Cyclist of the Month: Jim Carson, Innovative Pragmatist

Jim admits that he’s not a fast or fancy cyclist; he’s not a mountain biker, or a racer. In fact, Jim jokes about starting a Club “slow performance” group.

You won’t find Jim leading daily rides. Jim does not sit on any Cascade committees or hold any leadership posts in the cycling community.

However, if you spend anytime on the Cascade message boards – Jim’s smiling visage should be familiar to you. With over 300 posts to his name, Carson is one of only 19 elite message board “Senior Members.” Of the 3,218 registered message board members – only four participants have more postings than Carson.

Jim may not fit in any of the typical bike stereotypes we like to use, but he does love to bike. Meet Jim Carson, innovative pragmatist.

Age: 38
Occupation: Product Manager, Tecplot
Hometown: Houston, TX
Alma Mater: Rice University (BA, MEE), U of Washington (MBA)
Cascade member: Since 2001

How do you see bicycling and technology working together?
I enjoy the online community because it’s available 24×7. You can connect with cyclists who you may not see often. It’s also a great way to share knowledge. For fun, I calculated the economies of cycling showing that bike commuting saves me money over driving.

Ed note: Jim also contributed substantially to the database development for the 2002 Bike To Work Commute Challenge.

Why do you continue to bike?
I’m addicted to post-ride endorphins. It’s alleged that I get grumpy when I haven’t ridden in a few days.

How long have you been commuting by bike?
Only since this past April. For two years, I worked from home, but it was serendipitous that I started my new job just before the 2005 [Group Health] Bike to Work Commute Challenge.

It’s about 22 miles round trip from the Sammamish Plateau to Factoria. Commuting by bike takes about five minutes longer than driving, and during that time, I also get a good two-hour workout. My blood pressure is the lowest it has been in years. I’m fortunate that Tecplot lets me keep my bike in my office.

How has bicycling changed your life?
I’ve benefited from the great wisdom of fellow members of Cascade and Seattle Randonneurs – especially in route suggestions, events, equipment and traffic management. This was the motivation for my setting up the ride calendar and wiki (see below).

Two years ago, I started riding with the Randonneurs – a very utilitarian group. I appreciate their practicality and self-sufficiency. It’s a great resource for commuting skills. Randonneur bikes are set up to run anywhere, anytime.

Tell us more about Randonneuring.
Randonneuring is long-distance unsupported endurance cycling. It originated in France and Italy. I hope to complete the brevet this year; you must finish 200km in less than 13 hours. There’s also the newly created Cascade 1200 ( a 1200km ride that must be completed in 90 hours. Randonneurs are often the folks completing the STP in one day, and then riding back to Seattle on Sunday.
Ed note: you can learn more at

What are your favorite rides?
RAW is the cyclists’ ride. I can’t say enough wonderful things about how well-organized and fun it was. Midnight Moonlight Ramble is a nighttime loop through downtown and West Houston; it’s very interesting people-watching.

Sara Matoi does a great job of briefing the riders and making us feel welcome on her Sara’s Saunters. Pedaling Posthumous Pastures with Roger Salstrom was also fun. Roger is one of those rare people who you talk with for a few minutes and leave smiling. TerryZ’s Winter Ride Series is another favorite.

When did you first start biking and why?
In college, I was a “weekend warrior,” heading out to the outskirts of Houston for the long, rolling roads. After graduation, I spent the next dozen years in jobs that required a lot of work-related travel. As my bike gathered dust in the garage, my stress level kept increasing.

I got back into cycling during Bike to Work Day 2002, when I had to drop my wife’s car off for a factory recall. Instead of squandering a gorgeous day at the repair shop, I went biking. I intended to do a short loop, but missed a turn and ended up going around the lakes. Despite exhausting myself, I had a lot of fun. I signed up for RSVP as incentive to keep biking through summer.

How does biking in Seattle differ from biking in Houston?
I no longer get items thrown at me while riding. In general, people seem friendlier here. And there are lots more cyclists in Seattle.

Most memorable cycling moment?
I was dragging during the first day of my first RSVP, having doubts that I’d finish. As I sat along the side of the road, munching a candy bar, I noticed the map indicated this was the “highest elevation” of the day. As odd as it sounds, this was the motivation I needed to plug on. I unbonked, and had a great two day journey.

What bike do you ride?
My uber-bike is a Bike Friday Air Glide, which I’ve been using as a commuter, long-distance, and travel bike (including a recent business trip to the Twin Cities). However, I understand all Cyclists of the Month have to own more than one bike, so I’m looking for a second.

Do you have a favorite cycling item?
Several things come to mind. My Bike Friday’s low gearing saves my knees. Fenders are by far the most useful cycling gear in these parts. Merino wool socks and underlayers have extended my fall cycling. I also picked up a Cat Eye Triple Shot LED headlight that I really like.

What other activities do you enjoy?
Blogging. I’ve had a blog for three years covering my eclectic interests. An offshoot of that are the cycling calendar (, where folks can find and rate bike events and a wiki ( for collecting wisdom from other cyclists.

Other hobbies include cooking and photography. I used to fly (I have a commercial pilot license), but I sold my share of the airplane.

Jim Carson lives in Issaquah with his two daughters and his Bike Friday. You can find him on the web at

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