Commuter Profile: Jack Sweeney

Ghost Rider
Jack Sweeney, aka Ghost Rider is a frequent reader and commenter of our site. Jack is an electronic reference librarian from Central Tampa, Florida. We are always curious to learn from other fellow commuters about themselves, their bikes and their commute. We asked Jack a few questions and he submitted a few pictures to share with our growing Bike Commuter Community.

Why do you bike commute?

I commute because I love to ride my bikes, because I live close enough to where I work to make it feasible, and I don’t have to pay for parking, gas and all that other stuff that goes with being a car driver (although I do own and drive a car, on occasion).

How long have you been bike commuting ?

I started bike commuting in high school and did it all the way through college. When I moved to Florida in 1992, I commuted by bike to my first couple of jobs. Then I took a break from it…Now, I’ve gotten back into it because I am paying penance for driving 100+ miles round trip EVERY DAY to a job I worked at for almost 8 years. That sucked, and getting back on my bike is resetting my karma /realigning my chi!!!

Ghost Rider

What kind of bikes do you have?

I own and ride all kinds of bikes. I have a dedicated commuter bike (MTB frame, 26″ wheels with rear rack, fenders and panniers — in your gallery), a vintage-y (I bought it new in 1983) steel Bianchi road bike, an even older French steel Astra road bike (converted to singlespeed/fixed gear) from 1971/72, a 24″ GT BMX bike for late-night excursions around my neighborhood, a funky pirate-themed 5-speed beach cruiser with an 8-foot flagpole flying a 4’x5′ Jolly Roger flag, a singlespeed Schwinn Frontier MTB (not yet completed) and a 16″ wheeled mini-BMX “Zoobomber”-styled bike. Many of my bikes have photos on ( I strongly believe in the “N+1” theory of bike ownership, and am always looking to increase my collection…although my wife will probably flip if I bring yet another bike home.

Ghost Rider

How long is your commute?

My current commute is 4.5 miles each way, for an easy 9 mile round trip. Sometimes if I have a little extra time, I will do some neighborhood exploring on my way to work, adding a couple or three miles to the mix.

Any funny or interesting story that you may want to share.

More sad than funny, but here goes: here in Tampa, bike commuters are a rare breed. Most motorists don’t know how to react to seeing a bicycle on the road and they are likely to buzz me or honk at me. I’ve gotten so used to flipping these motorists “the bird” that I have inadvertently flipped off a couple of my friends and coworkers, who were honking to say “Hi”. That’s a tough position to talk myself out of!!!

Ghost Rider

What do people say when you tell them that you are a bike commuter?

Most people react like I’m some drug-crazed fiend — “you RIDE to work? Holy cow, that’s crazy!” The more they think about it, the better it sounds, though, especially when I tell them the benefits (“I don’t have to pay for gas or parking and I ALWAYS find a parking space!!!”).

Do you have an ‘advance commuter tip’

“Find the path less traveled” — even if it adds a couple miles to your ride, there is ALWAYS a better, more scenic, less hectic route than the major surface streets you would use if you were in a car.

I’ve got a couple more –light yourself up like a Christmas tree at night; you can never have too many blinkies, reflectors and headlights. Be assertive — take as much of the lane as you need, signal your intentions with direct pointing (not the old-fashioned hand signals; no one knows what those mean anymore). Don’t be afraid to shout if you need to, and try to
maintain a pleasant demeanor even if faced with motorists doing idiotic things. Also, be prepared for breakdowns — carry a spare tube and some tools/spare batteries for your lights. Finally, have fun while you’re out there — smile wide and wave when you’re passing all those poor car-bound souls trapped in daily traffic jams!!

Ghost Rider

Anything that you may want to add.

I love what you are doing with your site — a perfect blend of bike geekiness, practical advice and human-interest stories, plus great product reviews…keep it up, and thank you for honoring me in this way!

We want to thank Jack for his time and for sharing his thoughts with us. Keep on ridin’!


  1. RL Policar


    That’s a sweet bike! What is it?

  2. Priscilla

    Hey, that’s really cool. I love to put a face to the names we’ve seen for so long. That “birdie” story is funny!

  3. Eric

    Great profile! Question for Jack: I live up in Connecticut, bit my in-laws are in Clearwater, and everytime I visit with my wife and kids I think, “We should move here”. My question though is about the heat? It seems unbearably hot in the summer to be outdoors for an extended length of time. How do you deal with that during your summer commutes? Is there ever a “too hot to bike commute” day for you?

  4. Ghost Rider

    RL, the bike featured in the pictures is my French “Astra”, made in Belgium in 1971 or ’72. It’s my “casual day bike” when I don’t have a lot of stuff to carry. The best part about it is the fenders — genuine, original French stainless steel…that ain’t chrome, baby!

    Priscilla, glad you enjoyed the story — I’ve seen your face (and RL’s, and Moe’s) for so long now that I am honored to finally share mine!!

    Eric, it does get brutally hot here in the summer. Hell, it is already in the high 80s by the end of March around here, and being prepared for a sweaty bike commute can be tricky. I always wear a tshirt on my way to work so that my “big boy clothes” stay pressed and dry. Oh, and keep extra deodorant at work for those especially tough days! And, be sure to hydrate like nobody’s business before, during and after your ride.

    All that being said, before my current job I worked outdoors in Florida for almost eight years. After a while, the heat won’t faze you anymore. We can ride year-round without too much hassle (well, at least there’s no snow or ice!). There are days when I think, “damn, it’s awfully hot out there”, but I love riding my bike, and the A/C in my car is broken anyhow…

  5. CoolBreeze

    Lay it down!

  6. RL Policar

    That Astra is a sweet bike! I love vintage bikes….

  7. Running Man

    That bike is Wack Jack!

  8. Eric

    Ghost, Thanks for the reply. It hit the mid-80’s on my ride home yesterday – for whatever reason, I can perform far better in hot weather than cool or cold weather… Thanks for tips and stay safe!

  9. Chuck

    Great to see who you are Jack, or GR, whichever you prefer. Now that I found your site I may not go back to Alan’s Bike Stories.(don’t tell Alan I said that).
    Sweeny is a common Irish name, but I know some in Brentwood, TN and Delaware County, PA. Any relation?

  10. Ghost Rider

    Chuck…no relation to those folks in TN and Pennsylvania.

    The guys who run this site (Moe and RL) are pretty stand-up characters, and they’re very active in the world of cycling and bicycle advocacy…you should stop in on occasion and read their posts! Don’t forgo Alan, though…he puts up a bunch of great stories and photos!

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  13. Marc

    I like this site very much and having been reading and checking out the pics would like to share my commuter profile

  14. Ghost Rider

    Marc, send me an email to ghostrider(at)bikecommuters(dot)com and we’ll provide you with the sample questions for your profile.

    Thanks for reading our site!

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