OCCUPATION: An Environmental Health fellow at the Environmental Protection Agency, studying the human health benefits of interacting with nature
WHERE SHE LIVES: The Morehead Hill neighborhood near downtown Durham
WHERE SHE WORKS: At the EPA’s office in Research Triangle Park
DISTANCE OF COMMUTE, EACH WAY: 8.5 miles
DAYS A WEEK: 4 days
HOW LONG SHE’S DONE IT: For this job a year, though she’s been commuting off and on for a decade
WHAT SHE USES: Yngve’s pink steel-frame Univega, which she purchased for $200 two years ago, turns 30 this year. She inserted S&S couplings into the frame, so that it can be taken apart while traveling. Other modifications include a leather Brooks saddle, spoke reflectors, a rear bamboo fender, thick touring tires and an Ortlieb saddlebag.
A STRANGE TRIP: Yngve recently got caught in a summer storm. In RTP, where long driveways hide corporate headquarters from plain sight, there are few places to duck in for shelter. “Usually you’re not outside when those storms happen,” she says. “But when you’re outside, you actually see it more, and it was neat. The wind picked up, and the clouds were incredible. The sky was so cool.”
TIPS FOR BEGINNERS: “No one thinks to tell you how frequently to pump up your tires,” says Yngve. A co-worker recently bought a bike and took a maintenance class at a big store so she could start commuting a few days a week. Several weeks later, she realized how much easier the trek would be with properly inflated tires. “I had the exact same experience when I started,” she says. “Pumping them up every one or two weeks can make a big difference.”
OCCUPATION: Computer science professor at N.C. State
WHERE HE LIVES: In Raleigh’s Caraleigh Mills community
WHERE HE WORKS: N.C. State’s Centennial Campus
DISTANCE OF COMMUTE, EACH WAY: 3.5 miles when carrying child; 2.5 miles when not
DAYS A WEEK: 5 days
HOW LONG HE’S DONE IT: Since moving to Raleigh in 2010 and, previously, in Portland, Oregon
WHAT HE USES: Murphy-Hill’s setup is minimal, with a Torelli road bike, a helmet and a Timbuk2 messenger bag. The biggest item he carries is his 16-month-old daughter, Zuri. She goes to preschool at N.C. State’s day care.
“The thing we use the most is a Burley trailer,” he says. “In the morning, my wife attaches it to her bike, takes our daughter to school, drops her off and leaves the trailer. After work, I go with my bike and pick the baby and the trailer up.”
His daughter has her own commuter bag, too, filled with diapers and fruit. The trailer weighs 25 pounds and costs around $500. But the parents are trying out a new setup, which includes a front-mounted kid seat behind the handlebars and adds just 10 pounds.
“It’s very agile, and she likes that even more than the trailer, because she likes being right with us,” Murphy-Hill says. “She likes pointing at stuff and talking to us.”
WATCH OUT: “You know what’s funny? I had way more run-ins with drivers back in Vancouver and Portland than I ever do here,” he says. “I ride every day, and I haven’t had anybody yell at me. In Vancouver, I’ve had people get out of their car. Maybe it’s because biking is still new or unusual enough that people are just confused.”
OCCUPATION: Product packager, baker and cooking instructor at Whole Foods
WHERE HE LIVES: East Chapel Hill
WHERE HE WORKS: Whole Foods bakehouse in Morrisville
DISTANCE OF COMMUTE EACH WAY: 16 miles
DAYS A WEEK: 5 days
HOW LONG HE’S DONE IT: He’s commuted for 30 years—first in college in Pennsylvania, then in Canada and California and in Chapel Hill for more than two decades. He’s made his current trek for 11 years.
WHAT HE USES: Tobin once used road bikes, but tucking into the handlebars didn’t give him the visibility he wanted. He switched to a mountain bike with slick tires and then a Cannondale Quick hybrid—essentially, a racing bike that allows him to sit upright. In three years, Tobin has put 14,000 miles on the rig. He’s added a rearview mirror, a phone holster, a speedometer, rear and front bags, a tool kit, a 1,000-lumen rechargeable headlight and a light on his helmet. And he clips into the pedals with specialized sandals suited for the summer.
WHY HE BIKES: “I’m a lousy driver. I tend to hug the edge of the road, which is not safe if you’re a cyclist,” says Tobin, laughing. “If one spouse is a bike commuter, it allows you to live with one car and save a lot of money, maybe $5,000 a year. But I do need to sleep more, and I eat a lot. Fortunately, I get a good discount at Whole Foods.”
A STRANGE TRIP: Know those ice storms that force everyone into gridlock as they try to flee home? Tobin skirts the traffic, and it takes him about 10 minutes longer than normal. “It’s not my fault that there are too many cars on the road,” he says. “I’m trying to do my part.”
