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Dave Weber’s 40-plus mile, award-winning daily commute

Posted by on October 18th, 2011 at 7:51 am

On the road from
Dallas to Kansas City.
(Photo courtesy of Dave Weber)

You could ride from Portland, Oregon to Los Angeles, California but you still wouldn’t travel as many miles as Dave Weber rode his bike in September. Even adding a detour along Highway 101 from Sacramento to Bakersfield would give you fewer than the 1,096 miles Weber rode on his way to and from work last month.

Weber was the recipient of the Brian Reynolds Distance Award, given each year to the rider with the most miles logged in the Bicycle Transportation Alliance’s Bike Commute Challenge.

How exactly did he ride 1,096 miles in one month, just on his way to and from work? Here’s a clue…

Map of Weber’s 22 mile (one-way) daily commute.

The miles add up quickly on his 40-plus mile daily commute (round trip). Weber starts (as early as 2:00 am on some days) near Carus Elementary School in Beaver Creek and rides north along Carus Road, Highway 213, through Oregon City, under I-205, along McLaughlin Blvd, across the Clackamas River, and eventually along the Springwater Corridor, across the Hawthorne Bridge, and up into Old Town where Weber works at NW Natural.

Weber rides this route almost every work day. The only exception is when weather conditions are too harsh to keep his bicycle upright:

“I ride every day that I go to work unless there is black ice (I haven’t figured out how to keep my bicycle upright for extended period of time on black ice although I have ridden in it several times) or snow accumulations covering the riding surfaces. I have ridden to work in snow storms and when it was 10 degrees outside in 1996. I ride about 18,000 to 20,000 miles a year and I use my bike to pick up small amounts of groceries (less than 10 pounds) and run errands as well as go to meetings and events in my personal life.

Riding that many miles has, at times, taken a physical toll.

Despite the fact that he always rides “as defensively as possible, looking for signs of movement from cars anywhere on my path” Weber has been struck by people driving cars seven times. These collisions have often left Weber in the hospital; he’s had surgery to repair his face, his hands, and once woke up to find himself in the ER after being broadsided by a truck that ran a red light. According to Weber, his helmet (which he wears “anytime [his] bicycle is in motion”) has saved his life on four separate occasions.

In spite of his injuries, Weber keeps riding simply for the love of being on a bicycle. Elaborating on what keeps him riding, Weber explained:

“I ride my bike because I enjoy the freedom and satisfaction of propelling myself from one place to another. I have ridden across the US in seven one-week segments, from Brownsville, Texas to Kansas City in 5 days by myself and from Boston to Sault St Marie, Canada in 5 days by myself. Each of these trips allowed me to see, smell, and sense the US in a way that no one can in a car.”

Dave Weber’s story, and the intrinsic joy he gets from riding a bicycle, is an inspiration. The next time I catch myself making the excuse that a destination is too far to reach by bike, I’m going to think of Dave.

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Comments
  • Jim F October 18, 2011 at 8:18 am

    Admirable in Oregon. I did a 40 mile roundtrip commute for 3 years (which, unlike Dave’s, included a mountain pass). Of course, mine was in Los Angeles where it is a heck of a lot nicer place to ride in winter.

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    • S October 18, 2011 at 6:51 pm

      But a whole lot worse in terms of bike unfriendliness, I assume…!

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  • Spiffy October 18, 2011 at 8:36 am

    wow, that’s awesome, especially considering the conditions on 213 out by Carus… my dad lives out there and it’s not the most hospitable place for bicycles during commute hours…

    however, coming down 213 from the top of Oregon City is fun… (:

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  • SilkySlim October 18, 2011 at 8:42 am

    What a champ!

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  • Carl October 18, 2011 at 9:00 am

    Dave’s story also makes an excellent point about cycling infrastructure. Even a guy this skilled and experienced has been struck by a car seven times while simply commuting to work. How do you convince the average “interested but concerned” commuter that it’s safe to get on a bike?

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    • A.K. October 18, 2011 at 9:12 am

      It’s totally crazy he has been hit seven freakin’ times… how many daily drivers have been hit seven separate times on the way to/from work? I doubt it’s many.

      Good on him for all that riding, though! 20,000 miles a year is amazing.

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    • sorebore October 18, 2011 at 10:45 am

      I do not know Dave, but some folks are just plain accident prone. That is a hell of a great commute you have Dave ! Congrats on your award.

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    • Mindful Cyclist October 18, 2011 at 9:27 pm

      I think the average “interested but concerned” type is not even going to consider a commute that long. It is a good point about the infrastructure, though. Experienced or not, unfortunately the more you ride, the greater your chances of getting in a collision.

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      • David Smith October 19, 2011 at 11:55 am

        …about the infrastructure, though. Experienced or not, unfortunately the more you ride, the greater your chances of getting in a collision…..

