Cyclists make two-wheeled commute

by Christopher Kratzer
Air University Public Affairs

5/27/2011 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Last week, personnel from Gunter participated in Bike-to-Work Week by - what else? - biking to work. The group rode from the Air Force Enlisted Heritage Hall at Gunter Annex to different points on base.

Jose Ramos, the health and fitness program manager, put together the event. He said he was excited about personnel getting active out in the base community. "Bike-to-Work Week is a good way of encouraging and promoting activity and that becoming physically fit can enhance the quality of life," Mr. Ramos said.

William Whitman, the senior contracts and program attorney for Air Force Program Enterprise office, Enterprise Information Systems, or AFPEO EIS at Gunter, helped coordinate the event. As a veteran cyclist, he was excited to see people come out for the ride.

"The ride was great. It was a beautiful morning, a chance to meet others of different backgrounds around the base who have ridden before and not ridden before but who really wanted to do so," Mr. Whitman said. "Their enthusiasm was fantastic! The best was Staff Sgt. (LaShanda) Maddox, a new rider on a new bike with a low tire but not giving up. That showed toughness and warrior spirit."

Sergeant Maddox, who works with field assistance services at AFPEO EIS, just added cycling to her workout regimen. Even though she had a flat tire, she said she didn't let that keep her from having a good time.

"A very good source of cardio exercise, but it is also good for the environment as riding my bicycle rather than driving one of my vehicles reduces the amount of pollution in the air. It also saves money," said Sergeant Maddox. "I really enjoyed this morning's event and look forward to participating in more events like this in the future."

It's no secret that cycling improves heart health, builds strength and muscle tone, and reduces stress, but according to Mr. Whitman, it has other benefits, as well.

"On my commute from Prattville to Gunter, I do my interval training, so besides saving money, I get a workout, I enjoy the fresh air, scenery, and I see kids at the bus stop, wave at them, and they say hi to me," Mr. Whitman said. "Riding a bike allows me to see the world around me, but in a car you tend to close the door and shut out everything else but the artificial stimulation we load up with, like food, drink, radio and all those other distractions."

He usually pedals the Alabama River Parkway, a 14.5 mile journey that takes 50 minutes one way.

"Sometimes I will go home up through Millbrook if I have longer intervals to do as part of my training." He rides to work two to three times per week depending on his training schedule. "Although the River Parkway is a toll road, bicycles are exempt from paying the toll, since we don't wear down the road like cars and trucks do," said Mr. Whitman.

He keeps work clothes at the office, showers when he gets into work, and keeps food for meals in the office refrigerator.

"Pretty self sufficient and all it takes is a bit of planning," Mr. Whitman said. "I keep an eye on the weather, but a little rain won't stop me riding home. If it's really bad, I can get a ride with someone who lives in Prattville."

Biking to work can give you an experience you could never have in the confines of your car, said Mr. Whitman, something everyone should experience.

"When you ride a bike you are part of the flow of life, you are making yourself move through the world as fast or slow as you want," he said. "It is a freedom most people have forgotten they have but loved since they first experienced it the first time they got on a bicycle."