Bicycle Commuter Profile: Mona Raza

Bicycle Commuter Profile

Name: Mona Raza
Location: Roanoke, Virginia, USA
Started bike commuting: A little over a year ago
Commute distance (one way): Usually drive 7 miles, bus 30 miles, bike 2 miles; Occasionally bike the first 7 miles too.

Describe your commute: I work in another town and hate driving on the interstate. Luckily, we have a commuter bus with bike racks that takes me most of the way. The bike part of my commute takes place on a busy industrial street. The only other cyclists I ever see are fellows who have lost their driver’s license and occasional tourists traveling across country. The drivers seem to have gotten used to me and seem a lot less hostile now. Once in a while when I don’t have to get my kids off to school or daycare, I’ll bike the seven miles to the park and ride from home, and that is a pleasant ride on rolling country roads.

Describe your bike and accessories: I started commuting on a Trek Pilot 2.1, but crushed the chainstay in an incident involving a clamp-on kickstand and pothole. The Trek then served as an organ donor for a new Soma Buena Vista frame that my bike shop built up with all the salvaged components, including a Shimano 105 drivetrain. I hope to replace some of the uglier Bongager bits later on. I did switch to 28c Conti city tires, though. I carry all my stuff in a large Rivendell Sackville Saddlesack, which is like having a trunk on your bike. It even fits legal files. All in all my commuter makes me happy.

What bit of advice would you like to share with new bike commuters?: Go on beginner group rides or take a traffic 101 class if you are nervous about driving in traffic. Plan out your route, drive it and then do a test ride on the weekend. Remain calm and ride often. The drivers will get used to seeing you and begin to give you more room.

3 Responses to “Bicycle Commuter Profile: Mona Raza”

  • Erica says:

    Roanoke! My husband and I went through there on our anniversary trip this spring, and I fell in love with the place. It would be a perfect place to live, except for the fact that it doesn’t seem like it’s very possible to get around without a car and I don’t have a license yet (and we DON’T want a second car anyway). Mona Raza, if you’re reading this, can you tell me more about biking or taking public transportation in Roanoke? I did notice that you have an LBS, it looked cool from the outside, but was closed the day we went there. :(

  • Mona says:

    Hi Erica,
    I moved to Roanoke almost two years ago and I started biking there. If you can bike our hills you can bike anywhere! There’s not just one, but several local bike shops and an active bike community. (Last time I counted, there were five). My favorite shop is Just the Right Gear in Salem. There is even a bicycle co-op downtown. I don’t have much time to participate in organized rides but there are almost daily road and mountain bike rides in the vicinity. The Blue Ridge Bicycle Club has an active ride calendar. Every full moon people meet downtown with tiny bikes, ride a school bus to the “World’s Largest Illuminated Star” on top of Mill Mountain and “star bomb” back down. Finally, there is no better place to ride that the Blue Ridge Parkway. Miles and miles of smooth pavement and gorgous scenery. I don’t know where you are from, but it is true we don’t have much infrastructure right now. There are some good folks working on changing that. I live on top of a mountain in Roanoke County and am not a strong enough cyclist to go grocery shopping by bike, but I could definitely picture myself living carfree if I lived in downtown Roanoke or almost anywhere in Salem. I am 100% certain that I would have bought a house in a different location if I had started biking before we moved. We do have a pretty good bus network through Valley Metro. I love living in the Roanoke Valley! I just wish I had more time to do all the outdoor activities it offers.

  • Erica says:

    Thanks for the reply! Yeah, as we were driving down the Blue Ridge Parkway I saw a lot of bikers and I made it a goal to bike there someday. Although I’m gonna need to rent a light roadbike for that, I don’t think my commuter hybrid will make it. I think the bicycle co-op is the place I saw (I think it was on Jefferson Street?). That’s awesome that there’s a bike scene there, I love hearing about small cities where bikes are welcome, since I think ultimately I’d like to live in a smaller city (right now I’m in Baltimore) but so many are car-dependent even when they don’t need to be. Like the town I grew up in, where there was a downtown that would have been very walkable/bikeable/liveable but it died so everything happens in the ring around the town, which of course is only accessible by highway. Roanoke’s downtown seemed very alive, though.

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