        The more you ride while improving your bike handling and traffic skills the LESS chance you have of a collision — even with the greater exposure.

        Without attention to skills, experience becomes mere repetition. Before training I had a few crashes but after changing my attitude about traffic and my personal responsibility, I now have over 5 times that (100,000 miles without). And, I know many similar bicyclists with around 300,000 miles w/o. They take personal responsibility for their own behavior and learn from those who know how to get the rules of the road to work for them and ride with traffic.

        Lets take a look at the high crash rate bicyclists and see what their attitudes and skills are. Then lets look at the low crash rate bicyclists and compare their attitudes and skills. Lets move people away from the attitudes and skills of high crash rate cyclists and move them toward the attitudes and skills of the low crash rate bicyclists.

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  • Joe October 18, 2011 at 9:05 am

    awesome !

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  • deborah October 18, 2011 at 9:07 am

    Thanks for the inspiration Dave!

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  • Brian E October 18, 2011 at 9:48 am

    Wow, that recalibrates the 0-10 scale.

    I heard a similar story from a friend who hit 300,000 bicycle miles on his commute home from work the other day.

    Aside from the physical accomplishment, I am always impressed by the record keeping. I have never had the mental discipline to keep my own mileage.

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    • was carless October 18, 2011 at 10:39 am

      Yeah, its hard to remember to change those GPS batteries. :)

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    • Pete October 18, 2011 at 3:46 pm

      The daily commute formula is kinda easy… ;-)
      2 * X miles each way per day * days commuted

      There’s a website called Plus3Fitness that could convert all those miles to charity donations!

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  • Mindful Cyclist October 18, 2011 at 10:04 am

    Thank you for the inspiration, Dave! I will remember this when I think my one-way 12 mile commute is too far.

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    • Pete October 18, 2011 at 3:52 pm

      Isn’t it funny his commute is only ~9 miles longer than our distance, yet amazing how it adds up with the discipline and/or logistical capability of doing it every single day. There’s definitely a threshold to what’s a ‘long’ commute (depending on weather, hills, traffic lights, type and schedule of your business, etc, more than just “X miles”). I salute ya Dave! (Am also jealous… :)

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  • Mark Allyn October 18, 2011 at 10:24 am

    Congratulations! Now, when people make fun of me, all I have to do is look toward the south and know that someone else is out there!

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    • Pete October 18, 2011 at 3:55 pm

      They’re just jealous they’re not as bright and shiny.

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  • Todd Boulanger October 18, 2011 at 11:00 am

    It always makes me sad when I read the frequent press reports singing the praise of the “super commuters” – those that log insanely high mileage daily auto commutes.

    I never thought I would have the same initial reaction to an article about bike commuter, but I did so today after reading about this case.

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  • GlowBoy October 18, 2011 at 11:21 am

    Wow, incredible achievement. That’s 5-6 hours on a bike every day. I wish I could find the time to ride that much!

    I do agree with the above comments that it’s a sad commentary on our roads when a cyclist riding that many miles has been hit seven times. Admittedly he’s not riding on the friendliest roads for part of the trip, but it’s sobering nonetheless.

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    • Schrauf October 18, 2011 at 12:36 pm

      Well, more like 2.5 hours per day for a moderately quick rider averaging 18 mph, or 3 hours at 15 mph, but impressive nevertheless.

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    • Teejay October 18, 2011 at 3:08 pm

      5-6 hours for that commute would be incredibly slow. if you are riding your bike that often, you likely can more than 8 mph average speed.

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      • GlowBoy October 19, 2011 at 2:47 pm

        Oops, did the math wrong. My bad. Still way more than I’d have time for on a daily basis.

        On studded tires: there’s no “finding the snow” to ride on when we have ice storms around here. Nothing but wet slick ice on everything.

        Home-studded tires are EXTREMELY slow rolling (and indeed might drag a 40mile commute out to 5+ hours), but they are a completely different animal and should have a different label than the commercial ones, some of which roll nearly as fast as cyclocross tires. I have ridden with a front studded tire (currently a big fan of the Schwalbe Marathon Winter) for almost a decade of Portland/Beaverton winters. Black ice isn’t that common but frost is.

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  • GlowBoy October 18, 2011 at 11:23 am

    Oh, and I’ve got a simple answer to the question of keeping a bike upright on black ice: studded tires. Even in our climate I often find at least a front studded tire to be useful. But even if he can stay upright on the black ice, I wouldn’t recommend commuting on the roads he’s using when it’s icy.

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    • John Lascurettes October 18, 2011 at 7:52 pm

      I rode studded tires a few years back when we had bad ice and it certainly made a difference (for the few days that I needed them).

