Tuesday, January 05, 2010

15 Minutes of Fame

Okay, it's not the Argus Leader like many of my biking friends up north have been published in, but recently I was featured in my awesome home town of Wakonda's (population 350 -- SA-LUTE!)area newspaper, The Tri-County News. With permission of the Editor, and author of my story, here is the article filled with lies and made up facts. She really should have told me she didn't want me to lie or make up facts!

Neither Snow, Nor Cold, Nor Ice Keeps Brady From Cycling
by Riva Sharples

Nearly everyone who knows Kevin Brady -- even his mother, Beverly Brady of Wakonda -- admits that the Wakonda native is “a little crazy,” but in a good way, of course.

Brady, a 1985 graduate of Wakonda High School who now lives in Vermillion, is a cycling enthusiast who has made his bicycle an all-terrain, all-weather mode of transportation -- and his only one at that. For the past 695 days (and counting), he has traveled the one-mile to work from his home using only his bicycle. In winter. In ice and snow. With sub-zero windchills fighting against him.

In subzero weather like the area experienced last week, Brady breaks out his cold weather gear that makes him look kind of like a creature from another planet, he admits. He wears, in addition to his usual Parka, ski goggles, wind pants that go over his jeans, and a Headsocz that he uses as a balaclava. To combat the cold, he has fitted his bicycle with giant gloves over the handlebars, which he customized from a pair of ATV handlebar covers. In winter, his bicycle also sports studded snow tires to help him navigate snow and ice.

Though it seems extreme to most, Brady says that for the most part, cycling in winter is like cycling any other time of year, and that’s it’s only tough on the very cold or blizzardy days.

“Unplowed streets probably cause the biggest issue,” Brady says. “If it’s untouched snow, it’s fine, but if many cars have travelled it, it’s tough as it moves underneath you. The two blocks I travel to main street is the biggest issue for me. Once there, I’m on ‘emergency snow routes’ the rest of the way. That’s when the studded tires take over and add the extra grip on the roads.”

Brady has been a cycling enthusiast since the 1990s when he had to give up his first love -- running -- due to back injuries.

“ I call myself a ‘recovering runner’,” says Brady. “After a couple of marathons in 1990, and managing to qualify for the Boston Marathon, I ended up getting activated for Desert Storm. Shortly after returning, I was in a car accident that seemed to really push my back issues to a new low. I kept trying to get back into running but found running anything over six miles too hard on my back.”

In 1997, when Brady was hired at the University of South Dakota as a Senior Computer Support Specialist (the job he still has), one of his colleagues introduced him to the world of cycling. Brady has been hooked since, and has gotten others, including his wife and children, involved as well.

“We are a biking family,” says Brady. “We have so many bikes in our one-car garage that there isn’t room for the van [the family’s only vehicle, which is used by Brady’s wife and for family trips -- Brady sold his car in 2008 because he wasn’t using it].”

Brady’s wife Laura has recently become interested in cycling as well and has started to go on some rides of her own. Brady’s three children -- Austin, 13; Marissa, 11; and Carson, 6 -- participate in family bike rides and often ride their bikes to school and around Vermillion in nice weather. Sometimes, they like to go along with Dad when he hooks up the “grocery getter” (a bicycle trailer) to his bike and heads to the store.

That’s right. Brady is so serious about cycling that he uses his bicycle to run errands, including going grocery shopping. At work, he hauls computers across campus using his bicycle. He says he sometimes gets funny looks from people, but most people are used to his unusual ways at this point.

“For awhile, I’d get comments from friends like, ‘Hey, they make cars for that,’ especially when I am pulling my trailer that I affectionately call “The Grocery Getter,” says Brady. “Then, there’s always the “Did you get a DUI or something”? Living in a smaller town like Vermillion, most people know me and get used to me riding everywhere under every condition, so the comments are not as frequent as they used to be. The biggest challenge seems to be if my streak of consecutive days will end. On a cold, windy day or a rainy summer day, I get the “Did you ride your bike to work today?” question.”

Brady didn’t start out to set a record with his running tally of days commuted to work via bicycle. It’s just something that happened, he says, when he started blogging about bicycling in 2005 (http://
bikingbrady.blogspot.com). At one point, Brady’s blog was attracting approximately 2,000 readers per month, many of them cyclists from around the world. Through his blog, Brady wrote (and continues to write, though not as frequently) about all things cycling and about his own experiences as a cyclist.

“As my blog started to motivate some people, that’s when I started keeping track [of the number of days commuted by bicycle]. Partly to prove that I could get to work just as fast as those who drove, partly to prove that there doesn’t need to be such a dependence for people to drive a few short blocks all the time.”

Brady says that he wishes all people could -- or would -- take the time to experience the world from atop a bicycle. There are a lot of “cool things” out there, he says, that one just doesn’t see when traveling in a vehicle.

“Deer just laying in the tall grass in the ditch, the sights and sounds of wild turkeys. The absolute silence you get when you stop for a break in the middle of a dirt trail or gravel road on a mountain bike ride.”

During his rides, Brady says he’s found a variety of treasures on the road, including: money (“You’d be amazed at the amount of money I’ve found!”), a brand new squeegee, a crescent wrench, pliers, and a complete spool of bailing wire. He didn’t try to take the bailing wire on his bicycle, as it weighed somewhere near 80 pounds, he estimates.

Of course, Brady’s preferred time to cycle is not in the winter, but in the spring, summer, and fall when he can go on long rides. During warmer weather, Brady routinely rides 150-500 miles per week, with daily rides of 20 - 50 miles per day. In warmer weather, Brady rides with a group of cyclists who take daily rides around southeastern South Dakota. He also goes on rides like the Tour de Kota. One of the hardest rides he has ever completed was the Highway 212 Gutcheck (http://www.gutcheck212.com), in which cyclists ride from the Wyoming border to the Minnesota border in under 48 hours.

Says Brady: “The year I chose to try [the Gutcheck], it was cold, rainy (including a bad storm that took us off the road because we couldn’t see), included a 20 mile detour, and we had to deal with headwinds all the way across. The race is 412 miles, but with the detour was 432.”

In winter, beyond his one-mile commutes to work and short rides when weather allows, Brady spends his time training indoors so he’ll be ready when better weather appears. He teaches a cycling class at USD, and also works out on his own equipment at home.

One of Brady’s students and “success stories,” he says, is Wakonda resident Cathy Logue, who took a cycling class from Brady six years ago and got hooked on cycling.

“I just love it,” says Logue. “At first, hearing everyone in class talking about their experiences, I never imagined it was something I’d be able to do, but they inspired me to try.”

Logue admits that she is nowhere as intense as Brady is when it comes to cycling. She says she brings her bicycle in when it drops below 40 degrees usually, and among her cycling friends, she doesn’t know many that keep their bikes out year-round like Brady.

“He’s one-of-a-kind,” says Logue. “I’d never be able to do that.”

Wakonda resident Beverly Brady, Kevin’s mother, says that she sometimes worries about him out there in the cold, riding his bicycle in all kinds of weather.

“He’s always been athletic-minded,” admits Beverly. “But some days, I think he’s just crazy, the way he rides his bicycle around like that.”

2 comments:

Hooterville Mayor said...

Your Mom is right.
Moms are always right of course, but I really do think you are just a little bit crazy for riding when the wind chill is -30 even it's "only" a mile!

P.S. Can I have your autograph?
:)

FunkyMama said...

That's a pretty good story! :)