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What to ride

Most of the riders say basic mountain bikes or hybrids work just fine for their relatively short rides to campus (3 miles or less). They also feel more comfortable parking inexpensive bikes in campus bike racks. Even so, they advise you to lock your bike to ensure it's there when it's time to go home.

Fashion hints

Riders have a variety of techniques for looking sharp after the ride to work. Some keep nice clothes -- pants, jackets, ties, suit -- in their offices and make a quick change upon arrival. Some fold business clothes into a backpack. Still others dress for the office at home and wear protective gear over their clothes while they ride.

Hair style note: "You have to find something to do with your hair that you can stand doing after you wear a helmet," Neal says.


Rain jackets and pants are a staple for these all-weather riders. For the frigid days of an Iowa winter, colleagues and riding partners Anex and Raman strive to hit the road with virtually no exposed skin. Among their cold weather gear are snowmobile pants, neoprene face masks, gaiters, thin runners' caps under the bike helmet and lobster mitts or "musher" mitts, which are used by dog sled drivers.

Riders in the storm

Do our intrepid riders pedal to work in a blizzard? Most do, with a little help from warm clothes and the right wheels. Neal grabs a bike with wider tires and lowers the tire pressure a bit. Anex and Raman opt for knobby tires with carbide studs -- essentially, bicycling snow tires. While a little snow doesn't seem to deter the Iowa State riders, they all think twice about riding on ice. It's treacherous, Raman says, and doubly dangerous since the cars on the road with you may not be under control.

All in the family

Riding is a family affair for some ISU employees. Bonning accompanies her 9- and 7-year-old sons to school before heading to Iowa State. Anex and wife Meg Gordon (Plant Sciences Institute) enjoy the same routine with their son and daughter.


Safety is always top of mind for these riders. O'Connor is especially aware of the dangers of distracted drivers, having been clipped by cars twice at the intersection of Lincoln Way and Grand. She sticks to bike paths when possible. The ISU bicyclists advise fellow riders to:

  • Wear a helmet.
  • Take a first, second and third look before you roll out.
  • Light yourself up, especially on dark, winter days. Wear a reflective vest and put flashing lights on your clothes, back and front. A "miner's-style" light attached to the front of your helmet helps you see and be seen.
  • Don't assume a driver who appears to be looking at you really sees you.

Raman adds: "Do not ride in the zoned-out way some people drive to work. The price of an accident is much more costly to you."

June 12, 2008

Riding to work

by Diana Pounds

They ride for many reasons -- to smell the roses, get some exercise, be nice to the planet. They ride in all the seasons, pedaling through sun, wind, rain and snow.

Six ISU faculty and staff, who bike to and from campus almost every work day of the year, recently talked about their daily commute. All enjoy pedaling to work and think you might like it, too. Here, they share some of their "riding to work" tips and stories.


Raj Raman

Raj Raman

Raj Raman, associate director of educational programs, Bioeconomy Institute, and associate professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering

His route: Ride through Northridge Heights and Northridge neighborhoods to the Stange Road bike path, follow to campus.

Why ride? "Riding is a great way to fit workouts in with the job, kids, and a great way to mix the commute with more pleasure. Conservation at the personal level is going to be very important for a sustainable future."

Annette O'Connor

Annette O'Connor

Annette O'Connor, associate professor, Veterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine

Her route: Ride through the downtown neighborhood near the Lincoln Center HyVee, through the Coldwater golf course on the Squaw Creek path to the College of Veterinary Medicine complex.

Why ride? "I love it. It's a much nicer way to start the day and finish it. Even if I need to go onto campus, it takes less time to ride from the veterinary school to main campus than it does to drive and try to find a place to park."

Robert Anex

Robert Anex

Robert Anex, associate director of research programs, Office, bioeconomy Institute, and associate professor in agricultural and biosystems engineering

His route: Follow the bike lanes through Northridge neighborhood to Moore Park and follow the bike path on Stange Road to campus.

Bikers, 1; drivers, 0: "Last winter, I had a meeting at 8:30 a.m. in the General Services Building. There was a blizzard that day. I was the only one who made it."

Jeri NHeal

Jeri Neal

Jeri Neal, program leader for ecology at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture

Her route: Take Ridgewood Avenue to 6th Street, catch the trail by the CyRide facility and enter campus north of the Lied Recreation Athletic Center.

Tale of the road: Pulling out of her driveway on a mountain bike one morning, Neal was startled by crackling crunching noises from above. She braked as a brown "ball" plummeted to the ground in front of her bike. It bounced on the ground, uncurled to reveal it's true identity (squirrel), weaved a bit, and bounded off. "He must have missed a jump," she said.

Jim Wilcox

Jim Wilcox

Jim Wilcox, library assistant, Parks Library

His route: From the downtown Ames area, ride west on Ninth Street to Brookridge Avenue (near Brookside Park) and go south to 6th Street to enter the bike trail to campus.

Not into hangtags: "The last time I had a parking permit? Maybe 17 or 18 years ago."

Shared the road with semis: Wilcox joined The Des Moines Register's Chuck Offenburger and 300 others for a 5,000-mile cross-country bike ride in 1995. The riders spent two days riding Interstate 80 through Nevada.

Bryony Bonning

Bryony Bonning

Bryony Bonning, entomology professor

Her route: From Oakland Street, ride to West Street and follow to the fairly safe intersection crossing -- the four-way stop near Monty's Barbershop.

Why ride? "It's a great thing in terms of how you feel when you get to work. There are no frustrations with drivers or changing gas prices. It's the environmentally sound thing to do. And the ride home can be really nice this time of year. You get to check out the gardens."