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Challenge Recap Week 6: Why I Ride

Last week, we bid farewell to National Bike Month 2012 — a full 31 days of events and energy encouraging cycling in communities from coast to coast. Lucky for us, the end of May wasn’t the final curtain on this united, nationwide effort to get more people riding. The first week of June proved that the National Bike Challenge is keeping those wheels spinning.

This week, we broke 26,000 riders. By day’s end, we may hit 4 million miles logged. But, even more important than numbers, the Challenge is creating community. One of the most popular aspects of Bike Month was our Why I Ride series, which captured the personal stories of a diverse range of bicyclists across America. That got me thinking: Why are thousands of people riding in the National Bike Challenge?

I asked Heather Towers, a Maryland resident and active Challenge participant, to share some of her story — and here’s what she said.

Heather Towers

When and why did you start riding?

Like most kids, I always loved riding my bike but I lost track of the hobby as an adult.  I just started back riding last summer and actually, for economic reasons. I was working as an AmeriCorps volunteer and living on a small stipend. A few months into my contract I realized that I lived, worked, and went to college all within five miles of each other and cycling just started to make sense as a way to save gas money and get a little healthier while I was at it. I actually started on (gasp) an old rusty discount store bike.  As that summer progressed, I bought a like new Women’s Raleigh hybrid and that is the bike I use today. It’s heavy but a good utility bike. I have a sweet basket and bell on it.

What role did the National Bike Challenge play in getting you to ride or ride more?

Before the NBC [National Bike Challenge], I didn’t have a way to capture information about my effect on the environment (C02 saved) or my distances traveled. I knew I went a couple of miles each way now and then but I was not competitive about my riding. The Endomondo app helps me realize the multitude of benefits (calories burned, co2 saved, etc.) that I am gaining with each mile and this just encourages me to do even more riding. The prizes associated with the NBC also encourage me to ride more. I am very excited about the possibility of winning a road bike.

How has the group dynamic of the NBC — sharing stories, advice, etc — helped or inspired you?

The group aspect of the NBC has been the most wonderful part of the challenge for me. I have gained knowledge from so many more experienced riders and/or shared inspiration and encouragement with other cyclists in the NBC. The competition is very friendly and the general camaraderie impresses me. I absolutely love this aspect of the challenge and check my feeds and groups several times a day to see who else is out cycling or what they have to say. I would not be doing as well as I am today without this group dynamic.

How did the Challenge lead to your involvement in advocacy?

My riding the bike more often has gained the attention of my community, friends, and family. Recently, I was part of a local newspaper feature about transport cyclists.  Thanks to the NBC, I gained the confidence and experience to become involved with a grassroots bike lane project here in my town. We are preparing to implement phase 1 of the project and just this week our community held a Bicycle Friendly Community Workshop, where Matt Wempe from the League came and spoke about BFCs and other tips for getting our project off the ground and formalized. Before the NBC, I wasn’t aware of the League and all the valuable things they do for cyclists and communities. I’ll continue to be an advocate for cycling safety in our community.

How has increased cycling and involvement in the Challenge impacted your life/style?

Increased cycling has given me so much joy in the last five weeks. I have experienced better cardiovascular health, energy, and overall strength. For someone that is used to getting the majority of her fitness in a gym, cycling is so much more fun! It is liberating and exciting — every day brings a new adventure on my bike. Another thing that makes me very happy about my increased cycling is the effect it’s had on friends and family — those that see my contagious joy and want to grab that for themselves. Many of them are getting on bikes for the first time in years and loving every minute. This pleases me so much. I have been even been commuting on the bike so much, that now I am preparing to join a ladies sport cycling group that rides weekly. There are so many exciting possibilities on the horizon for me and my new hobby, thanks to the NBC.

Join Heather- Sign up for the National Bike Challenge today!


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