Biking Shorts - July 24, 2012
By Barbara Schmid
When GGRBC member Keith Winn first started riding his bicycle to work, his briefcase kept slipping off the rear rack. He also had to puzzle out the best route, where to store his bike, which clothes were the most functional and how to adapt when it rained.
That was eight years and hundreds of miles ago. Winn admits it required a lot of trial and error to perfect his system.
His first dilemma -- about how to carry all “his stuff” -- he solved by bolting a skateboard deck onto his bike rack to create a wider platform. Bungee cords hold everything in place, including the slippery briefcase.
And that was only the first speed bump.
“You have to know how long it’s going to take to get to work. And when you get to work, you have to cool down,” Winn said. “When I was working downtown, I brought the bike into the elevator and up to my suite. I’d have to wait and cool down because we didn’t have showers. I joined the gym across the street so I’d have access to showers.
“You also have to either carry extra clothing or leave it at work. And there are all kinds of things that can happen along the way. I’ve had flat tires on my way to work and had to walk my bike a couple of miles. So I learned to keep a spare tube with me. If something comes up and you need transportation, you have to figure out what to do. I learned to take the bus to get home or to meetings. I needed to be patient and learn how to do this.”
Winn tried to manage life without a car for four years, but two years ago he bought an old car he keeps at work.
“Sometimes I’ll ride my bike the whole week and sometimes not at all,” he said. “It depends on the business and where I have to be.”
When he’s on the road on two wheels, Winn is either pedaling an old Batavus, a bike popular in the Netherlands, or his Specialized Allez. This year, he plans to extend his riding season into winter. He just purchased a 616 Fabrication frame that Central District Cyclery built out for him with fat tires that are good on snow.
For his 6-mile commute, Winn slips his Keen sandals into toe clips for the ride from his home in Garfield Park to his company, Catalyst Partners, on Grand Rapids’ West Side.
“We consult with companies to develop high performance, environmentally-friendly and energy-efficient buildings,” he said of the business he started 10 years ago. “We help clients through the process of making good choices and ultimately certifying their building.”
Winn has set a good example at Catalyst Partners. He’s made sure there’s a shower in the building and indoor bike parking. As a result, most of his employees bicycle to work. The company is also a member of GGRBC and an Honorable Mention Bicycle Friendly Business (BFB) through the League of American Bicyclists (LAB).
GGRBC's Interim Director Tom Tilma recently consulted with Catalyst Partners about what they can do to elevate that BFB designation on their next application (GGRBC's Bicycle Friendly Business Program assists employers with becomng more bicycle friendly and with applying for BFB designation). According to Tom, "Keith told his staff at our meeting that he's serious about pursuing Platinum--the highest level of BFB certiifcation, and with his company's overarching commitment to sustainability I think they just might do it."
Cycling isn’t just transportation for Winn either. It’s also a recreational pursuit he enjoys with his wife, Jenna. The couple will often take day trips, mostly riding on rail trails, such as the Kal-Haven and White Pine trails. They delight , too, in traveling with their cycling friends on longer trips, averaging 30-40 miles a day.
“Last summer we rode the Fox River Trail in Illinois near the town of Elgin,” Winn said. “This year we’re going to the Little Miami Scenic Trail in Ohio.”