Bike Riding IRL: Countri Bike Talks City Biking for National Bike Month
If you’ve been reading our blog (and you have, of course), you know that we’ve got two free National Bike Month events happening soon, and that the second, Bike Riding IRL, happens Tuesday, May 10th, and brings together four New Yorkers who want to share with bike-curious city dwellers their experiences riding a bike in NYC. One of those folks happens also to have experience biking outside of NYC–so far outside, in fact, as to wind up in California. We spoke with Jeffrey Tanenhaus–a.k.a. Countri Bike–about his choice to bike across the country, and what he plans to do now that he’s back.
You biked all the way from New York to California. Why did you do it?
Long story short, the best part of my job was my Citi Bike commute. I wanted the empowerment and happiness I felt bike commuting to last all day, so I decided to dump the job and keep biking across America. A detailed backstory of why I did it is here, but because of my wonderful experiences on a Citi Bike during unhappy times at work, for me it made sense to attempt this on a bike share bike.
What was your number one takeaway—the most profound thing you got out of your experience?
I think the biggest lesson is that if you feel a burning passion for something, you should follow that instinct. I had been dreaming about biking cross-country on a Citi Bike for 1.5 years before I actually left, and I almost didn’t follow through. I was breaking the rules, had no experience bike touring, and was doing something unprecedented. How was I going to make it to New Jersey, much less California, on a 45-pound bike with three gears? The day I left NYC and took decisive action to follow a dream was the hardest.
How would you encourage folks to bike more regularly? Can you talk a little bit about the benefits and why you do it?
Biking is faster than walking and less expensive and more convenient than waiting for public transportation. I mean, have you ever seen anybody look happy waiting for the bus? Even on the coldest days I’d rather be in a bike lane than captive to MTA service while stuffed into a crowded subway car. I also dislike taxis because I have no control over their speed or driving style, which often irritates me.
And honestly, while time and cost savings are important, the biggest reason I bike is because it feels amazing. On bike you create your own route. I love the logistical challenge of getting from A to B in NYC and inserting myself into the mix of vehicle, pedestrian, and bicycle traffic on crowded city streets. It’s absolutely exhilarating and surprisingly safe if you obey the traffic rules. Some people gasp when they hear I incurred a $1,200 fine by not returning the Citi Bike, but that was a bargain for how great I felt discovering America one back road at a time on my own power. You can’t put a price tag on physical and emotional wellness.
Bike sharing is the perfect way to get started riding more often because it allows you to ride without the hassle of owning or maintaining a bike of your own. I had a bike, but immediately switched to Citi Bike upon its launch. It made more sense to commute using their equipment, which can take potholes and glass shards far better than my road bike, and not carrying around a heavy lock and chain or worrying about theft are bonuses.
That bring us to the all-important question: did you get to keep your Citi Bike?
A transportation executive for Los Angeles Metro wanted to buy or barter for it to hang in his gallery downtown. He is a good painter, so the offer to barter was tempting!
Breeze Bike Share in Santa Monica also offered to buy it and turn it into a unicorn bike within their bike sharing system. As it turns out, Breeze paid to ship the bike back to my old apartment in New York, and CBS paid to expedite it because the bike and I made an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
The bike is back in NYC, but my followers on Instagram are adamant that I not return it. Citi Bike has been silent on the issue — and my entire ride for that matter — so for now I’ll hang onto it.