Worcester, Mass.
May 18, 1997

Cyclists make commuting fun

By Lynne Tolman

   Bike to Work Week has changed its tune.  Now it's just Bike Week here, because organizers want to promote all kinds of cycling, not just commuting.
   Still, bike commuters take center stage this week as some of the most dedicated riders.  Even if they only bike to work in good weather, they've found a rewarding way to combine fun and exercise with their breadwinning obligations.
   Jim Couture of Fitchburg has been biking to work at Bingham Lumber in Brookline, N.H., about five months a year for eight years.  The 15-mile trip each way takes him about 50 minutes this time of year, and he expects to pare that a bit as the season progresses.
   "I first started to do it to stay in shape, to keep my weight down," said Couture, 37.  "And now I just really enjoy it.  People don't believe it, but when I get to work I'm really calm.  Riding gives me a nice quiet time to think.  It's kind of like meditation."
   Leaving his house at 6:15 a.m. on his Trek 1100 with fenders and racks (and a headlight in the fall), Couture often sees wildlife on the first half of his commute, which consists of lightly traveled back roads.  "I've seen deer, herons, ducks, a fox."
   Closer to work, he hits some traffic and narrower roads.  He finds that riding predictably gives motorists the right cues.  "People see you out there every day, and they do kind of respect you.  They give you space.  Usually, like clockwork, I see the same cars, the same license plates."
   Couture doesn't have to dress up for his job as a lumber grader and heavy equipment operator, so it's all right if he arrives sweaty.  On Saturdays, when he works with customers, he makes do with a sponge bath after his ride in.
   He's never calucated the savings, but in the winter, he said, he spends almost $30 a week on gas for his pickup truck.  He likes that fact that biking's nonpolluting, too.
   His brother, Doug Couture of Lunenburg, also bikes to work at Bingham Lumber, about the same distance  Their routes coincide for the last few miles, and if they time it right, they ride that stretch together.  When the workday ends, they sometimes take a scenic route home to add miles.
   "The guys at work think we're nuts," said Doug Couture, 44.  "But it's a good way to get my miles in, so I don't have to be a weekend warrior."
   Doug's partner, Joyce Gassett, also bikes to work, also about 15 miles each way.  For her job in the cafeteria at Digital Equipment Corp. in Littleton, she has to wear black pants and a white shirt, so she leaves a few clean sets of clothes at work on the rainy days when she drives in.  "I only ride in the good weather," said Gassett, 57.  "I'm not a masochist."
   In Boston, Bike Week activities include a bike festival at City Hall Plaza from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. Thursday, featuring free breakfast, a bike fashion show, entertainment, and information from various bike groups; group commuter rides from several suburbs, and recreational rides.  For a complete schedule, contact Becka Roolf at  or call 617-641-4782, or see the Web site at
   The Bicycle Coalition of Massachusetts is throwing a party, sponsored by The Ride Magazine and Independent Fabrication, starting at 4 p.m. tomorrow at Redbones, 55 Chester St., Davis Square, Somerville.  Admission costs $3 and includes a sandwich, a drink and valet bicycle parking.
   Rubel BikeMaps has just published the third in its series of maps, the Eastern Massachuestts Bicycle & Road Map.  The map shows recommended roads and secondary roads suitable for cycling, as well as bike paths, mountain biking areas, commuter rail lines that permit bikes on trains, bike shops, state parks, campgrounds, swimming spots, bed and breakfasts and country inns, picnic areas and ice cream shops.  The map covers towns from Interstate 495 to the Cape Cod Canal  and includes the North Shore.
   Rubel also has bike maps for Boston and for Cape Cod and the North Shore.  Each costs $5.25 including postage from Rubel BikeMaps, PO Box 1035, Cambridge, Mass.  02140.
   An exhibit called "Pedal Power" opens on Memorial Day at the American Precision Museum, 196 Main St., Windsor, Vt. (802-674-5781).  The show will trace the history of the bicycle, from early wooden vehicles to the newest precision mountain bikes, and explain how technological change led to social change, which led to more technological change.
   The museum building originally was an armory and machine shop, and also houses the National Machine Tool Collection and a collection of guns made there at the start of the Industrial Revolution.  The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends.  Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and students, free for children under 6.

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