The New York Bicycle Commuter-Nick James

We asked Nick James of New York City to share his commuting story with us and below you’ll come to see that this guy is hooked!

Since you asked…

It’s hard to live in New York City and not be at least marginally aware of the bike culture flourishing here. In September of 2005, after months of debating, I bought my first new bike: a Dahon Jack full-size folder. I wanted a full-size bike, but I needed it to store easily in the small Astoria apartment I share with my wife. I bought it with the intention of taking it into work maybe once or twice a week, almost as a novelty, but I bought it probably with more intention to have it than to use it. I took it into work and back a few times (a 15-mile round-trip commute from Astoria to Chelsea), but around November, I put it away for the winter.

nick 1

In late December, the local news began covering the contract dispute between the Metropolitan Transit Authority and the Transit Workers Union, and the possibility of a strike by subway and bus operators. A lot of friends and co-workers were confident that the strike wouldn’t happen, but I wanted to be prepared. On Monday, December 19th, I put on several layers of clothing and some cold weather gear, hopped on my bike, and rode to work. Having proved to myself that I was capable, I concluded that I was prepared for a strike. The next day, the strike was on.

Nick in the cold

Biking in sub-freezing weather proved easier than I had expected. I anticipated burning wind, icy roads, numb extremities, and other unpleasantries, but learned over a few days of trial and error some of the basic do’s and donts of winter biking, the most important of which was not to overdress, which I did at the start. I also found, somewhat to my surprise, that I enjoyed it. Since you guys at CbB have done a fine job cataloging all the joys of commuting by bike, I won’t waste my time listing them. I expect we’re all very familiar with them. Suffice it to say that they were new to me.

Foldable Nick

The transit strike lasted only four days, but it gave me a new resolve. When one transportation option was taken away, I was forced to find another, and the alternative turned out to be the preferable option. So, when the trains started running again, I didn’t get on, and I don’t regret it. Commuting by bike has made me stronger, faster, leaner and smarter. It’s burned my lungs, strained my knees, torn my rotator cuff, and toughened me up in a hundred little ways. My wife sure likes what it’s done to my butt. My co-workers, who at first were impressed and confused, have come to accept it as normal, even to the point of buying bikes and riding to work themselves. Now, having started in the dead of winter, I’m looking forward to the warm weather and sunshine that most cyclists consider “biking season.”

Ever take it off any sweet jumps?

I don’t think there’s anything difficult or special about what I did. Lots of people bike more than 75 miles in a week, and I’m no athlete. Make anything a part of your daily routine and you stop seeing it as a challenge.
I encourage anyone still debating their options to try it out. If it’s not possible, you’ll know, but you might surprise yourself.

Rig again

Thanks for sharing Nick! Keep Riding. If you’re interested in sharing your story, feel free to contact us and do what Nick did, write a little story and send us some pics.

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15 thoughts on “The New York Bicycle Commuter-Nick James”

  1. Moe says:

    Dude, that’s a sweet ride! I love the picture of the burnt car behind it!

  2. Nick James says:

    Thanks, Moe. I like it too. For anyone who’s curious, the bullhorn handlebars you see in the first and last pictures are modifications I made back in February — the bike came with the cruiser style bars you see in that picture with the burnt car, but I’m all about those bullhorns, especially with that STI lever.

  3. jj says:

    Great story Nick… keep up the good work and keep us updated. I’d like to hear more about that traffic – it must be intense. Thanks!

  4. Nick James says:

    jj – maybe I’ll do a second installment about biking in city traffic. My day just wouldn’t be complete without a close call with a Lincoln towncar.

  5. RL Policar says:

    That’s a great idea Nick. I’m sure people would love to see what NYC has to offer commuters.

  6. […] You’ve read his comments, you’ve read about […]

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  9. Robert D. says:

    Great story! I hail from New Jersey, and I used a bike as transportation for years, instead of a car. Unfortunately, I now live in Fort Worth, Texas where the redneck drivers make bicycle commuting a life – threatening form of transportation. However, my car is on its last legs, and it looks like I am going use old Team Fuji as a commuter bike. I have a mountain bike I’d like to use as a commuter, but the road bike is faster.

  10. Bancha says:

    I’ll look for you in Queens!

  11. Keith says:

    Queens (Rego Park) to Manhattan here–and a Dahon Matrix. Other than that, this is pretty much my story too. I’ve replaced the annoying pedals, and just have to get some good hiking boots and a set of 26″ Nokian studded tires for when it gets icy, and I’m more-or-less set. (I can’t just take them off my last bike, which–of course–had 700C wheels.)

    Now if I can just find a good alternative to 2nd Avenue between the Queensboro Bridge and the East River bike path…

  12. David T says:

    Hey Nick, I have just bought a Jack here in england, and I like what you have done with the bullhorns. What STI lever did you use? was it a simple change from the old gear changer to the STI? thanks

  13. Sascha says:

    Wow, great story, nothing gets things rolling like necessity! My necessity was my expanding girth. When I quit my NYC job to work closer to home in New Jersey, I replaced my speed-walk to and from the train with a 15 miniute drive to work. Now I bike 20 min’s each way and work up a nice sweat on the way home. This has helped my endurance, muscle tone and balance (stopping at intersections) and my cyclocross dismount which is a great way to power up and over foot bridges. I ride the mountain bike which I had given to my wife for her birthday, I’ve replaced the knobbys with kevlar reinforced conversion 90 psi slicks and added fenders but after going into Newark for jury duty, my rear fender ripped off and both tires were impaled thru the bullet proof layer. Ouch! Almost gave up biking because I was so angry but I grew a spine and kept up the riding. most co-workers joke about my biking in bad weather but generally think I have a deathwish for biking, one asked if I was affraid of falling over! I don’t find biking more dangerous than driving, I got rear ended in my jeep which cost them $1500 bucks and I rear ended someone (they were driving wierd, OK!) which cost me thousands. My one bike accident so far cost me a band-aid and some scratched paint.

    Keep up the good fight!


  14. Pemberton says:

    Thanks for the very helpful and inspiring look at the deal. Mrs. P and I just got our Bianchi commuter bikes today. She is planning to commute 3 days a week to start. 10 mile one way, but right down the beautiful Hudson River. I made my first ride from Chambers Street to 186th Street, and I get it. Oh my, this is gonna be good for me!

  15. AlexNYC says:

    Interesting story. Brings good memories. My 2 U-shaped locks were cut and Jack stolen in NYC in broad daylight.. what a shocker ..I know. The patrol car parked near my building smiled about the balls of the thiefs and chased me away, then in the pricinct the dispatch officer “discouraged” the paperwork: “it’s just kids”. I can volunteer to lowjack by bike(let them trace me) but once the thieves are caught it will send a message across, like they do with autos in CA.. I guess the police is busy chasing terrorists.

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