Category: Commuter Profiles

Beach Cruiser to Hipster to Weekend Warrior

I have been riding seriously and commuting now for about two years but before I took it seriously I was given a 15 year old Huffy beach cruiser that a friend was no longer using. It had: a dark blue frame, a wide seat, white-walled fat tires, fenders, chain-guard, and a huge handlebar that reminded me of Harley Davidson motorcycles instead of my childhood BMX bike. This Huffy, with its faded paint and rusting body would soon change my life. At first, I only used it for very quick errands like going to the grocery store to get soda. But it broke down which made me want to replace it. A year after that, I started commuting using a bicycle which led to riding with friends as a hobby. Because of this Huffy, I was introduced to experiences that only a fellow cyclist or few would ever know about.

How I got the Huffy

In the last year of college, a friend had asked me if I would like to tutor someone who lived on my street. I accepted it considering that I was still looking for a job. The tutoring sessions were about three times a week and since it was only a couple of miles away, I thought that I would just use the Huffy. A few months had passed by and I no longer was tutoring that same child when a similar opportunity came up. It was similar in distance so I thought I would use the Huffy again to commute. But a couple of weeks into it, the aging tires on the Huffy had given way to a sidewall tear puncturing the inner tube. The cost to install and replace the tire and tube was around 40 dollars so I thought, “Why not just put that towards a new bike?”. I didn’t care for bikes at the time and so I thought, “I’ll just get another one that has wheels–it’s that simple.”


My Wal Mart Experience

I went online and saw plenty in my price range–which was under a hundred. I know, I know…foolish of me to think that it was going to turn out okay but I was a “noob”, all right? I bought this cool shiny chrome mountain bike. It was 79.99 plus tax and it was the last one they had. I even called several Wal-Marts to see if they had it in stock. Lucky for me, there was one close by and even had them set it aside. But as soon as I took it home, I found the sprocket slipping! So I returned it. I thought spending more would get me a better purchase so I spent a little more and got a road bike, the GMC Denali for 169.99 plus tax. It had 21 speeds with Grip Shifters installed on the drop bar (not the prettiest thing to see). That one also had a problem but I liked having a road bike so I returned it for another. Unfortunately, this one also had a problem. Frustrated, I spoke to the Wal-Mart bike mechanics (Can you call them that since they just put bikes together?) and one recommended this mountain bike called the Genesis V-something if he were to get anything. Well I got it and within a week the front hub had loose bearings! I don’t even know how that happened since I rode it on the street. At this point, I had completely lost faith in department store bikes.


While doing some research for a bike, I had read that Craigslist is how someone should buy a bike if they’re on a tight budget. I found a Raleigh Grand Prix with a Reynolds frame, 7-Speed 105 groupset on some beat up wheels for $200 from a reseller. I miss that bike and I wish I still owned it. It was light, fast and quite a looker. I loved that bike and didn’t want to replace it but as I rode more and more, I realized that the bike was too big for me (It was a 57 cm; I should have gotten a 55 cm or less). A couple of bikes later, I decided to try a fixed gear bike. It was great but I soon had knee problems from skid stopping and a high gear ratio. I had bought a total seven bikes purchased from Craigslist. All of them I wanted to keep but all of them had problems that were too small, large, or hurt my knees.

PicMonkey Collage1

Riding with friends

Because of my new found interest in commuting, a few of my friends took interest in road cycling. Having owned a few bikes, I became the “expert” amongst my friends and a year later, we had a little group that rode on the weekends with a team name and everything. It first started out as something fun to do–nothing serious. Some of my friends borrowed bikes from others while some found bikes on Craigslist for $100. The rides were about once a month but slowly it became something more serious. People bought new road bikes and along with it cycling clothing–this was something even I wasn’t prepared for. The biking I was doing at the time was more in line of a hipster not a weekend road warrior. But a friend bought me a jersey, padded shorts, shoes and pedals for Christmas and as much as I felt weird wearing the clothes, I was soon a weekend warrior myself.

PicMonkey Collage2

A lot has happened since I decided to accept my friend’s bike as charity. This past weekend, our group, dubbed “The Cyclers” finished a self-promoted charity ride with funds going to churches in South America. What started out as a temporary solution became a lifestyle that I can’t see myself giving up. If you had asked me that a rusty, faded, beach cruiser would do all of this, I would have laughed at the impossibility.


