Commuter Profile: Daniel Lunsford

Our next Bike Commuter is from Virginia, Daniel Lunsford works in the military and rides a disguised Wally world machine. Here’s his Bike Commuter Profile:

How long have you been a bike commuter?

9 Months

Why did you start riding your bike to work and how long is your commute?

Last September, I was faced with doing some car maintenance. Being a frugal (read: cheap) driver, I instead donated my car to the Veteran’s Administration and aired up the bike tires. Without a car, I essentially got rid of every excuse I could come up with. Soon it was December-February and the temperatures dropped drastically. I already had some nice warm riding gloves, but I still found myself too cold for comfort. Purchasing a pair of Pearl Izumi leggings/tights with the chamois may have been the best cycling purchase I’ve ever made. I was able to use them well into April to keep my entire body warm (I think that the knees are the most sensitive to the cold weather). My commute was 6 miles each way at one point, but I’ve recently transferred jobs to one that is only 4 miles away. I’m also fortunate in that I have a gym across the road from my building where I can shower for free (although admittedly I don’t usually do this since I rarely sweat due to the short commute).

How does Bike Commuting help you with your lifestyle (economics, health, relationships)?

Well, there are the obvious health benefits involved with getting your heart up and racing twice a day. I have noticed a significant increase in energy throughout the day (my boss is pleasantly surprised to notice that I sleep much less during meetings lately!). I’ve also gotten to know many other commuters/riders in my area.

What do you do for a living and in what city do you bike commute?

I’m in the military, and commute in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia.

What kind(s) of bike do you have?

My commuter is a Wal-Mart Schwinn that I’ve put over 6,000 miles on. I eventually got self-conscious about the cheap looking decals on it, so stripped its identity off and repainted it with a LiveSTRONG theme.

I also ride a Trek 2100 ZR on the weekends (including a 106-mile ride this weekend!). I occasionally commute with my road bike, although now that I’ve switched jobs there is no secure place to lock it up, so it typically gets left at home.

Lastly, I’m in the market for a folding bike (so I can secure the bike inside). I’ve been thinking about getting a Dahon Mariner (or similar). Do any readers have any advice on this?

Any funny or interesting commuting story that you may want to share?

Picture this: Mid-February, in the middle of a blizzard, I roll up to the guard shack at my base. The bike is covered in snow and I’m dressed to the hilt in my insulating clothes. The guard opens the window a few inches, sticks a gloved hand out to inspect my ID, then withdraws it back into the heated shack. I hear a voice come through the thin crack “You’re free to pass, but I’ve gotta tell you, I think you’re nuts!”

What do people (coworkers, friends) say when you tell them that you are a bike commuter?

95% of the time I hear: “I’ve thought about doing that for a long time, but I live too far away, the roads are too busy, the cars go too fast, etc. (insert excuse).” I respond by pulling up Google Maps and dropping a destination pin on our office building. Then I get them to tell me where they live. The mapping feature allows you to drag the route to find the one that spends the most time on quiet roads, and they typically admit that their fears are unfounded given their new route options. If the excuse is “My bike is too old/tires are flat/needs to get tuned up”, I offer to repair it for free. If this is their true excuse, a $3 tube is a small price to pay to get someone out of their car and on their two-wheeler! (Just get them to pay you back after they start saving $60/month in gas!)

How about bicycling advocacy? Are you active in any local or regional advocacy groups?

No advocacy in terms of an organized activism, but I do encourage everyone I meet to try and do it at least 3 times. The first time will obviously be stressful. You might get your routes mixed up. You might get to work late or sweaty. The second time you’ll probably try a new approach to make the trip easier. By the third trip, you’ll be somewhat comfortable and actually be able to enjoy the ride. People will always complain about safety and hassle, but the more people you get on the bandwagon, the easier to convince others. When I started 9 months ago, I was the only commuter I knew. Now, I have three other regular riders who help get beginners onto the road. Once people realize that it’s not just one nut on a bike, they’ll be more likely to consider it as a viable method of transport to work.

Anything else that you want to share with us?

Always try to break down the barriers of “impossibility” with regards to commuting. The benefits are incalculable, yet people miss out because of something as simple as not having anyone to talk to and bounce ideas off of. Especially as gas prices increase, bike commuters have the perfect opportunity to breach the subject of dusting off the ol’ ten-speed!

We thank Daniel for his time and his profile, stickers will be on their way soon!


11 Comments

  1. Iron Man June 19, 2008 2:29 pm 

    Dang if that aint one of the most positive profiles yet. Way to go. I could use some of that positive vibe to rub off on me.

  2. Jacob June 19, 2008 3:48 pm 

    I have a 2100ZR (my main commuter) too and also a dahon singlespeed boardwalk with a coaster brake, so I had to comment. The boardwalk has been stripped of fenders and front brake, so with no cables to get in the way, it folds down very easily. It’s not very highly geared though, so spinout happens around 17mph. Also the handlebars are narrow so it’s difficult to hammer on the hills. I use the boardwalk to transport hockey gear. I strap the stick on the side with bungee cords and then put the duffel bag on my back. It’s very directionally stable and the sitting position is very upright. I’m thinking of getting a bigger chain ring though.

  3. Ghost Rider June 19, 2008 5:21 pm 

    Hampton Roads…I went to many a Navy ship christening and airpower demo in those parts, as I spent the first years of my life down the coast in Newport News. My sister and I would lean out the back of the car windows and yell “Boo Navy ” (our dad was a career Army officer) at the guard shacks into Oceana and Norfolk. God, we got some dirty looks from our parents!!!

