Bike commuting is the intersection at which nearly all sub-genres of cyclists meet. There are no doubt people out there for whom bikes are solely a form of recreation or exercise. But, the vast majority of cyclists I know—whether they’re carbon-riding racers, retro-grouchy randonneurs, bureaucratic advocates, or something in between—like to ride their bikes to work or the store or around town whenever it’s possible. As such, commuting provides a common ground for bike riders that might otherwise never see eye-to-eye. We can all relate to the pleasure of a pre-work boost of endorphins, the fun of coasting down a long hill, and the selfish-satisfaction of cruising past a long-line of cars mired in inevitable evening traffic jams. We all know the frustration of getting cut off by a car racing to the next red light, the fear of a close call at the hands of a distracted driver, and the anger of being told to “get off the road.” The Enlightened Cyclist hinges on this collective experience as it explores the past, present, and future of commuting of all types in order to define the road to bike commuter bliss.
Eben Weiss’ (known to most as Bike Snob NYC) second book, The Enlightened Cyclist is modeled after a religious self-help book, albeit with tongue firmly planted in cheek throughout. Weiss’ goal is ostensibly to help all cyclists reach a state of commuter nirvana while using their bike to go about their daily businesses—something he readily admits he has not achieved with complete success. In order to build the case for the advice he offers, Weiss starts by taking the long view of the history of commuting and then draws on his experience as a commuter in New York City to examine the current state of commuting in America.
We’re launching a new feature today on The Bicycle Story called My First Bike. My First Bike explores the origins of professional frame builders by going back to the start and looking at the first bike they ever built. The inaugural My First Bike features Tony Pereira—Portland, OR-based frame builder, multi-time North American Handmade Bicycle Show prize winner, and master egg-poacher.
Give me the short rundown of your first bike: when was it built, where, materials, any special details about it, etc.
I built my first bike in 2003. At the time I was working in a bike shop in Salt Lake City and we were selling a fair number of 29ers. I liked the idea, but thought I could make some improvements, so my first bike was a 29er. I had been singlespeeding for a little while, so I made it a singlespeed too. The materials and construction were the same as what I use today: fillet brazed steel.
Gregg crossing from Argentina to Chile. Self portrait by Gregg.
In the early 2000s, Gregg Bleakney was on a strong path to (one type of) success. He was earning a six-figure salary as a software salesman, owned a house in Seattle, and was generally enjoying his career. Then Gregg and his best friend from college set out on a two-year bike tour from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, Argentina to raise money for the American Diabetes Association. Towards the end of the ride, Gregg realized he couldn’t go back to his old life. He quit his job, sold his house and started making inroads to a new career as a self-described visual storyteller focused on adventure travel. Now he’s traveling around the world telling stories as a photographer and writer, often with a focus on bikes. I spoke to Gregg on a short break he was taking in the United States after covering the Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia. We talked about his Alaska to Argentina ride and its sea-change effect on him, his new career and world travels, and more.