Commuters shift gears to 2 wheels
People who regularly ride their bike to work oil knee joints, improve physical health and keep the pounds off with every pump of the pedals, fitness experts say.
Across the nation since 2000, the number of people riding a bike to work has increased by more than 40 percent. In Colorado, tens of thousands bike to work each day in cities on the Front Range — about 20,000 in Boulder and Denver alone, according to “Governing,” a national magazine for government officials.
Bicycle commuting continues to gain support around Grand Junction, too.
To prove it, hundreds of Grand Valley cyclists took part in Bike to Work Day on Thursday, some for the sake of competition, others — like Don Litton of Alpine Bank — as part of a daily routine that logs hundreds of miles on a bicycle each month.
June was Colorado’s Bike to Work Month and the Grand Valley celebrated with biking contests and bike rides, Mesa County health officials said.
Litton, a 60-year-old project manager, said he commutes 16 to 25 miles round-trip to work each day, depending on where he stops for coffee along the way.
Litton said his favorite weekend ride is a 50-mile loop that takes him from Grand Junction Regional Airport to Fruita and back via the Redlands.
The routine helped him lose 100 pounds over the last three years. Now fit at 250 pounds, the former collegiate baseball player said he hates exercise but loves riding his bike.
Litton won the 2014 Grand Valley Commuter Challenge trophy, which is awarded each year to the rider who logs the most miles biking to work during the month of June. He logged 252.7 miles during the first three weeks of June, contest officials confirmed.
“I’ve been riding since I was about 18,” Litton said. “I ride to work pretty much year-round.”
Cycling in the summer allows him to take off the pounds he gains during the winter months, he said.
Litton’s wife, a vegan, helps him stay fit by preparing meat-free dishes at home. Away from home, the banker conceded, he sometimes enjoys a juicy hamburger.
His focus at work is the new lock box program Alpine Bank is rolling out for homeowner associations. It allows members to pay dues to a lock box where Alpine Bank collects deposits on behalf of the HOA.
At home, Litton’s focus is on fitness.
“My knees love me for it,” he said.
He urged people concerned about hygiene or fatigue to consider commuting by bicycle anyway.
“You don’t sweat much if you just take it easy,” Litton said. “I’ve ridden everywhere I’ve lived.”
What impresses Litton most about Grand Junction is the courtesy drivers show to people who ride.
“Usually they don’t honk, they don’t yell and they share the road. They’re super courteous, for the most part.”
“There’s a large contingent of people who ride bicycles here — just about every one of them are very friendly on the trail. The people at local bike shops are also very friendly and will help you out to get you going. Bikers are just really generous people, I think.”
Litton was recognized for his individual effort, but businesses were also recognized.
Everybody at a local accounting firm took part in the June 26 event, which allowed the business to take home the trophy for the 2014 Grand Valley Bike to Work Small Business Challenge.
Eide Bailly is a Grand Junction CPA firm with seven employees, all of whom biked to work on June 26 for the contest, company spokeswoman Melissa Asay said.
The firm was the only small business to log 100 percent participation, contest officials said.
Not everyone at Eide Bailly bikes to work regularly, but the firm got together for the team effort Thursday, Asay said.
“For me, it’s just a matter of finding the safest route and using lots and lots of deodorant,” she joked.
Mesa County was the winner in the large business category, contest officials said.