My Bicycle is My Transportation

Taking the bike as transportation is becoming a popular alternative to cars. We got together with Nicole, a teacher from the Midwest who adopted the bicycle as her main form of transportation, to ask her a few questions. Our hope is to enlighten and help anyone considering the leap. Nicole’s positive energy and outlook was undeniable and contagious throughout the interview. Honestly, she left us wondering why more of us don’t sell the car and grab a bike.

How long have you used a bike for your only form of transportation and why?
It’s been about three years. Three years ago I was moving to Slovenia, so I sold my car. While there, I transitioned to mostly using trains, bikes and my feet for transportation. When I came back to the States, I decided I didn't want a car. I think it’s really easy to be lazy and I wanted to make a change. One of my favorite things to do is ride my bike. There is little point, while I can, to give myself the crutch of owning a car.
How has biking altered your life?
I have to wear a lot more layers! (She laughs while dressed in a scarf, coat, gloves, hat and jacket) Driving two hours used to frustrate me, but I always loved really long bike rides. To arrive somewhere feeling exhausted, satisfied and proud is a pretty wonderful way to get from place to place. I really think that we make things too easy for ourselves and that inconvenience is OK.
How do you motivate yourself to keep pedaling every day?
Well, I’ve got to get to work! If I want to go anywhere, I’ve got to bike there. It’s actually way more motivating than having a car. I have loved riding bicycles my entire life. It was what I did for fun as a kid. I looked forward to riding with my family. So, in a way, it has always been a form of transportation. Because of that, it’s not hard for me to find motivation.
How do other people respond when you tell them you don’t use a car?
I teach 150 kids and they all think I’m completely bananas. (As for adults) I have lived in a few different cities and had different reactions in all of them. Some people respond casually, as if it’s very normal that I don’t have a car. Others respond with complete disbelief and explicitly offer me rides. It really depends on the climate of the city.
You live in the Midwest and face extremes of every season, including blizzards and scorching heat. How do you deal with that on your bike? 
I actually love the heat! I have panniers and pack them full of ice for when I run out of water. In the winter I make sure to buy the right clothing. Without proper clothing, it’s terrible. I think that if you are serious about commuting with a bike, there are things you have to invest in to make it sustainable. If you buy things online or search for the right deals, you’ll find things for cheaper. It’s also very important to find a company you trust (for these items).
Music and cycling go hand in hand. What’s your favorite music to listen to while riding?
On long rides through the country I love listening to Brent Berry Band. It makes me really happy and feels adventurous.
Do you pack snacks for rides to keep you going?
If I’m going from city to city I pack a snack and stop somewhere for beer on the way. Having a tofu sandwich and drinking a beer for lunch is the only way to enjoy a nine hour bike ride.
Any long rides planned for the future?
You know, it’s tough as a first year teacher because I don’t have a lot of extra time. Now that it’s warming up I have the opportunity to get out more. I’m actually training for the Dirty Kanza in May and I'm really excited for that.
What would you tell people who are considering using a bicycle as transportation or just thinking about biking more?
My passionate side says do it! You will love it! You will not be disappointed! It is a challenge that will lead to a healthier lifestyle for you and the Earth. My side that understands people a little bit more says to hide the keys for three weeks and see if you can handle life without a car. See if it’s something you can handle that doesn’t cause you grief. You should understand that out of the entire year, you will have several days where you hate it, but your heart and body will be in better shape.

 

Spencer Brown
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