    Great profile, and great tips on convincing folks to try bike commuting. Ride on!

  4. Joe June 19, 2008 8:40 pm 

    The “try it 3 times” is genius. Way to go.

  5. andikam June 19, 2008 11:58 pm 

    I was thinking of doing some long distance cycling too (118 miles) is there anything in particular I should do/be aware of?

  6. DEMax June 20, 2008 6:34 am 

    I have commuted with a folding bike with 20″ tires and 6-speeds, basically a Dahon clone, but pretty nice with Shimano kit. The 20″ tires will crush you on any substantial hills. Don’t get me wrong there is something to be said for the fitness aspect of pedaling harder, but when you can only go 2-mph up a hill and the cars are going 40+, it is daunting to say the least. I am getting S&S Couplers put on my Surly Cross Check ($460 installed), and that will let me take my bike apart for the train portion of my commute. The Swiss Bike, or Montague (same company) bike are also a viable full-size way to go. Forget the clown bike if you have hills!

  7. Moe June 20, 2008 7:06 am 

    Andikam, I have a couple of centuries under my belt, what worked for me was replenishments of fluids and food. I drank and I ate a lot. I also paced myself, try to find a group that can work together and draft, don’t forget to take your turn at pulling, no one likes a wheel sucker. ( I recommend drafting off a tandem :) )

    What should you be aware of? I’ve seen a lot of people that are too eager at the beginning of the ride, they take off and ride too fast forgetting that it is a 100 mile ride. You often see these riders bonking right about mile 75.

    Good luck on your ride, long distance riding can be fun or it can really suck if you are not prepared.

  8. Moe June 20, 2008 7:09 am 

    DeMax, I can easily out climb other riders on my 20″ ‘clown machine’. I have a KHS F20-r with 18 speeds, this bike can really fly.

  9. Iron Man June 20, 2008 7:15 am 

    andikam, I do quite a few centuries each year. If you can ride 75% of that distance then you have enough fitness to get through the day.

    My biggest hurdle was figuring out nutrition on the bike. What food combos work and at one times to consume them. Each person is going to be different, so my advice may not work for you, but I’ve found that a good old pancake breakfast (with syrup) and eggs start me out right. I even add a little peanut butter to the pancakes for much needed fat. Then for the first half to 65% of the ride I stick to sports drinks, water, energy bars, and perhaps some peanut butter too. I try not to eat too much at any given time, but rather snack and graze. I don’t want to feel full. Then for the final 35-25% I swap out the solid foods for gels, and keep drinking the water and sports drinks. My stomach just won’t process the solids for the whole day. I try to get in one gel every 45 minutes to an hour. This formula has kept me even throughout the day. The absolute best your body can digest in an hour is about 90 calories, but more likely 60. So that should help you keep in perspective just how much food you should be trying to get in you while riding. For me proper nutrition is the difference between finishing strong, or feeling bloated most of the day and/or bonking 15 miles out.

  10. Palm Beach Bike Tours June 20, 2008 9:25 am 

    Andikam: The biggest problem I had with long distance riding was keeping fueled.

    My stomach does not like to digest while I’m riding. Off the bike, it is cast iron. On the bike, anything I eat just sits in my stomach. On my first metric, I tried to eat a lot before the ride and then push through to the end so I wouldn’t have to eat much on the way. Result: 50 miles in, I bonked and wanted to die. It took an hour for me to eat and recover before I could finish.

    Obviously, the energy requirements for a 100-mile ride are different than a 20-mile commute.

    After much experimenting with proteins, carbs, smart foods, basic foods, complex foods, just bananas, just bagels, organic foods, etc. I came to a conclusion: there is something to be said for all the gel/bar/drink products I had always avoided.

    The gels, blocks and bars I had tried previously tasted like busted ass drizzled in an odd chemical sauce. I couldn’t get past the taste and avoided them. As I increased my distances, I knew I had to find something I could eat on a bike. These energy products are easy to digest, effective and taste better than they once did. Either that or I’m less picky.

    In any case, when I did my first century last year, I attribute much of my success to a mix of GU Energy Gel (the caffeinated versions, please) and Clff Shot Bloks (try the Margarita and Pina Colada flavors).

    So, my best advice is find a fuel that works, make sure to eat before you’re hungry and drink before you’re thirsty.

    Second best advice: find a comfortable pace and stick with it. Don’t try to ride above where you’re comfortable to keep up with anyone else or you’ll burn out. Riding above your ability is great for relatively short training rides but it’ll hurt you at longer distances.

    Good luck!

    Bike Commuter: I love the profiles! Keep ’em coming.

  11. Daniel Lunsford June 27, 2008 6:07 am 

    Thanks everyone for the positive comments. I agree with everything
    people have posted. I definitely started out that 106-mile ride too
    fast and ended up paying for it after mile 90, but lessons learned the
    hard way tend to stick better! I found applesauce and granola bars to
    be the best energy replacement for my ride. The only thing I didn’t
    agree with was the peanut butter… I brought some for lunch and it sat
    in my stomach for the next 20 minutes without giving me much of a boost.
    I also mixed up two bottles of very concentrated Gatorade at the start
    and regularly diluted it along the way. In retrospect, this was the
    opposite of what I probably should’ve done (since I was basically
    drinking straight tap water in my final miles). My next 100-mile ride
    (mid-July), I’ll be bringing along some Gatorade mix to add in every
    time I fill the bottles.

    As always, thanks for the support.

    — Daniel

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