Harry Smith on Bike Commuting

Harry Smith of CBS News is a bike commuter. In this piece created for the Early Show, he chats with Lauren Mooney from Bicycling Magazine about bike commuting. Harry manages to keep it on topic for the first minute or two, but Lauren quickly wrestles the focus away from commuting to Bicycling Mag’s bread-and-butter, racing bikes and mountain bikes. It was good while it lasted… LOL.

View the video

37 Responses to “Harry Smith on Bike Commuting”

  • DerrickP says:

    Ahh! Commuting is what’s going to bring in more bread-and-butter! (in the long run, at least) Thanks for showing this to all of us, Alan.

  • cezar says:

    Sometimes I think Bicycling magazine is more a hindrance than a help.

  • Casey says:

    So promising, yet so painful:

    Bike lady: “Next we’re moving on to a road bike…it’s got drop handlebars…it looks like the kind of bike Lance Armstrong would ride…it’s about $1,300…”

    Harry Smith: “…some people think you have to spend thousands on a road bike, this one says not neccessarily true…”
    Bike lady: “well, I’m not going to lie to you, spending thousands will get you a really nice bike…but this will get you started…”

    UGH! Overall, I think this sort of segment does more harm than good.

  • Gussy says:

    Least they had a segment on bikes at all. So it must be spiking peoples interest. And to show that there are non serious bikes out there. I liked the plug for local bike stores, that got me.

  • bongobike says:


    Yeah, the Bicycling mag rep looked like she was taken aback, insulted almost, when Harry Smith suggested you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a decent bike. THAT’s their bread and butter, selling expensive stuff. That’s what most magazines are there for. They are just huge ads.

  • Tal Danzig says:

    At least she’s promoting higher quality kids bikes and local shops rather than un-safe poorly assembled Walmart specials.

    I think for many of us who are bike enthusiasts, whether of the road racing, touring, mountain biking, commuting, etc. variety it’s easy to get sucked in to the stratosphere of well spec’d, carefully selected bikes and components. Hell, here in Vancouver I see plenty of people happily riding around on older, cheaper bikes that likely cost less than the Brooks B17 Special I just put on my touring bike. As much as I admire high-end bikes, I think it’s important to recognize that many, if not most, daily non-recreational cyclists don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on expensive equipment.

    Often, I feel like bike evangelism needs to steer more towards education on safety, riding/traffic skills, and basic maintenance knowledge. Still, promoting “cool” urban bikes is only going to help drive more and more people to bikes, and the more cycling is seen as a viable form of transportation rather than just recreation the better it’s going to be for all of us.

  • skip says:

    If the are talking about biking on CBS we have come a long way. Its all good for funding trails and bike lanes

  • Chuck says:

    Ah, but at least Harry began the segment on a Globe Live. True the mesage began to wander to the magazine’s main stream but at least we had the beginnings of the real message that needs to be told. There are great bikes for everyday use and Harry looked like he was having fun riding one. The picture/video of him enjoying riding the Globe may be worth a thousand words.

  • Jim says:

    Good segment for middle American, not pdx-ers.

  • Alan says:

    I just noticed there’s an auto ad at the bottom of the video screen… :-)

  • spacemodular says:

    I know many bicyclists who commute and race.

    Bikes are application specific. Different bikes for different riding needs. I have 5 bikes, I want 10 – Owning ten bikes is nowhere as destructive as owning 1 car.

    Different strokes for different folks… but I like bike riders of any stripe.

  • Herzog says:

    Lauren Mooney is pretty clueless. It was still nice to see Harry in a suit on a city bike. :)

  • Mr. CrankyPants says:

    I don’t see what all the kvetching is about. They talked about four different kinds of bikes and the intended purpose of those bikes. Is the existence of bikes outside of ones own preferred style so offensive to y’all that even talking about them is unacceptable? It seems the practical bike/plain clothes crowd is every bit as elitist, exclusory, narrow minded etc etc as they believe the “sport” cyclists to be. Pot – kettle – black.