This week’s commuter profile comes from Dwight McKay — we’ve had his profile in the hopper for several months…it’s fair to say that I am a little behind in publishing some of these. In any case, check out his words and photos below!

Name: Dwight McKay


How long have you been a bike commuter?

I started commuting shortly after college in 1984, but stopped after moving out of town in 1988. I started again in 1995 when we moved closer my work, and have been working towards a nearly car-free commute. Right now I am pretty much bike-only for the work commute except for days when I have a few time critical errands or need to haul my kids around to after-school activities.

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

Back in 1984, I commuted by bike because my wife and I had only one car. When we moved out of town, my wife and I rode for recreation and did a century together on a tandem. We moved back into town when my first daughter was born. The growing family responsibility ate into the time for long recreational rides, and the closeness of campus made switching back to bike commuting a natural choice.

My commute is about 4 miles one-way. The route has bike lanes the entire distance and a single moderately steep hill that’s up hill going home. It is a pleasant ride in a small college town. I grew up riding in a suburb of New York City, so this is a very easy environment to ride in.

When the weather is nice and I’m looking for more time on the bike, I make my homeward bound trip longer by heading out into the county and then looping back to the house. The beauty of a small town is that it is easy to escape onto less traveled roads. County roads here in Indiana are mostly in a north-south, east-west grid, so it’s easy to add distance in increments. My commute goes right past the Junior-Senior High School my kids go to, so I’ve been able to ride to school with them as part of my commute when they let me.

Typical Indiana county road viewed from my Leitra.

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

Cycling is about mental, physical and spiritual health for me. Commuting embeds most of my exercise time in my commute time, so it is as if I get my exercise for “free”. I find that I’m physically more aware and awake after the ride to work and the ride home.
But I judge that the mental and spiritual side of cycling may be a greater, and more easily overlooked benefit of bike commuting. Being outside has always deeply moved me. Seeing the sunrise or sunset, seeing wild geese fly overhead, or smelling freshly mowed grass fills me with awe. I feel like I am part of something much bigger than myself when I look down a long road to a far horizon as I ride. The ride home provides the physical sensation of putting miles between myself and whatever went on at work. That creates the mental space to set that aside and be present to my family. I commute for my head and my heart.

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

I live in West Lafayette, Indiana. I am the Director of Research Systems in the IT Systems and Operations group at Purdue University (Go Boilers!). I manage a team that deploys and operates supercomputers and grid services for researchers at Purdue. It’s a terrific combination of smart, technically savvy colleagues and a relaxed college town atmosphere.

What kind(s) of bike do you have?

I’ve been a recumbent rider for about 20 years now. I got hooked when my wife and I were living out in the county and I was looking for something more comfortable on long rides. I’ve owned a couple of different recumbents over the years and have two in my stable at the moment.


The above is my Rans V-Rex. It’s my fair weather ride. The short wheel base makes it maneuverable and easy to park in bike racks on campus. I started off using cheap panniers off the rear rack, but got fed up with the lack of rain protection they offered and the need to take them off the bike when I parked at work. I found a black storage box at Wal-Mart that is just about the same width as the seat back. Putting a few bolts through the bottom box into the rack converted the box into a weatherproof truck.

I typically carry a change of clothes for work and my laptop in the box. I leave a pair of shoes and pair of pants at work and trade those out every so often when I have an errand to run and am driving the car to work.

You can’t be shy and ride a recumbent in a small town. I get lots of questions, most often about how much the bike costs and how tough it is to balance. Recumbents are expensive due to their custom builds and limited production runs. My short answer is that they cost as much as a custom bike frame, which seems to satisfy most folks. Balancing on a recumbent is something an experienced cyclist can “get” with a few minutes of practice. Several of my riding buddies have ridden the V-Rex with just a few minutes of practice in a parking lot.

But if you really want to get noticed, you should try riding a velomobile to work! This is my Leitra, built by Carl Rassmussen in Denmark. It is a tadpole style, recumbent tricycle with an aerodynamic fairing. I imported it three years ago to see if I could replace my car during the winter months. You can read more about them at


The Leitra has a large cargo bin behind the seat with plenty of room for my daily haul to work. It has turn signals and windshield wiper on the front windshield. The wiper is driven by hand with a small lever inside. A triangular scoop on the nose of the fairing feeds vents that help to keep the inside of the windshield clear.