OCCUPATION: Senior project manager in City of Durham’s Technology Solutions Department
WHERE HE LIVES: Downtown Carrboro
WHERE HE WORKS: Durham City Hall
DISTANCE OF COMMUTE, EACH WAY: 20 miles
DAYS A WEEK: 5 days
HOW LONG HE’S DONE IT: Two years
WHAT HE USES: Pergolotti has modified his 2010 Surly Cross-Check, adding brakes suited to a muddy commute and alternating between slick and knobby tires, based on the season. He stuffs rain gear and work clothes into a Swiss military backpack found at an Army surplus store.
WHY HE COMMUTES: “I don’t like going to a gym at all. I don’t like having to make time for exercise, but I know I have to go to work every day,” he says. “This is one way to make sure I get exercise.”
A STRANGE TRIP: Pergolotti mostly rides scenic Erwin Road. Occasionally, he takes a detour through the Hope Valley Creek watershed, over “roads, dirt trails, handmade bridges, dams and a downed tree.” It’s not the fastest route, but compared to the narrow lanes on Erwin Road, it may be the safest. Well, most of the time. During one such sylvan detour, he wandered too close to the duck hunters. “I heard the shot, and it landed just next to me,” he says. “Never again.”
TIPS FOR BEGINNERS: Don’t overspend. “You don’t have to get special equipment. Yes, there are guys with $15,000 bikes,” he says. “You don’t need it.” Instead, Pergolotti relies on a steel-frame Surly that costs $1,200 if it’s new.
Take a repair class, too. He opted for one from Carrboro’s The ReCYCLEry, known for helping locals build bikes.
OCCUPATION: CPA specializing in taxes for small businesses
WHERE HE LIVES: North of Interstate 540 in Raleigh, two miles away from the recently completed Honeycutt Creek Greenway
WHERE HE WORKS: An accounting firm just down the street from Carter-Finley Stadium and PNC Arena
DISTANCE OF COMMUTE, EACH WAY: 16 miles
DAYS A WEEK: 2–3 days
HOW LONG HE’S DONE IT: Since late May, just two months after the greenway near his home was dedicated
WHAT HE USES: A GT Transeo 2.0 hybrid with medium-width, medium-tread tires. It allows him to cut through the grass alongside the greenway if he worries he’s in someone’s way. He keeps his lunch in a little cooler on the back and his clothes and work papers in a backpack. He owns a helmet but generally forgoes it on the greenway.
WHY HE COMMUTES: Adams remembers the oil crisis of 1973 and how people talked about giving up their cars but rarely did. It’s something he always wanted to try. Though he won’t do it forever, he says, he does want to experience it for a few seasons each year. “This was a bucket list thing for me,” he says. “I want to do it enough so that I could say I really did it, but it’s not a complete lifestyle change. I was always going to ride to work, but I’m older, and if I don’t do it now, I am never going to do it. ”
TIPS FOR BEGINNERS: Find a shower. Though many riders stop going to the gym when they start commuting, Adams joined one so he could shower after his 85-minute trek each morning. But he doesn’t work out there, as he’s already lost several pounds from his ride alone.
OCCUPATION: Research assistant at the Institute for Transportation Research and Education
WHERE SHE LIVES: Just east of downtown Raleigh, near John Chavis Memorial Park
WHERE SHE WORKS: N.C. State’s Centennial Campus
DISTANCE OF COMMUTE, EACH WAY: Just more than 6 miles
DAYS A WEEK: 5 days
HOW LONG SHE’S DONE IT: While attending N.C. State’s graduate school, three years; to her current post, since April
WHAT SHE USES: Her setup is simple and cheap, with a purple Schwinn hybrid she purchased from a friend for $60. She brings her clothes in a backpack and, when she has too much to carry, attaches a basket to the front.
WATCH OUT: For the first few months of her new job, Anderson commuted by road through downtown Raleigh and hopped on the greenway near campus. While she waited to cross a busy intersection, though, two cars collided. She ditched her bike and jumped out of the way just in time. Since the incident, she’s happily opted for greenways only. “The very first time I tried it, I realized I should have been doing this the whole time, with getting away from traffic and being in the woods,” Anderson says. “There’s so much wildlife surrounding us all the time, and I get to experience that on the way to and from work.”
A STRANGE TRIP: One disadvantage of Raleigh’s greenways is that many lack the drainage systems of proper roads. That often leads to tunnels clogged with mud and wooden bridges without traction—meaning muddy cycling clothes for Anderson and, occasionally, a spill. When she stood up from a recent post-rain fall, an imprint of her body remained in the mud. “Hopefully, that served as a warning for other cyclists.”