Cross-Country Campaign to Inspire Bike Commuters

Two tech workers without much cycling experience are biking across the country, hoping to show that if they can pedal the nation, you can pedal to work. The Allegheny Front's Leah Kauffman met up with the guys from Real Geeks Ride during a stop in Pittsburgh.

Read the transcript »Close the Transcript

Transcript

OPEN: Two tech workers without much cycling experience are biking across the country, hoping to show that if they can pedal the nation, you can pedal to work. The Allegheny Front's Leah Kauffman met up with the guys from Real Geeks Ride during a stop in Pittsburgh.

URRETA: Oh yeah...(bike sound)

PHILIPSON: That's gunky.

KAUFFMAN: Joe Philipson and Carlos Urreta are doing some much-needed bicycle maintenance during a much-needed rest day in Pittsburgh. From their starting point in New Jersey, they've just pedaled west on the Great Allegheny Passage.

URRETA: I'm just cleaning gunk out of the gears right now. We went through the Appalachians and picked up a lot of friends along the way, and by friends, I mean pounds of dirt.

KAUFFMAN: Philipson, a photographer and blogger, and Urreta, a website consultant, suspended their day jobs for their trip, which they call Real Geeks Ride. Their sponsors include a blogging website and Urreta's alma mater, Hawaii Pacific University. The trip evolved from Urreta's urge to do quote something crazy unquote after graduating from college.

URRETA: We're coming to Pittsburgh to promote geeks to bike to work.

KAUFFMAN: Philipson and Urreta went out their way to include Pittsburgh and several other cities with strong biking communities in their route. As Urreta explains it, places with lots of cyclists also tend to have lots of people who work in the tech sector. Philipson and Urreta want to inspire one thousand of those tech workers to swap cars for bikes on their daily commutes. They know they've already inspired a few, and their website will soon include a survey so they can more formally measure their success. Their larger mission, Urreta adds, is to fight the cliche that tech workers -- or geeks -- are sedentary, isolated, and unhealthy.

If you think your workplace is too far to cycle to, consider that Philipson hadn't done much biking before he began this trip.

KAUFFMAN: I hear that a lot of this distance riding...I mean yeah sure there's the muscles and the lungs, but a lot of it is breaking in the butt, too.

PHILIPSON and URRETA: Yeah.

PHILIPSON: My butt hurts.

URRETA: I had about 500 or so miles prior to doing this, Joe had about 100 so he's just getting into the butt-forming phase.

KAUFFMAN: Don't feel intimidated. Geek or not, Urreta says you don't need much more than a bicycle and a few pointers to start riding to work.

URRETA: The three parts you wanna focus on the most are the three contact points, so where your hands meet, where your feet meet, and where your butt meets. And if you have those set up, and your core is okay, you're gonna have a nice bike ride.

PHILIPSON: My third day of biking my right knee had started hurting really bad and I didn't know why...but as it turned out I just needed to lower my seat quite literally maybe a quarter of an inch, maybe even less, and I'm fine now.

URRETA: Make sure that you get fitted. Make sure you have someone who knows about bikes look at your bike, look at you.

KAUFFMAN: To spread the word about their mission, the two self-described geeks aren't relying on attention from traditional media outlets. Philipson lists the web-based communications tools they're using:

PHILIPSON: Twitter, our blog, TwitPic, Flickr, BrightKite, YouTube,

URRETA: 12seconds.tv

KAUFFMAN: No, I haven't heard of some of those either. Being geeks, Philipson and Urreta are quick to adopt new computer applications. They're hauling a wide array of the electronic gear necessary for transmitting to these various services. They've got youth on their side -- they're both in their early 20s -- but still, it's a lot to carry.

URRETA: I have the smaller computer, I have an Acer Aspire 1, which is nine inches, weighs two pounds. I'm carrying the FindMe Spot.

PHILIPSON: It's a GPS tracking tool that Öbroadcasts our location to a GoogleMaps onto our website. So you can actually see every 10 minutes refreshed where we're at physically, down to street level.

KAUFFMAN: After leaving Pittsburgh, Philipson and Urreta will pedal more than 2,600 miles to Seaside, Oregon.

PHILIPSON (singing): Pump, pump, pump it up. (Bike pump sound, loud swish of valve releasing.)

KAUFFMAN: For the Allegheny Front, I'm Leah Kauffman.