The Leitra doesn’t fit into older bike racks. You need to find a spot on the end or between two of the bike loop style racks. On the side of the fairing, ahead of the Leitra logo you can see the adjustable side vents. These can be opened and closed while you ride to control how much air blows into the cockpit.

The nose fairing tilts forward to allow the rider to sit down. The nose fairing has a quick release that makes it easy to remove. Here’s what it looks like with the nose fairing off. The carbon fiber seat is more comfortable than it looks. I use a small inflatable pad on the bottom. Steering is via the two side sticks on either side of the seat. There’s also a small amount of interior storage below and to either side of the seat. That’s a great place to put a hat or heavy gloves when you get hot and need to pull them off.


The Leitra has succeeded in freeing me from my car in the winter, but not without some problems. The fancy wheel covers you see in one of the pictures turned out to be impractical in the snow and had to be replaced with simpler fenders. Even though the Leitra design includes a ducted vent from the nose to blow air over the wind shield, fogging and icing of the wind shield can still occur. And while the fairing gives you a lot of control over airflow and a good deal of warmth, it’s still a challenge to keep my hands and feet warm when the temperature gets down to 0F and below.

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

I am a believer in riding “like a car”, so I take the lane when I need to for turns or when the bike lane is blocked. One morning, I was riding the V-Rex into work and moved over to take the lane due some debris in the bike lane, getting in front of some traffic. A county sheriff car passing by in the other direction flipped on his lights briefly right after he passed me and turned around to come up behind me. I thought to myself, “I wonder if I’m going to get an ear full about taking the lane.”

But when he rolled up along side me and rolled down his window, he greeted me by saying he rode a recumbent also! We had a brief chat about who made my bike and wished each other a good day.

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

This time of year (winter), most folks are amazed I’m riding at all! “Are you crazy?”, they ask. People are concerned about the weather. How do I ride in this heat / cold / rain / dark / sun? Folks want to know about how I deal with clothing changes. They are concerned about my safety in traffic. My staff, who have seen me ride year-round for several years now (and are sure I’m crazy!), are generally more encouraging.

Most folks wonder if I do this for the cost savings, which really isn’t the motivator for me. I’m often amazed that folks have a hard time seeing the emotional and spiritual benefits as sufficient reason to ride. If you could do something that adds a little adventure, a little spark to your day, wouldn’t you do it?

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

While I appreciate the work of bike advocates, I am not involved in those efforts.

Anything else that you want to share with us?

I write a blog about my rides and other random things called “Up Hill Both Ways”. You can find it at

The local magazine did a brief article on my Leitra. It might appear on their website at some point, but at the moment it’s only available in print. The site is

We’d like to thank Dwight for sharing his pictures and thoughts with us. It’s refreshing to hear a fellow commuter expound on the “spiritual benefits” of using a bike as transportation — something I’ve long thought about but wasn’t able to put into eloquent words like Dwight does. For the rest of you, if you’d like your fifteen minutes of Internet stardom, we are ALWAYS on the lookout for profilees. Drop a note to ghostrider[over there at]bikecommuters[dot]com and we’ll hook you up with our questionnaire and simple instructions. Don’t be shy — share your commute with the rest of the world!

Howdy Bike Commuters… We put out a call to arms for Commuter Profiles back in the day, and we had some lukewarm responses.  Since none of the velo monsters who initially emailed us have responded with a completed questionnaire, I have decided to cajole my friend Danny from NYC into submitting his Commuter Profile!  We hope the photos inspire you to share your commuter profile story too.  Get ready for more silly sarcasm and major hipster points… without further ado, Danny Abalos’ 15 minutes of Bike Commuter Internet fame:

Danny Abalos and his red single speed Schwinn in a white spaceship (a.k.a. his office)

Name: Danny Abalos

How long have you been a bike commuter?

5 years since college + 5 years at college before that. So, 10 years!

