Worcester, Mass.
July 25, 1999

Bike commute takes edge off workday

By Lynne Tolman

  It can't completely turn a work day into a play day, but commuting by bike can take a bit of the rattiness out of the rat race.
  You don't have to bike to work every day for benefits -- to the body, mind, environment, and wallet -- to accrue. Here's how three area riders work biking into their schedules.
  Steve Blum, a dentist who commutes from Westboro to Framingham, makes summer Fridays his bike-to-work days. The ride is 12 miles on back roads through Southboro and Ashland and takes about 40 minutes. That compares to a 25-minute drive featuring "horrendous traffic on Route 9" on other days of the week, Blum said.
  Blum, 48, is president of the Seven Hills Wheelmen biking club and gets in plenty of recreational bike miles on his days off or evenings after work. He also works out at a gym, but he likes to keep bike commuting in his fitness mix "because it's kind of a lift for the day -- it makes me feel good," he said.
  "I always make sure I have enough time for two things: a potential flat tire -- that hasn't happened this year on my commute --  and a bagel after I get to work."
  His commute is not hilly, and starting at 7 a.m., "it's usually cool," he said, so he finds he doesn't need a shower when he gets to work. "It suffices to wash up," he said, before he sees his first patient at 8:30. "It must be OK -- nobody's complained yet."
  Gail Moede of Worcester, an editor for the U.S. Geological Survey in Northboro, tries to bike the 11 miles to work two or three times a week in the summer, depending on what else is on her agenda. She learned the hard way that Tuesday evening Ultimate Frisbee games in Berlin don't leave her enough energy to bike home.
  She also has learned to avoid going up the steep hill by St. John's High School on Main Street, Shrewsbury. "I switched to a longer, milder ride, up Maple Street," she said, even though that means she has to cross Route 9 at one point.
  "People who don't bike are amazed," she said, "but it really isn't that far. Eleven miles feels great. I get a workout in, I save money on gas and wear and tear on my car, and I'm not clogging up the roads."
  Her commute takes about 45 minutes by bike, vs. 15 to 20 minutes by car, mostly on Interstate 290.
  "I will say I have to bring a little more food to work" on bike days, she said, to fuel her engine for the ride home.
  Moede, 37, said there is a shower at work but she finds she doesn't sweat heavily in the morning. Like Blum, she said, "nobody's complained yet."
  She plans ahead and leaves work clothes at the office on non-biking days, or carries them in a bag strapped to her bike's rear rack. "My job is pretty casual. If my outfit's got a few wrinkles in it, it's OK."
  At work, she keeps her bike in a storage garage. "I haven't requested a (bike parking) rack, but we could probably get one, except that would mean the bikes would be in the direct sun a good portion of the day," she said. "My bike seat is already deteriorating and the sun wouldn't help."
  Don Morse of Millbury, a project engineer at Worcester Controls in Marlboro, is more hard-core. He bikes to work four days a week in summer, and one or two days a week in winter, barring snowy roads or icy temperatures. "Below 25 degrees, I won't do it," he said. "My feet freeze."
  Morse, 47, started biking years ago to lose weight and control his cholesterol level, and the first year he shed about 45 pounds. "I started commuting by bike because I like to eat a lot. It's about the only way I can eat the way I want," he said.
  He used to bike a nine-mile loop from home in the mornings before driving the 17 miles to work. "So I figured it isn't much farther to just bike to work," he said.
  "It takes, on a good day, about 45 minutes. On a bad day, an hour," he said. "Driving takes about half an hour, on the same route. I go out Route 20. There's a nice wide breakdown lane most of the ride."
  Morse said by biking, he saves money on gas. "But I usually spend it on bike stuff. But it's healthy; it's good for the environment. I really enjoy it, and I feel nice and refreshed -- after a shower."
  Morse added that cyclists often tell horror stories about hostile motorists, "and I've got to say that I think I've only run into one discourteous driver the whole time I've been commuting, about two and a half years. I'm very proud of that.
  "I think there's a lot more people biking now ... and it's not that big a deal (for a driver) to wait a couple of seconds to get to the next traffic light."
  TIP OF THE HELMET -- to 74-year-old Etienne "Steve" LeGuern of Athol, one of more than 2,500 cyclists raising money for the cancer-fighting Jimmy Fund by riding in the 192-mile Pan-Mass Challenge, Aug. 7-8. LeGuern, a veteran of the French Army in World War II, has biked the PMC's Sturbridge-to-Provincetown route eight times since 1989 and biked across the United States in 1991. He was sidelined with serious injuries from a car accident in 1996 and had to move from his longtime home in West Brookfield to a rehabilitation center in Athol. He finished his rehab and started biking again this year.
  "I will continue for as long as my legs will pump up and down, like the pistons in a car's engine," LeGuern writes in his fund-raising letter.

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