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Saturday, December 20, 2014

WCC Student Wins Winter Biking Contest

It was one of the coldest and snowiest winters in recent memory, but two of WCC’s own jumped on their bikes every morning and rode to school. Student Matt Yost took first place in the Winter Commuter Challenge sponsored by Ann Arbor’s Wheels in Motion bike shop. Dale Petty, an electronics instructor and environmental committee member, placed fifth.

The store sponsored the competition as a way to motivate commuters, said Wheels in Motion manager Marc Epstein-Ngo. “Biking and leaving the car behind is real lifestyle change,” he said. “The challenge gave bikers a reason to do it even when it would have been easier to just get in the car.” Twenty-three cyclists participated in the challenge, which lasted from Dec. 21 to March 20.

Yost logged 1,064 miles on his bike as he commuted to his job at Whole Foods Market on Washtenaw Avenue, where he’s a cheese buyer, and to WCC for classes. The right gear and a well-equipped bike are essential to comfortable year-round biking, he said.

Yost has been commuting by bike for two years, so participating in the challenge was no big deal for him. “But the one thing I still haven’t gotten used to is the change in my appetite,” he said. “It’s huge. I can eat three big meals a day now. What I save in gas, I spend in food—except it’s a lot more enjoyable to eat than to pump gas into a car.”

Yost graduates with an associate degree from WCC in May and plans to transfer to EMU and major in biology, the second step in his plan to become a master beer brewer.

Petty came in fifth place, logging 644 miles, and commuting from six to 10 miles a day to WCC. He was already a committed cyclist who bikes year-round, and for the competition he rode every day except one very snowy and icy day when he took the bus instead. Of course, winter riding requires a few extra precautions: He switched to a studded front tire for icy conditions, equipped his bike with a headlight and flashing taillights, and dressed diligently for the cold. “I usually wear a helmet, a fleece headband, a wool sweater, a Gore-Tex rain jacket and rain pants, warm gloves, and wool socks and boots,” he said.

While Petty counts the day a car hit his bike on a crosswalk as the worst of the winter challenge, he enjoyed his quiet evening ride home: “Just me, the snow, the stars, the Huron River, and the geese,” he said.

As an integral member of the committee overseeing WCC’s participation in the American College and University President's Climate Commitment, Petty sees bicycling as one more way the WCC community can help reduce the College’s collective carbon footprint. “Around 40 percent of the College's footprint is due to commuting to campus,” he said. “The only way we will reduce that significantly is for everyone who can manage it to take the bus, carpool, walk, or bike to campus.”

As first prize winner, Yost will receive a complete bike rebuild from Wheels in Motion. The four runners up, including Petty, will receive a free basic service. “Bikes get torn up in the winter,” said Epstein-Ngo, “so that’s the least we can do for them.”

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