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

I hail from California, but I hate driving and traffic, so I got a job in NYC which is super bike friendly and it’s totally extra hipster points when you ride your bike everywhere. The subway is cool too, but bikes rule. My ride to work is a pretty easy 3 or 4 miles of  the beautiful bike lane-lined Brooklyn waterfront.  It only takes about 20 minutes, allowing me to get to work only 20 minutes late every day!

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

I already mentioned the extra hipster points right? So you can assume that I have five hundred friends on facebook because I ride a bike.  Also I never buy an unlimited metro card because they are lame, so I save about a hundred dollars per month to spend on things like… not gas.

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

I work at an Architecture firm in New York City.

What kind(s) of bike do you have?

I have a lovely minimal shiny red single speed Schwinn with an awesome “ratio” that I know nothing about.  Editor’s side bar: one time Danny g-chatted me telling me the story of how some guys were admiring his bike on the way to work, and they kept asking him what his ratio was.  I told him they meant his GEAR ratio, but that I also did not know an easy way to answer the question! HA.

The red single-speed Shwinn with street cred and something about "ratios"

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

Sure, but it’s more of a photo thing. I see lots of public art (or maybe it’s wannabe graffiti) during my commute that is pretty cool!  Plus, check out the dope view of the city I get twice a day over the Pulanski Bridge as I ride from Long Island City to Brooklyn to and from work.

Clever stencil…

Does this count as public art?

Along the bike path.

More art on the bike path.

Scenic Waterfront views.

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

Nobody is phased, come on this is Brooklyn!  Honestly though, I’m just a regular guy like everybody else.

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

I try to get my friends to bike everywhere by saying that we are in a bike gang, but I still don’t have a name for it yet.  Editor’s side bar: this is actually true and not sarcasm.  Our other friend, Justin, was bummed that he doesn’t have a bike yet so he can’t join the unnamed architecture bike gang.

Anything else that you want to share with us?

Sure, check out my ghetto fender I made out of an aluminum foil box today cuz the roads were a little moist in the pictures over there.

Danny's bike on the way into town- check out the killer view (I'm obviously talking about the view of his Aluminum foil box "fender"!)

Thanks for sharing, Danny… All the readers out there must be jealous of your separated bike path and green painted bike lanes – I know I AM!  So, if there are any other Cycle Ladies and Gents interested in submitting their commuter profiles, please email us at info{at}bikecommuters{dot}com.  It’s so easy and fun, even Danny can do it.

One of the mistakes I used to do when I first started bike commuting was trying to get to my destination as fast as possible. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to beat your time or use your bike commuting for training, but for the bike commuter who just started, you may want to pace yourself.

Why? Well there’s a few reasons. The biggest one for me was that if I went balls out on the first leg of my commute, I’d find myself getting way too tired before arriving at my destination. That poses as a problem because I would find myself way too tired to keep riding. Which made me stop to rest or have to buy a Redbull or Monster just so I can finish the rest of the ride. Another reason to pace yourself was I got way too sweaty. One of the things I hated was arriving at my destination dripping in sweat. This mattered to me because my work place doesn’t have a shower. If it did, then I’d roll out of bed, get on my bike, ride fast and just take my showers at work.

Now you’re probably wondering, “how do I pace myself?” For me, and this could be an entirely different experience for other riders, but what I do is I find the right cadence while riding. I’m not pushing too hard or going too easy. Basically I’m cruising around 14-17mph an hour.

I do hope that this little tip will help out our new bike commuter friends. Enjoy your ride!

Today’s commuter profile comes from a fellow Chicagoan, whose bike – BlueX – I admired one day last fall. Skipton Skiba works at Trader Joe’s and has shared with us his love of bikes and bike building.


Skipton Skiba

Skipton Skiba

How long have you been a bike commuter?

I started commuting July of 2008.
I commute all year long.

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

I have always been into bicycles and bicycling. One of my best memories when I was 10 years old and my Uncle helped me build a 5 speed racing bike out of parts that I got out of the neighbor’s trash. In the mid 80’s I was a big road bike guy. Greg Lemond and Bernard Hainault were my heroes. But once I got a car, I got fat and lazy and didn’t do much biking for 15-20 years.

Then, in 2008, I was looking to do some stuff with bikes again. I had been an at-home dad for 7 years, and soon my youngest son would be in full-day kindergarten. I would have time to build some bikes. One night I stumbled on the web site and I saw the kind of bikes I had been dreaming about in my head.