    CBS really should of covered more than just four types of bikes. Showing that there’s a bike for every need, style and budget certainly won’t hurt when it comes to getting people on bikes. Not everyone wants or needs a basket bike. Horses for courses and all that.

  • Alan says:


    “I don’t see what all the kvetching is about.”

    It was supposed to be a piece about bike commuting. Maybe the next time they run a piece on the TDF they can throw in a bit about commuter bikes (fat chance)… :-)


  • Randy says:

    I would consider it a great success over all. Harry should have done the segment on his own and then it would have been great. I loved the bit about that road bike being a possible choice for your first triathlon, really!? I own a road bike that i just commute on, never have and never will do a triathlon. I just hate the terrible wind in Oklahoma so it allows me to commute on days when sitting up would be brutal.

  • Mr. CrankyPants says:


    Yes, it was a piece about commuting. But consider that maybe having a bit of knowledge about the different types of bikes and their intended use might actually help a newcomer choose the best bike for their needs. Had the video shown only the Globe (as cool as it is) the message could easily be interpreted as “This is the only option for bike commuting. Period”. And that option could be totally wrong for many people, which means they won’t be riding at all.

    Sorry if I come across as being snarky, but it seems like a case of sour grapes on your part because the video didn’t focus solely on your favourite kind of bike.

  • shawn says:

    Bicycling Magazine is nothing more than a sales tool for the industry. It’s focus is on selling product. Like the rest of the corporate cycling industry, their focus is on racing and product development for racing. There’s nothing wrong with that. The problem is that they misrepresent their products as being appropriate for the average, everyday consumer. Most people don’t race, but Bicycling Magazine wants them to buy a race bike without regard to the suitability of the bike to the style of the rider. In so doing they do a disservice to consumers, but more broadly to bike culture in America in general. They perpetuate this notion that to be a serious cyclist you have to ride a race bike, wear the lycra kit, and have as much carbon fiber as you can afford. They couldn’t be more wrong. Most people want a bike that’s comfortable, well-suited to the uses they intend to put it, and reliable. Who wants to be a “serious” cyclist anyway? Bikes are supposed to be fun!

  • Alan says:

    Seems more than a little silly to me to title a piece “Bike Commutes on the Rise” and half way through the segment start talking about mountain biking and triathlons (neither of which I have any problem with whatsoever). The underlying issue here is what I touched upon in a post just a couple of ticks down the page:

    “The idea that bicycling is a sport is still deeply ingrained in the psyche of most Americans. Replacing a car with a bicycle is still seen as a bit odd, if not completely eccentric. And the idea of riding a bike slowly, and in street clothes, is unthinkable for many people, bicyclists and non-bicyclists alike. We still have some work to do!”


    “I think it’s that bicycling=sport thing that trips up many potential bike commuters, especially those who don’t see themselves as athletes. In many areas outside of our few bicycling meccas (Davis, Portland, Boulder, Minneapolis, etc.) the majority of our role models are racers-in-training, consequently many people don’t believe it’s possible to ride a bike as an adult any way other than full-tilt and in full-kit.”

    Lauren Mooney’s need to turn the conversation away from utility back to sport was just more evidence of something we already knew; Bicycling Magazine doesn’t quite get it (yet).

  • John says:

    There has heretofore been so little attention to bicycle commuting in the mainstream media that overall I think the story will raise a bit of awareness. I’d agree, Lauren Mooney and Bicycling Magazine still don’t “get it,” but I also think Harry Smith deserves Kudos for modeling how fun and practical bicycle commuting can be.

  • Neighbourtease says:

    I agree, Alan. They definitely don’t get it.

    If that’s what the mainstream cycling authorities are offering to commuters or just to people who might like to tool around on a bicycle sometimes then WOW, they are missing a big opportunity. I think it would honestly have scared the crap out of me to have seen something like that Jamis bike when I was a novice cylist and to have been told “ok so that’s my commuting option and then I must move on to triathlons.” And the idea that the top tube and front reach make that bike a good option for women. LOL. Ok.

