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NEWS | Oct. 7, 2010

Airmen switch gears on daily commute

By Patrick Desmond 502nd Air Base Wing OL-A Public Affairs

For most people, mornings fall into routine: wakeup, get ready for work, grab a bite of breakfast and a coffee to go, and then jump in the car.

Now, once they're nice and caffeinated, it's time to accelerate and brake, squeeze through intersections and look for open lanes on the highway.

There is an alternative, of course - bicycling. While Airmen differ on the rationale for relying on human power over horsepower, one thing they can agree on, cycling to work provides a good breath of fresh air.

Having biked a couple times weekly to work the past five years to stay fit, Lt. Col. Kirk Peddicord said it's the personal time that keeps him pedaling.

"You're in a better frame of mind," the 433rd Maintenance Group commander said about his 21-mile trip to work. "You're not racing down the highway and you're not tailgating."

Larry Gallo began his three-times-a-week, 24-mile bike commute last April, training for the Air Force recruiting ride at the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa.

He said the morning ride produces a behavioral change opposite of road rage.

"You're doing something that's going to make you feel better, and you going to treat others better as a result," the AFCT Texas team captain said.

But, it's not like anyone can just hop on a bike right?

Mileage, the Airmen say, is not really what holds people back. That's something easily adjusted to, Peddicord said. Stepping outside the car and riding next to two-ton vehicles is different.

"It's really kind of scary at first," Peddicord said.

Both Airmen agree it's something you get used to, with the first step being preparation.

Peddicord averages just over an hour, winding through side streets while avoiding access roads and highways.

Gallo recommends mapping a route to work beforehand and leaving a generous window of time to get there.

Both ride a road/cycling bike, although Peddicord said it doesn't really matter which bike to ride as long as it's well made and dependable.

"It will ride better, coast better and it will last longer," he said.

A given to road tested cyclists, Gallo and Peddicord always take an extra tire tube, and a CO2 cartridge and mini bike pump.

"You never know what's going to happen" Gallo said, adding one thing to expect is flat tires. "It's kind of like camping - you have to be prepared."

In addition to reflective gear for early rides, Gallo also stashes rain gear in a light backpack.

Most Airmen have access to locker rooms, which alleviates awkward, sweaty situations at work.

To stay light as possible, Peddicord stores work clothes in his locker the day before.

More than a healthy way to get to work, come lunchtime, Gallo said he's more inclined to skip the drive through due to decreased mobility.

At the end of the day, commuting to work on a bicycle is a commitment - a commitment to hop back on at 4:30 p.m.

But for people with busy schedules, it's an opportunity to mix exercise and burn off calories along with daily stress.

And, if you're anything like Gallo, there's a sense of accomplishment that comes with it.

"It's the reason a lot of people do it," he said. "You know if you don't get back on, you won't get home.

"It's always a victory when you make yourself."