Eagle County green commuters have logged more than 35,000 miles | VailDaily.com

Eagle County green commuters have logged more than 35,000 miles

Melanie Wong
Adam Willet mounts his bike to ride home after his shift at the Minturn Forest Service station on Friday. Willett is set to complete his first summer of dedicated bike commuting. His daily ride to work is two miles from his home in Minturn to the Forest Service station.
Anthony Thornton | athornton@vaildaily.com |


• Get off the beaten path – Commuter Adam Willett said he started taking a packed dirt road to get to work instead of Highway 6. It was a more pleasant ride and out of the way of car traffic, he said. Take a less direct route or hop on the bike path for a safer, more pleasant commute.

• Carry rain gear — a rain jacket with a hood goes a long way keeping you dry during fall showers. Keep one at all times in your backpack, or at the very least, carry a packable windbreaker in your pocket.

• Be visible — Wear high-visibility colors or reflectors, whether that’s your clothes or your gear. Patrick Ramsey of the Kind Cyclist in Edwards said he wears a brightly colored backpack, which also serves to carry his gear.

“A lot of road bikers also use a type of mirror system, and we sell a mirror attachment to your sunglasses so you don’t have to crank your neck around to see if there is traffic behind you,” he said.

EAGLE COUNTY — This summer hasn’t been the most bike commuter friendly of seasons — between Pacific Northwest-style rains and wildly varying temperatures — but that hasn’t stopped a dedicated group of residents from ditching their cars and commuting by bike or foot instead.

In fact, more than 400 participants and 58 teams from various businesses and groups have logged more than 35,000 miles since May 1 through the Eagle Valley Sole Power Challenge. The idea is that you walk, bike or skate instead of getting in your car, and then record the miles on the Sole Power website. There are weekly happy hours for participants, prizes for winners in different categories, plus the satisfaction of seeing your commutes tallied up. The site keeps track of your ranking, plus how many calories you’ve burned, gas you’ve saved and pounds of CO2 reduced.

The idea is to “reduce your carbon footprint, get fit, save the planet and your dollars,” according to the Sole Power website. The Sole Power Challenge isn’t over yet, and organizers are hoping to get a final surge in miles before Oct. 1, when the challenge ends.

Sign up at http://www.eaglevalley solepower.org to get started.

Commuting champs

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Mike Beach, a Minturn resident, is currently second in the Sole Power Challenge rankings, having logged 1,454 miles as a member of the Forest Service team, which is winning in the team category.

“We have a lot of younger seasonal employees, so starting out the summer we got everyone on board with the commuting and encouraged everyone to ride bikes to work,” Beach said. “People started doing a bike pool and riding together.”

Beach said he’d always been an avid biker and commuted when he could but had never kept track of the miles. The Sole Power Challenge gave him some extra motivation to bike commute more often, even when the weather was less than sunny.

“I got caught in some big downpours,” he said. “I usually try and avoid the rain, but if I needed to get somewhere, I’d put on the rain gear and go for it. I rode to work every day, and I have a bike trailer I’d tote for groceries.”

Some commuters would choose to forgo the car regardless of the challenge, but the Sole Power Challenge also inspired some new commuters to leave their car keys at home.

Forest Service employee Adam Willett is set to complete his first summer of dedicated bike commuting. His daily ride to work was 2 miles from his home in Minturn to the Forest Service station.

“’I’ve commuted every day since I got my bike, except for the day when I got a flat,” said Willett, who has logged 290 bike miles this summer.

He said that biking was not only the greener option, but it took him about the same time to get to work on his bike compared to hopping into morning traffic in his car. Plus, it was a pleasant way to get some exercise and start his day, he said.

“This is the first opportunity I’ve had to do this, and I’ve loved it,” he said. “It’s nice getting a little exercise in the morning. I did ride through some rain, but I’m an avid hiker, so I have all the gear and stuff.”

By foot and board

You don’t have to be racking up crazy miles to be a part of the Sole Power Challenge. It wasn’t out of the question to see skateboards roll up to the weekly happy hours, and some people even did it the old fashioned way — on foot. Lisa Pelchat with the Eagle Valley Library District’s team committed to walking to work from Edwards to Avon once a week. The nearly four-mile trip took her along the river and rec path, taking about an hour. To date, she’s already logged 275 miles between biking and walking.

“The (Sole Power) Challenge did inspire me, but I’ve always been a commuter. Plus we’re on a team so we all wanted to contribute miles,” Pelchat said. “I love doing it, both for being green and the exercise. It’s a beautiful walk and I listen to books on the way. I don’t even need coffee.”

Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and mwong@vaildaily.com. Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.

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