    Cool that that anchor is a cyclist, though. I hope that he did more in the segment by just saying “I feel better when I ride my bike” than the tech-fetishist editor undid. I hope. It is always nice to see more people on bikes.

  • Pat McG says:

    While the lead in discusses the rise of bike commuting, I’m not sure the piece was intended to be about bike commuting and is mislabelled. I’m not sure who put the label that this was about bike commuting (IMDB), but the CBS graphic says “Get Psyched for Bikes: Hot Wheels for Spring and Summer.”

  • Alan says:


    “I’m not sure who put the label that this was about bike commuting (IMDB), but the CBS graphic says “Get Psyched for Bikes: Hot Wheels for Spring and Summer.””

    Fair enough; I missed that…


  • Jim says:

    Harry is a commuter, lending street cred to the fluff piece he was about to do. Really, what isn’t a fluff piece on that show? Mooney did her job–to get novices interested. Read her Editor’s Note in Bicycling magazine for insight about where she’s coming from wrt commuting. There’s no mysterious black art to commuting–it’s inherently prosaic, nerdy and inspired at times. The journey is the goal, the destination its happy coincidence. The type of bike a person chooses to ride is personal–there are no absolutes. Let’s just ride and quit talking about it! (Me too.)

  • Dwainedibbly says:

    I’ve been looking for an excuse to cancel my subscription to Bicycling. I think I just found it.

  • Don says:

    So maybe the issue is that CBS saw Bicycling as the go-to resource. A more up-to-date program might opt for, say, a blogger . . .

  • Alan says:


    Urban Velo or Momentum would have been logical choices.

  • bongobike says:

    Please, don’t be so modest, Alan. :)

  • doug in seattle. says:

    We should get Jan Heine on TV talking about the nuances of front-loading French cyclotouring bikes. That’d get the common man pumped for commuting, right?

  • Don says:

    @Alan, you ought to send ol’ Harry this thread. He’d be appreciative and intrigued.

    To me, the spot also highlights how smart Specialized was to diversify as it did when it did. Two of the four bikes were theirs! And then giving Jamis its due as well, particularly when it comes to geometry for women. Bicycling may be beholding to the industry, but the story isn’t so straightforward there either. Don’t all journalists follow the money?

  • Will says:

    Too bad CBS didn’t invite anyone from Transportation Alternatives (NYC’s bicycling/ pedestrian/ mass-transit advocacy organization) nor the bike-friendly NYC Dept. of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.

  • Jim says:

    Yes, Sadik-Khan would have shown up in a limo with lights ablazing.

  • Mark K says:

    I read about half the comments before I was able to view the video. Ignoring the titling of the video, and listening to Harry’s comments, I in no way got the impression that the video was about commuting exclusively. In fact, Harry states that they’d be talking about “bikes for the whole family.” Not all households are as in sync as (I’m assuming here) yours is Alan, with a focus on one type of cycling.

    Bicycling, for better or worse, is considered by many casual bike riders or the non-cycling public, to be the print resource for cycling. This is largely due to it’s longevity. I would have loved to see them have a spokesperson from Bicycle Times or one of the other smaller publications that are more devoted to biking for the everyman, rather than high-performance gear-heads. But, it is what it is. To have a piece in mainstream media looking at it in a positive light is, in my opinion, a good thing.

  • Mr D says:

    Can’t we all get along?

    Of course one doesn’t need a $2000 carbon fiber bike to ride to work. Then again you don’t need a $2000 Betty Foy to do that either.

    Those of us that wear lycra know how silly we look. I’d think it’s kinda obvious we’re not doing it for fashion. I really hope the Sherlock Holmes reenactors at a tweed ride realize they look every bit as silly.

    Once you ride enough you start to understand why a Betty Foy or Madone is worth every penny to the right rider. And once you ride enough you’ll figure out what a 50lb dutch bike isn’t good for. And what a 15lb race bike isn’t suited for. And why a mountain bike might not be the best bike for paved city paths. Does everyone NEED a special bike for every kind of riding? Of course not. But I’m sure glad we have the options to get a bike that’s perfect for whatever kind of riding we want to do.

