Winter 2013 — I Bike Anchorage
With winter biking in full force, it is time for another I Bike Anchorage by Tim Woody. We hope this latest installment inspires you to go by bike regardless of what the weather has in store.
For Pam Weiss, commuting helps balance family, work and bicycling
By Tim Woody
Pam Weiss is a devoted bicycle commuter who balances family, career and year-round
time on her bikes. Riding her bike to work might even help her juggle it all.
“First, I get my exercise in riding to and from work, which is a bonus when you
have a family and house to take care of in the evenings,” Pam said when asked
why she commutes by bike. “Second, it saves money – well, gas money, not
new bike-stuff-money. Third, it wakes me up and refreshes me. I find I am more
awake at work all day, although I still drink a ton of coffee! Fourth, it’s more
relaxing than driving since I hate driving.”
Pam said she started bike commuting “eons ago” while living in California.
She rode from Oakland to Berkeley because she couldn’t afford a car and the
related parking fees, and the public bus schedule was terrible. Like many riders
who started commuting in the Lower 48, she found it far easier after moving to
“There, I was constantly afraid of being squashed by a car,” she said. “Here,
there are so many alternatives to riding on the road, so I much prefer it. After
all, I am able to commute from my house to downtown only riding about three-
quarters of a mile on one road – E Street.
“I am typically commuting four days per week unless I really need a car.”
She rides about six miles each way on her fat bike — a 9:ZERO:7 — which is
perfectly suited to year-round commuting. Come summer, Pam simply removes
her big wheels and switches to a set of 29er rims with knobby tires. And her bike
is equipped with a good light, a rack, and a set of waterproof panniers.
“I’m happy with it, but who wouldn’t want another bike? Sometimes I think I’ll
get an awesome summer commuter bike to reduce the wear and tear on my
9:ZERO:7, but it’s nice to just be able to switch the wheels and not have to make
the call when to move all the other attachments (rack, panniers, light, etc.).
Pam and her husband ride road and mountain bikes, and participate in events
such as the Fireweed in summer, and the annual Frosty Bottom race in winter.
Not surprisingly, they have a fleet of bikes.
“I have an Orbea Diva road bike (yes, I love this bike), a Giant mountain bike and
a Novarra Buzz that I use for pulling a Weehoo trailer bike for my son. Of course
my husband has his share of bikes too – fat bike, mountain bike, and road bike.
And my son has a bike too.” she said. “What does this mean? We don’t have
room in the garage for cars!”
Having a spouse who rides is a bonus for a bike commuter, especially in a world
where there’s no shortage of people who wonder why anyone would travel by
bike if they had the option of using a car.
“My husband is totally supportive, although I’m sure he’d prefer I didn’t ask him
to do maintenance 15 minutes before I’m leaving in the morning,” Pam said. “My
parents are supportive, and my dad commuted by bike in Arizona the whole time
I was a kid. Most of my friends are on the same wavelength.
“My co-workers … well, I suspect they (or some of them) think I’m crazy. Some
of my co-workers ride in the summer when the weather is nice. But I suspect
the ‘crazy’ word gets uttered when, for example, it’s pouring rain, it’s the day after
the windstorm, in the subzero winter, and times like that.”
With the advantage of a private office, Pam is able to avoid the risk of bike
theft by storing her bike — and her sweaty gear — in her office each day. And
because she works for the Municipality of Anchorage, she enjoys the benefit of
a free People Mover bus pass. That means that in summer, she easily can get
home with her bike on the bus if she has a mechanical problem or especially bad
Taking the bus home is not an option in winter, because People Mover bike racks
don’t accommodate fat bikes, an issue Pam mentions when asked if there is
anything that could make bike commuting easier for her.
“Oh, and if I could figure out a great way to take skis on my bike, so I could do
that after work too!”
This is the fourth in a series of I Bike Anchorage stories about the city’s devoted bicycle commuters — riders who see bikes not as toys, but as a viable means of transportation for getting to work and school, shopping, and running errands. These profiles appear quarterly by Tim Woody, a year-round bike commuter and author of a blog called Bicycles & Icicles. If you would like to nominate a profile subject, drop Tim an email at email@example.com. Tell him a little about the person’s commuting habits and why he/she has an interesting story to tell.