Then in April 2008 my wife was laid off. So I needed to get a job.
I got a job at Trader Joe’s in July of 2008. I decided to ride to work for my work-out using my homemade cruiser. I had done two triathlons and I was burned out on road bikes and trying to stay fit by going to the gym.

My ride is 5 to 8 miles one way depending on what route I take. I usually take the Lake Front Path which makes for a very pleasant 8 mile ride. Riding the lake path is a great way to go. No car traffic and nice scenery.

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

I’m a crew member at Trader Joe’s in Lincoln Park, Chicago.

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

Bike commuting helps me with my lifestyle in so many ways. I always look forward to my ride no matter what the weather. I feel great when I get to work. It helps me stay as healthy as possible. It gives me more patience. Also I feel that riding every day is good message for my kids who are nine and ten. I want them to see that you don’t have to drive everywhere and they see their old man doing something healthy. Because I commute everyday I have a reason to work on and build bicycles that I enjoy. I’m not sure what I like the most, riding bikes or building them.

What kind(s) of bike do you have?

I ride bikes that I like to call Rat Rods.

These are bikes that I have built using an assortment of parts from all different kinds of bikes -some are old cruisers, some are just older “undesirable” types of bikes and I build what I want.

Building these kinds of bikes also satisfies my inner hot rodder. It is much cheaper and environmentally friendly to build a bunch of different Rat Rod bikes instead of spending lots of time and money on one tricked out car.

My main winter bike is a 1960 something Schwinn with a tank and 1950’s fenders.
This bike is what I would call a classic example of a Rat Rod. It has vintage and modern parts mixed together. Most of the bike is vintage parts with a Nexus 4 speed rear hub and roller bearing brakes on both wheels.

black bike

black big snow

black bike

The bike I probably put the most miles on is the one I call BlueX. BlueX started life out as an 80’s Schwinn three-speed. Then my friend, Gary, helped me weld up the super laid back seat post.

I put two old tanks from girl’s 1950 bicycles on it. I also added the 1930s tractor light and a giant speedometer from a 1940s pickup on it. The idea was for the bike to look like an old Boardtracker racing motorcycle. I really like how it turned out. I just love they way it looks and the reaction people have to it. I could ride all day long!


BlueX rear

Build journal…..

Another bike I built that I love to ride is one my 9 year old son named
Bellowing Yellow!

I made this with a 1980s three-speed Sears bike a friend gave me for free. I made the 180 degree front fender just to see if it would work. And it does! The bright yellow really makes it pop!

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

I think the main thing I want to share is how much I enjoy commuting. Even a supposed “bad weather day” on the commute is a great ride.

One day on my way to work, riding down the lake front path, on Bluex, a guy on a high dollar road bike rode up next to me and said his girlfriend in California sent him photos of my bike. He said it wasn’t ride able. Now he knows it is.

Also I just love it when someone ask where I got that bike or where they can get one and I tell them I built it.

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

Lots of my coworkers are bike commuters also. They do get a kick out of the bikes I ride but wonder when I am going to turn my handlebars right side up.

Do you have an ‘advanced commuter tip’?

Just get out and ride! You don’t need lots of fancy equipment, even a department store bike. Or a garage sale bike is enough to get started. You don’t need to be “Lance” to do this. But be safe – always wear a helmet. .

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

Nothing really yet. I always try and be a courteous bicyclist, and follow the rules of the road.

Anything else that you want to share with us?

I do love to ride with my wife and kids, when the weather is nice we will ride to school, the beach, etc.

I also take the boys on the monthly TailDraggers Leisure Bike Club rides I have been organizing.
A bunch of people get together and we ride our bikes to a cool restaurant or coffee shop and talk about bikes-our next big build, swap commuter stories, things like that. It is a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon. I know my kids have a blast and it’s fun to watch them ride around on the cool vintage cruisers.

Random pics of other bikes and my kids

If you ever see a bike like this “displayed” at the Trader Joe’s (on Clybourn ) bike rack come in and say:

Thanks, Skip, for sharing your story and your bikes with us! If you’re interested in being profiled, drop us a line at: info[at]bikecommuters[dot]com