Meghan McCloskey, National Bike Challenge coordinator
We are now almost two weeks into the first month of the National Bike Challenge. What better time of year is there to really amp up your riding? It’s time to think outside your usual rides and consider jumping on your bike rather than getting in your car. Use any errand as an excuse to record more miles and rack up the points. Take a cue from Mark Heslep, one participant who finds every opportunity to ride, no matter where it takes him.
Mark has been recording his miles in the National Bike Challenge since last year. He came in first place for the entire state of West Virginia last year and isn’t slowing down anytime soon. I first noticed Mark from a comment he posted about not driving a car since last April. You hear a lot about people commuting to and from work on their bikes, but not driving a car at all takes a lot of dedication. That’s a lot of “Transportation” rides to log. This got me thinking about all the different trips Mark must take on his bike. I wanted to know the details, so I asked. It turns out, Mark does ride to work, which I expected, but he also rides to church, to pay bills, to the grocery store, to his staff Christmas party and even to his high school reunion (a 100-mile round trip).
Mark’s typical day consists of multiple rides. His morning starts off at 5 am with a ride to his favorite breakfast spot before riding to work. He almost always runs another errand in the evening?often biking to the grocery store or to visit his parents. He also rides once a week to mow the lawn of an elderly woman who he has been helping out for years. While talking with Mark about all of his rides, there was one consistency–no matter where he was talking about riding, there was always a tone of happiness and excitement. Who knew riding a bike to pay a bill could be so enjoyable? It didn’t seem to matter to Mark where he was going. What mattered was how he was getting there. The reason Mark forgoes the engine for a bike so often? It’s simple, he says, “I love to ride, I love to ride, I love to ride! I actually laugh out loud at times.”
Mark found his love of riding in April 2013. He bought a new bike and started riding to and from work, dressing in layers to ride in the freezing cold. Once he started biking more instead of driving, he decided to sell his car. Every time he considers buying a new car, he changes his mind. Since he started riding he has lost 70 pounds and is in the best shape of his life. Mark started counting his miles for the National Bike Challenge when he saw a poster for it in a bike shop. He continues to record his miles on the Challenge site to stay motivated. “Heck, yeah, it motivates me! I’m always saying ‘I need to get some miles in,'” he says.
For him, “Transportation” rides are fun–he wouldn’t have it any other way. When you log onto the National Bike Challenge and start recording your rides, think about where your bike can take you. Commuting to work is awesome (I do it myself), but there are so many other opportunities in our lives to hop on a bike to get from point A to point B, and have fun while doing it.