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    • Tom M October 19, 2011 at 1:43 am

      When I lived in actual snow country (New England), the rule of thumb was simply find the snow. Yes it slowed you down a bit but knobby tires in snow offer much more traction than you will ever get on ice.

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  • pdx2wheeler October 18, 2011 at 11:46 am

    I would say Dave has single-handedly crushed any able bodied person’s excuse(s), locally and nationally, as to why they’re unable to get off their butt and ride a bike into work. Thanks Dave!

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  • redhippie October 18, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    Honor Harrington would be proud!

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  • A. Weber October 18, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    I am always proud of my dad for setting such a good example. He doesn’t do it to push any agenda, he rides his bike that far because he loves to.

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  • Patrick Croasdaile October 18, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    Dave is testament to the tenacity required of South Metro bike commuters. Clackamas County represent!

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  • Paul H October 18, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    If the map detailing his route is correct, it looks like he takes the Clackamas River trail up to the pedestrian bridge into Gladstone. He could probably avoid some of the harsher traffic by taking Oatfield north out of Gladstone rather than heading up I-205 to Hwy 224. (Of course, he might just like the extra miles or challenge…)

    In any event, that’s quite the daily ride. Way to go!

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  • Harald October 18, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    I wonder what kind of bike he is riding. With this mileage, a Rohloff Speedhub might make sense to keep maintenance cost down.

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  • Ted Buehler October 18, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    Quite the record. Nice work demonstrating that it can be done.

    I hope policymakers and planners take into account that he’s been severely injured on multiple occasions. Sounds like, unfortunately, if he keeps the commute and roadway conditions/driver behavior is are not improved up he’s still playing Russian Roulette with his life.

    He deserves better routes to ride on.

    Ted Buehler

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  • Anders October 18, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    wow….that is badass. nice work!

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  • Peder Horner October 18, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    Strong work Dave!

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  • Aaron October 18, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    There is no way I could or would get my butt out of bed at 2am to ride. Very impressive.

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  • Judy Jensen October 18, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    I had to commute 100 miles per day for 10 years (West Linn to St. Helens and back), spending about 3.5 hours per day in a car wasting fossil fuel:) I remember how jealous I was of the runners, walkers, and cyclists along Highway 30 during those years, but I always wondered about their safety. I commend you, Dave, for boldly riding to work and getting up on the bike again even after so many accidents. You’re amazing!

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    • Tom in Portland October 19, 2011 at 6:46 am

      I rode one way from St. Helens to NE, 35 miles, for the school year, car pool the other direction. Man I got fit.

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  • Dan O October 19, 2011 at 9:42 am

    @Pete, your formula only works if you take the same route both to and from work, and the same route every day. Boooooring.

    @Glowboy, it’s only 5-6 hours if you ride very slowly. And studded tires would be nice, but black ice around here is more often patchy, and if you had to ride 40-60 miles on studded tires… well, then maybe you *would* be looking at 5-6 hours (and not much fun at that).

    My round trip commute is ~56 miles minimum, and more enjoyable routes go 60+ miles. I logged 1266 miles in Sept ’09 (but was still only 2nd in the BCC). Even giving everybody else a week long headstart this year, I was on track for podium until I missed a bunch more days later in the month.

    Dave was absolutely rock steady this September, and deserves the win (Rambo rode a good BCC, too, but I’m glad he didn’t use his flexible work situation to take it away – that was nice of him).

    I especially noted how Dave gives the same reason I do for why we do it. Everybody assumes you’re trying to save gas money and get exercise and be green and so on, and those things are all well and good, but the real reason is that two times a day, I get to be a kid on a bike (though sometimes in the winter I think it may be more like that saying, “I like to bang my head on the wall because it feels so good when I stop ;-)

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  • jeff October 19, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    As a cyclist I’m impressed by and a bit jealous of that annual mileage.

    At the same time, I don’t know that this is something worth celebrating. Not to be negative, but shouldn’t this guy just move closer to work? Or work closer to home? Even by bike, extreme commutes aren’t exactly something I can get behind.

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    • 9watts October 26, 2011 at 11:24 am

      “shouldn’t this guy just move closer to work? ”

      You crack me up. Can you explain why you say this? Is Dave complaining about the long commute? Is he slowing you down on your commute? Are you worried that he’s not paying his fair share in gasoline taxes?

      I can see why you might make such a comment about someone *driving* all that way, but if he’s biking what is there to object? Maybe he has good reasons not to move?

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  • Dan O October 19, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    @Harald, How much does one of those Rohloff thingies cost? How much does it save per mile in “maintenance costs”? How does that pencil out?

    @jeff, You just don’t get it. Seriously, telling people where they should live? That’s okay, though. We’ll manage somehow without you “getting behind” us. (BTW, I am no “cyclist”. My washing machine “cycles”. I Ride Bike!)

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