Cyclist of the Month: Dan O’Connell

: 46
Occupation: IT Team Lead, Nordstrom
Birthplace: Jersey City, New Jersey
Residence: Kenmore, Washington
Commute: Kenmore to downtown Seattle. 34 mile round trip. 3 – 5 times per week
1997 Ibis Hakkalugi and 2006 Ibis Silk Carbon for commuting and road fun
1991 Bridgestone RB-1 for retro road fun
1991 Fat Chance Yo Eddy and 1999 Ellsworth Truth for dirt action

The O’Connell family of four collectively owns 16 bikes. Dan rides more than 5,000 miles per year (compared to the 3,500 annual miles driven in their 1992 Nissan Sentra). Dan and Lori walk and bike around the neighborhood for most errands and their son Ian walks to school. A bike nut since childhood, Dan O’Connell shares his passion for Sting Rays, top-mount shifters, and lugged steel.

While other kids cooled off in the pool to escape the hot New Jersey summer, Dan practiced wheelies on his Sting Ray. In the days of down tube shifters, toe straps, and six-speed freewheels, Dan found himself spinning wrenches in a bike shop.

In 1984, Dan purchased his first “real” road bike, a used Raleigh Professional; he also got hooked mountain biking on a Miyata Ridge Runner, competing in mountain bike races for about ten years. Finishing in the back of the Sport class pack, Dan transitioned back to recreational riding in the mid-1990s, completing the Group Health STP twice.

“Even though I lean towards the wanna-be-racer, I feel bike commuting is the future of bicycling. Using bikes to commute, run errands – real world use – is the key to many issues. Even just bumping the bicycle commute statistics up a few points would be a step in the right direction.”

During the mid-1990s, Dan performed trail advocacy and maintenance, lead rides, and edited the newsletter for the Backcountry Bicycle Trails Club.

Fast forward to the millennium, and Dan still enjoys all of it, with some new company. With two small children and a home near the Burke-Gilman Trail, Dan takes solace in his 34-mile round trip commute, which uses the BGT 90% of the distance. His sporadic commuting over the past two decades is more consistent these days. Without commuting, his riding time would be pretty limited, due to home and work responsibilities – the usual story.

“Nordstrom provides a secure bike room and shower facilities. Overall, with normal traffic, the commute takes just a little longer then driving – some days it’s faster. The physical and psychological benefits of riding two hours a day, instead of sitting in traffic, are huge. Add in the money savings and green aspects – it just makes sense. If it works for you, commuting is the solution to it all. If you ride recreationally, but don’t commute – try it.”

Dan’s favorite Cascade event is the annual Group Health Commute Challenge that takes place in May. During the last four events, Dan and other Nordstrom riders helped organize a few teams for Nordstrom. For 2007, Nordstrom fielded five teams with a total of 40 riders. “It’s been fun having the Nordstrom teams compete against each other, as well as other companies. We look forward to this event every year. I get a huge kick out of seeing people take up commuting or just riding in general.”

His eight-year old son, Ian, loves to ride bike paths and the mountain bike trails around St. Edwards State Park. He’s also done some kids cyclocross and other races. “I don’t push on any of this on him; he just loves it on his own. We watch the Tour De France together. He reads Velonews. He even knows the pro riders by sight.” His wife, Lori, says Dan created a monster!

His four-year old daughter, Amy, just received her first bike and cruises around a bit. She also loves riding in the Burley trailer – even off road!

In the future, I’d like to get more involved with organizing, supporting or being involved with kids programs to ride or race – as well as getting more people to just ride for fun and transportation.

“Bicycles are the perfect mix of gear, physical activity, being outside, speed and serenity. The cycling social aspect and being a member of this wacky little subculture is also a gas.”

Expect to see the O’Connell’s at any youth mountain bike rides or Burley Trailer Cross events at a neighborhood near you.

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