Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Car-lite profile- Pro cyclist Kelly Benjamin

Tell me a little bit about you (name, age, occupation, carfree or carlite, where you live).

“My name is Kelly Benjamin, I am 35 years old and I live in Portland, Oregon. I am a professional cyclist for the Colavita/Baci p/b Cooking Light women’s professional cycling team. I consider myself carlite as I lived in a one car/two person family for many years and always prioritize the gas mileage and carbon consumption costs of any vehicles that I am considering purchasing. I also try to ride instead of drive whenever possible.”

When did you start using a bicycle for transportation and what effect has it had on your life?

“I really started using my bike as transportation when I moved to Portland almost two years ago. Living here and seeing the bike culture wound so deeply into the fabric of this beautiful city has really opened my eyes to a cleaner, healthier life for myself as well as the environment.”

As a professional cyclist, what are your thoughts on cycling for transportation?

“It’s interesting because right now since I ride my bike everyday for training, I don’t actually commute as many places as I would otherwise because I need recovery in between workouts. I still do ride my bike to the store, to friend’s houses and out to eat but not as much as I would if I didn’t spend all day training. My hope is that when I retire from riding full time, I can use my bike for transportation on a much bigger scale because it makes me feel like I am really doing something good for the world, the environment, my community and of course, myself. I think it is a very simple, small thing that anyone can do that makes a huge impact in so many ways. People here in Portland really get that and it is refreshing to live in a community with so many like minded individuals.”

Please describe a typical day in your cycling life?

“My days always begin with coffee and NPR. I am blessed to do what I truly love and be able to race my bike for a living so I can structure my days completely around my training and racing schedule. Depending on the day’s training or where I am at in the season, I usually go out for my daily training ride around 11am. In the mornings I listen to the news, answer e-mails and connect with family and friends. Then I go train for anywhere between 2 and 5 hours. I like to try to take a nap everyday after my rides to maximize recovery but it doesn’t always happen. In the afternoons I hang out with my dog if I am at home and try to do some work around the house since I am gone so much racing. I like early nights with a quiet, relaxing dinner and try to get to bed early. I love to cook so most of my nights revolve around making something yummy and healthy in the kitchen. When I am on the road, which is around 8-9 months out of the year, I spend time with my teammates training and racing.”

What kind of bike(s) are you currently riding?

“I race Jamis bikes with Colavita so I have three Jamis Zenith SL road bikes plus a time trial bike. I also have a Jamis Supernova cross Pro and a Jamis Sonic track bike. For trips to the store and around town I ride a Jamis Sputnik that has a flip-flop rear hub for fixed gear riding or freewheel. I use it a lot to ride to the store, the movies, downtown for dinner, etc. I have two mountain bikes as well, a carbon fiber hard tail and a single speed. I also have a vintage Schwinn single speed cruiser that I ride when I want to remember why it is that I love riding my bike – it makes me feel like a kid again!”

In your opinion, what’s the best part about cycling for transportation?

“That it allows you complete freedom. Freedom from traffic, carbon consumption, guilt, etc. and that it is simultaneously great for the environment, community, world and your own personal health. It’s just a win-win-win situation.”

What’s the worst?

“That is rains a lot here in Portland and I get dirty and my bikes get dirty!”

Do you have a favorite carfree/carlite story? (Something that really makes you smile or could possibly encourage others to use a bike instead of a car for transportation?)

“Wow, there are so many that I see on a daily basis that it is hard to pick just one. Honestly what motivates me the most are bike based businesses. They are popping up all over the NW and I find it inspiring. People who are learning how to take their passion for riding bikes and commuting and turning it into bike based businesses of some kind. There is the couple here who delivers soup to your house via bicycles, the coffee peddlers, the pedi-cabs, the rolling beer distributing bicycle companies, all the different bike touring companies, etc, etc. I am beyond inspired by these visionary individuals and would like to follow in their footsteps someday.”

What are three pieces of advice you would give to someone starting/ considering commuting by bike?

“First, you must have the right/best gear. That way you will be comfortable and it will be more enjoyable. Also, start with something small that you can do – maybe commute once or twice a week to work and then build form there so as not to get overwhelmed in the beginning. And finally, just have fun and use your imagination. Never take no for an answer. You will be surprised how easy it can be and how easily obstacles can be overcome. You just need a little imagination and ingenuity.”

What changes regarding transportation would you like to see in the United States?

“Well, I could use 500 words on this question alone! The bottom line is that commuting by bicycle just needs to be easier and safer so that more people will feel inclined to see it as a viable option. If it is too difficult or a hassle then no one will want to do it. So little things like bike lanes, bike lockers, changing facilities, etc. need to be implemented to facilitate the process. The rest of the country needs to pay attention to what is happening in places like Portland, Minneapolis, Austin, etc. to see what it takes to create communities that support the bicycle culture and emulate them in their own cities.”

Do you recommend cycling to friends/family members/youth or others?

“Have any taken you up on it? I am an advocate of all cycling lifestyles and I will talk to anyone who will listen about it. My family is pretty sick of it I reckon! And most of my friends are living the same lifestyle that I have chosen so they all get it. I have just started to reach out to the bigger community and the youth but this is something that I look forward to doing more of in the future. I try to do lots of school visits and public appearances to spread the message of healthy bicycle living but I need to find time to do more.”

Anything else you would like to add?

“Here is a link to my team’s website –
also we have a facebook fan page – colavita/baci women’s pro cycling team. Would love a link to this article put up there if you don’t mind. Thanks so much!”

Thank you Kelly for sharing your thoughts, passion, and wisdom with all the car-free and car-lite folks reading this interview. We appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule. Best of luck to you and Team Colavita!

Please check out Kelly’s team site and their FB page!


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