This article first appeared as the Cyclist of the Month column in the October 2012 issue of the Cascade Courier, our membership newsletter.
Cyclist of the month: MATTHEW BERNHARD
Wheels: Cannondale Caad 8. “Having been a competitive runner most of my life, I wanted a fast bike. I love this bike. It is a red frame with white lettering and blue handlebar tape. I call it the America racer.”
Occupation: Sr. Marketing Manager – Customer Profitability at AT&T Mobility
Out of the many people we have featured in our Cyclist of the Month series, Matthew Bernhard is probably the first to be nominated for smack talking.
Tom Gibbs, July Cyclist of the Month and this year’s Group Health Commute Challenge Captain of the Year, credits Bernhard for showing him the positive side of cycling’s social nature.
“Matt is a great cyclist,” said Gibbs. “Not only is his technical ability on a bike admirable, but the way that he befriends others and promotes cycling has truly been an inspiration to me.”
When Gibbs’ Commute Challenge team issued a team challenge to the “Don’t Text and Ride” team this past May, Bernhard –who captained that team –responded to the challenge with some good-nature smack talk and a promise of beers for the winning team.
The challenge set in motion the wheels of what would become a fond friendship and amiable rivalry between the two men as they went head-to-head again in the Tour de Redmond challenge this summer.
Similar to the Group Health Commute Challenge, Tour de Redmond is a two-month bicycle commute challenge in which solo riders or teams formed within member organizations compete for trophies and prizes.
“We did awesome. Placed third overall,” said Bernhard. “We struck up a nice little polite contest for Tour de Redmond and [Gibbs’ team] will be buying us beer since we beat them.”
Having been a rower in college and a competitive runner for most of his life, Bernhard thrives on competition.
“There is nothing cooler than forming a team, having a friendly competition to push yourself, and then coming together for beers at the end,” he said. “Bringing that to the workplace is a nice change to the monotony of the daily grind.”
“Cycling is absolutely a social activity. Challenges and competitions are helpful because they provide structure and it’s a great thing for rookies,” Bernhard elaborated. “I thinks it’s incumbent upon people who are experienced riders and know the routes and tricks to bring people under their wings.”
Not too long ago, Bernhard was a rookie himself.
“This is my third summer of bike commuting,” Bernhard stated. “I moved up here four years ago, and when I saw how many people biked, I thought, ‘I have to get in on this.’”
Following a conversation with a pedaling co-worker during Bike Month, Bernhard bought a road bike and started commuting from his Kirkland home to Redmond, a commute of eight miles each way.
“Once you start logging your miles and see how much you ride, it’s like crack,” he said. “You just want to ride more.”
In the two-month Tour de Redmond challenge, Bernhard logged almost 600 miles of bike commuting.
It wasn’t long before Bernhard knew he was hooked.
“Bicycling is all the things I love about running – the physical challenge, seeing things you otherwise might not see – but without the impact. Now in my mid-30s I’m starting to feel the pain of getting old, but bicycling is low impact and more sustainable,” he said. “Plus, every time you ride, you burn off stress and I’m a happier person both at home and at work. I’m still on the sunrise of my biking career but I look forward to broadening my horizon.”
Bernhard’s enthusiasm about bicycling is contagious, and he’s been making many friends on the road.
“Bicycling is a great conversation starter. Being vocal about bicycling is a good way to find riding partners, share tips and routes and all the other cool things cycling has to offer,” he said. “In general, people who do sports, and anyone who doesn’t want to sit in a car all day, are cool people.”
His advice to people new to commuting on bikes is to stick with it.
“The first few days of commuting are the hardest. It seems logistically hard or impossible but you just have to get over that hump,” Bernhard said. “That and the calluses on your butt.”
Know a cyclist who deserves some special recognition? Nominate them for cyclist of the month! Send your ideas to Anne-Marije Rook at firstname.lastname@example.org.