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Today’s commuter profile comes from Willy Campbell, who submitted his information months ago and has patiently waited for his time in the spotlight. He’s coming to us all the way from Hawaii — and that makes our second Hawaiian bicycle commuter (hi, Miriam!) Take a look and see what he’s got to offer!
Willy Campbell [appearing as WillyC on the threads]
How long have you been a bike commuter?
I have been commuting off and on for most of my life, but have become more regular [not diet related] over the past 2.5 years since moving to Hawaii. I started riding my bike to school, t-ball games, etc. sometime around grade 2 [about as far as I can remember]. We lived in the sticks in Washington State, and it was ~5 miles to and from school. I loved the freedom. I would occasionally ride to a t-ball game [again in the neighborhood of 5 miles] down country roads…of course, this was the early 80’s, and you just did things like that then. I continued to ride until my older brother got his driver’s license shortly after I started my freshman year of high-school. I had a neighbor move in that was a bike junkie [up to this point we had the equivalent of Walmart bikes growing up]. My brother got a Giant Mtn bike for Christmas that year, and they asked if we wanted to go for a ride. They let me borrow an old Schwinn Mtn bike [it was old in 1989], and we took a spin around the hills of the town we lived in..I was hooked. I didn’t ride to school regularly, but when it wasn’t raining, I would take rides as often as possible. Like I said, I just loved the freedom.
Why did you start riding your bike to work and how long is your commute?
About 5 years ago, I was diagnosed with Diabetes. The doctor told me I needed to start exercising and eating right, or I was going to die [no joke, I switched doctors shortly after that]. I have never been much of a runner, and I loved to ride, so it all fit. A friend of mine had basically all the pieces I needed for a “commute” bike [mtn bike with slicks, you know the type]. Since I am a MTN biker down to my soul, the drop-bar and super skinny tires never did it for me. Shortly before the diagnosis, my work moved office locations, and happened to end up right on the bike path that splits the Salt Lake Valley. It was 7.5 miles from my house to work. The diagnosis came early spring, so I started to roll to work as much as possible. When the weather didn’t cooperate, I would ride after work and on weekends. Plus, there was no shower available at work, so that deterred me a little…I’m a sweater. About 6 months later, I took a promotion that moved us from Utah to Sacramento. We happened to move 3 miles from the office, but that was just enough to get me sweating, so I didn’t do it much. I did continue to ride after work and on weekends all year round since the winters in NorCal are milder than Utah. 2 years later, I took a job in Hawaii, where I currently live [3 years later]. I still have no shower access at work, so I bus in, and ride home as often as possible [try for 3 times per week]. My commute home is 18 miles; 6 of which are on a bike path that wraps around Pearl Harbor. The remainder is me being a gutter bunny since it is against the law to ride a bike on the sidewalk in most areas on this island. Other than the local favorite past-time of breaking glass bottles all over the gutters, it’s not too bad. I get the occasional finger from the impatient tourists…someone really needs to show them the proper way to “Shaka” [hang loose].
How does Bike Commuting help you with your lifestyle (economics, health, relationships)?
The traffic here on Oahu is horrific. I would compare it [during rush-hour] to LA [pretty much always]. The up side is you can only go so far, and if it’s not peak hours, it flows pretty well. Gas here is more expensive than most places in the US, and there is no such thing as free parking on the island. Costco doesn’t count; they will mark your tires, and tow after about 4 hours. Parking at work is $100/month, but they will buy you a bus pass if you use it at least 50% of the time. Winner, winner, winner!! The bus system here is excellent, and I can get from door to door in about 45 minutes. In traffic, it easily takes as long to drive as it does to take the bus. So I don’t have to buy gas for my car, no wear and tear, don’t have to pay for parking, or the bus pass, and get to ride home whenever I want…and since it’s Hawaii, that’s most of the time. I have 32 concurrent bus passes [$65 each], which is 32 months I haven’t had to pay for parking [$100/mo], no gas for the car [at $4.50 a gallon now, who knows], plus no maintenance on the car. Riding also lets me unwind from the daily grind. A bonus to riding the bus is all the books I read, and the occasional nap I get. I try to avoid sleeping on the bus; mostly I fear missing my stop, but even more that, I fear being the guy snoring that everyone on the bus can hear, but no-one wants to poke to get him to stop [which has happened on several occasions]. My company recently [in an effort to go green] has even offered to pay for a bike to get people to stop driving. The rules are still vague, but $300 is more than I could sell my ride for, so I will take it.
What do you do for a living and in what city do you bike commute?
