Name: The DeBlass Family (Matt and Isabella)
Location: South Bound Brook, NJ, USA
Started bike commuting: Matt (aka “Dad”) has been part time commuting by bike for over a decade, but we went fully car-free in early 2011
Commute distance (one way): Isabella: 1 mile, Matt: 5-30 miles
Describe your commute: Isabella rides to and from her elementary school on suburban back roads. We plan her route to take advantage of crossing guards and lower-traffic streets as much as we can. I work a few jobs, including as a freelance reporter, so my trips vary quite a bit, and cross everything from gravel trails to state highways. I sometimes get to take the train for part of my travels, but with limited routes and schedules I usually just bike. My longest regular ride is my Saturday commute to the bicycle shop where I work as a mechanic, which is 20 miles of rolling hills.
Describe your bike and accessories: Isabella has a mid-70s Schwinn Varisty repainted in the custom “Blue Zebra” colorway. We added a Wald basket, SKS fenders and some aluminum rims for better braking power. I have a 2009 Jamis Commuter with Soma Moustache II handlebars, front and rear racks and a Carradice “College” saddlebag mounted on a homemade bracket (a Brooks saddle wasn’t in the budget this year). We also use a flatbed trailer made from a stripped-down child carrier for heavy hauling.
What bit of advice would you like to share with new bike commuters?: Be MacGuyver. If you need your bike, your clothing or your accessories to do something that they don’t, see if there’s a way to hack them so they do (within reasonable safety parameters of course). And don’t think homemade modifications have to be ugly, some of them are pretty elegant, but if you need to kludge together something with PVC pipe and zip ties to get the job done, so be it, especially if it’s a roadside fix. Even if you’re not that confident with your technical skills, at least learn to fix a flat and carry what you need to do so.