    The photos on this site are great. COULD they be taken with a cel phone camera? Not at the quality a better camera provides. Same thing with bikes. Why get down on those of us that found we like riding so much that we want to go out for longer, further, faster then we could on a “commuter” bike and went ahead and bought the clothes and bike to do that comfortably?

    I really do feel sorry for people who can’t enjoy everyone who rides a bike.

    Even when we look silly and ride bikes that others think are stupid we’re all out there. Let’s enjoy it.

    PS My definition of a “serious” rider? Anyone who’s out commuting with me on a -10 degree January day in Wisconsin. If we want more people out there with me we’re gonna have to take anyone we can. Even if they walk around all summer in a superhero outfit with reverse tap shoes and ride a $5000 bike.

  • Casey Brown says:

    @Mr. D.

    I certainly have no problem with bicyclists buying and wearing whatever bikes and clothing that turns their crank. I’m just bummed that the piece was (at least in part) about commuting, and the expert suggested that a $1,300 road bike would “get you started”. Should new drivers start out with high performance sports cars? Should I get my young son racing flats running shoes because he likes to run with our dog? Whatever dusty old bike you have in the garage will “get you started”. The Globe mentioned first in the piece would “get you started” in style AND at a third of the price of the Jamis. I too like options in bikes, but hate it when people perpetuate the belief that dedicated road or mountain bikes are the best choices for newbies and casual cyclists.

  • Mr D says:

    A Globe Live 3 speed will “get you started” too. Most newbies are gonna need those 2 extra gears. Then you’re back to $1500.

    Let’s be honest, a $25 garage sale bike is all anyone needs to “get started”. But if we really want people to keep riding once they start there’s some very good reasons to buy a $1000 + bike. Riding everyday puts a fair amount of wear on any bike. A bike that let’s someone ride 6 times a summer might not be suited to riding 6 days a week.

    If we want people to ride more then a couple of miles a couple of times a year we ought to be honest with ‘em. A $300 bike that’s worn out and possibly unrepairable after a year of commuting is just gonna frustrate people. Why not tell them that for a few (or lot) of dollars more they’ll be able to get started AND have a bike they can ride for many, many years.

    Maybe that’s just my former bikeshop salesperson talking. But I always wanted to sell people a bike they could ride for 10 years rather then one that would just get ‘em started. Too many of us already know that once you get the bike bug it’s really easy to end up with a bunch of ‘em. Why not help show people why they’re gonna want a better bike once they start riding everyday rather then sell them a bike that’s gonna need to be replaced once they really start riding?

    As others have pointed out just because a (pretty small) part of the piece is about commuting there’s no reason to not tell people about all the other kinds of riding they can do too. And frankly someone could happily commute on any of those bikes.

  • Tal Danzig says:

    Speaking of “starter bikes” I recently heard the tale of a $380 Costco bike that due to poor quality/build needed $500 of work. Sometimes getting started cheaper can be more expensive than spending a little more money upfront. But what’s needed here is more education about the costs of bicycle ownership over the long term, and how for a regular cyclist, buying a bike that’s designed with longevity and maintainability in mind is going to save the rider over the long term while providing a better riding experience in the short term. But yet again, the $50 garage sale special might be what it takes to get someone on the bike and riding. Yeah, it’s not going to provide the best riding experience, but it may just create another cyclist.

  • Mr D says:

    “But yet again, the $50 garage sale special might be what it takes to get someone on the bike and riding. Yeah, it’s not going to provide the best riding experience, but it may just create another cyclist.”

    Or it might just a easily give them the idea that all bikes ride poorly and drive them away from ever trying again.

    A friend of mine is a 50+ year old guy. Never been a bike rider. A few years ago I helped him sorta fix up one of the many “starter” bikes left around the building he works in when the students moved out. He rode it a few times but because it never really suited him it sat unused 99% of the time.

    Last year he borrowed a $5000 Trek from the store his daughter works at to do our local ride the drive event. He told me last week he went back and bought a slightly less expensive Trek and is now planning on being a daily commuter.

    I don’t think we can assume there’s one or best way to get people riding.

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