I work for an Engineering firm based in Honolulu, Hawaii, and I teach/train/support Civil Engineering software. It’s basically just glorified baby-sitting, so the unwind on the ride home really helps keep me on an even keel. There are a few designated bike lanes in Honolulu and surrounding, but they don’t seem very well laid out, and usually just end abruptly. Another thing to keep you on your toes is the tide, when it’s high-tide, you never know what you are going to see.
What kind(s) of bike do you have?
Currently I have a pair of Kona bikes. My commuter is a 2009 Kona Dew Plus, and my Mtn bike is a Kona Smoke 2-9 [actually sold as a commuter, but I added fat 29er tires]. The before mentioned bike I put so many miles on, and that followed me from Utah to California to Hawaii [after following him from Pennsylvania to Utah] was stolen about 18 months ago. I went to lunch with a co-worker, we biked over, and it was stolen in broad daylight. Mine was a bare-bones 10 year old trek I had put 5000+ miles on, and his was a Surly with discs, shock, etc…they cut the cable [my bad] took his bike off mine, and left his. That led to the need to buy a bike, and after shopping around, I decided to give the big wheels a try, and glad I did. Still a flat bar you understand, since my soul would go on strike if I got anything with a drop-bar.
Any funny or interesting commuting story that you may want to share?
The best I can do, is my claim to Bike Commuters fame. When I saw the profile for Miriam Gee, I thought she looked familiar. A few mothers later, sure enough, there she was at my office for another presentation. I saw the shoes and knew it was her. We had a good chat. She works on the other side of Honolulu, and heads the opposite way to get home.
The only other thing I have is I managed to run over a mongoose’s tail last week on the way home. If you’ve never seen a mongoose [and no, not the junk bikes], look it up. Two ran across the path in front of me, and a third hesitated almost too long. I waited for the bump as he went under my wheel, but it didn’t happen. I would have thought he made it, but there was a slight hesitation as I rolled over his fuzzy tail. Speaking of junk bikes, they really like to make that thing look all mean and frenzied on their decals. Truth be told, they are like roaches, they see you and they bolt, and the decals on the bikes are about double size what a real one is.
What do people (coworkers, friends) say when you tell them that you are a bike commuter?
Mostly jaws on the ground, and that dumbfounded look that usually lasts longer than is comfortable. 18 MILES??? How long does it take? 1:15, oh, that’s not bad [like they could do it faster]. Then I watch them try and figure out how I do it. There really aren’t too many options when it comes down to it. A couple of pinch points, and no matter where you veer off, you end up within a street or two of the only other options. Most people don’t drive to where I live…ever. I work with a handful of people that have lived here their whole lives, and have never been to Ewa.
How about bicycling advocacy? Are you active in any local or regional advocacy groups?
There used to be a Critical Mass occasionally, but they kind of faded when the cops started cracking down, but was before I got here. I am not aware of any groups or advocacy programs, so mostly it is just me riding home, waving to all the other guys I pass on bikes [cause that’s what you do when you ride].
Anything else that you want to share with us?
1. If it seems like I’m roadie-bashing [with the dropbar comments], it’s not intended to be hateful or hurtful. And yes, I have had several road bikes and tried to “get used to it,” but they all ended up being traded or sold in favor of a Mtn bike [mostly it’s the upright position I like]. My current commute bike has 700×35’s [enough volume to take the bumps], a riser bar with extended steer-tube, and is dialed just right…leaving no numb parts after 40 miles.
2. I have tried several ways to keep a pack off my shoulders, but seem to be stuck now. I had a rack with a trunk bag, but all the Velcro made it less than convenient to remove it from said rack. I saw the article on panniers, found one on Craigslist for a song, and gave it a try. Just stuff my pack in, and roll. About 2 weeks ago, one of the mounts for the top of the rack [where the post screws to the frame] came out. The whole thing [which amounts to a fancy rivet] popped out. Took it to the shop, and they replaced it with yet another rivet. 2 days ago, the other side pulled out, AND the replacement was stripped out…the bag doesn’t weigh that much, but a couple thousand miles, and the bumpy roads around here = no more pannier or rack. As I mentioned, I sweat, so the idea of having a pack on my back is my last resort. If you have any other suggestions, please pass them along.
3. I took the chance recently to make a video of my commute home. I mounted a GoPro to my helmet, and had it take a picture every 2 seconds, then compiled to a video [I call a flick]. It is choppy, so if you tend to get motion sick, you may want to reconsider. (Editor’s note…it is quite choppy. Drop a couple of Dramamine and come back to the video):
We’d like to thank Willy for sharing his words and photos with us. We have a few more commuter profiles waiting in the wings, but the hopper is getting low. If you’re interested in being profiled, drop us a line at: info[at]bikecommuters[dot]com or ghostrider[at]bikecommuters[dot]com.