the way. Then I learned how to throw it on the local busses, for part of the commute. Slowly I worked my way up to riding the whole 30 mile daily round trip commute. I’ve been doing that for about 4 years now. I typically ride the commute 3 to 5 days a week, work schedule and weather dependent. It really bugs me when I have to drive any more.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about bike commuting in Pittsburgh? Start with what is comfortable for you, distance and weather wise. If you like it, and want to do more, go for it. If you are nervous about street riding, I would recommend connecting with BikePGH.com they have classes and other useful resources. If you find yourself taking to the biking, BikePGH could use your voice to help drive/inform their advocacy. They have had a very positive effect on the culture of riding in da burn and the surrounding communities.
Any stories from your commute? People have a hard time believing that I commute all year long. I have many different levels of riding gear from SPD Keen sandals to SPD winter boots, and the clothes to go with each season. Nothing really stops my riding in the summer, despite heat and humidity. In the winters I will not ride below 10 degrees, and I will not ride on ice. Snow removal is pretty good around here, except on the bike trails. So my regular route, which is about 60% trail, becomes all street in the snowy season. Most winters there is a week or maybe 2 when I don’t get out at all.
What is one thing you wish you knew before starting to bike commute? With all of the commute riding I do these days, I don’t do a lot of regular pleasure riding, except on vacations and whenever I travel. I am writing this from the airport on my way to Europe for work, where I will also ride about 200 miles in 5 days along the Elbe river between Torgau, Germany and Prague. Can’t wait. In 2015, I rode from Vienna to Prague, and I have ridden the GAP/C&O trail from Pittsburgh to DC. I also keep my hand in a few local sponsored long distance one day rides, centuries, or metric centuries. Even rode the NYC century in 2016. So the thing I have to work to do is to find non-commute riding opportunities.
What Kind of Bike & Where did You Get it? My ride (Roheryn) is a 2014 Specialized TriCross. I got it at one of da burgh’s best Local Bike Shops: Thick Bikes. I’d for sales or service any time.
What gear do you routinely carry for your commute? A change of clothes and my lunch in an Ortleib pannier. I find that though I sweat on my ride, I dry off completely while I am changing, which I luckily can do in my office. So as long as I don’t forget my deodorant, the transformation is not a challenge for me. I don’t need a shower. With a shaved head, I don’t need to worry about my hair. Makeup’s not a thing I worry about either. I recognize that I am low maintenance in this way, and it might not be the same for everyone. I have a seat pouch with a spare tube, tire levers and a multi-tool. Also, I made the transition to a dynamo hub front wheel with a very expensive German head and tail light which helps people see me, and helps me on those dark trails in December through February. Round that out with a Lumos helmet so drivers can see me, and a glasses mounted rear-view mirror, I am rarely surprised by drivers.
Anything else you’d like to share about bike commuting? I find it a great opportunity to relive stress, and work things out in my head, while I am getting exercise and getting to work. Useful multi-tasking.