Cyclist of the Month: Michael Snyder, A Big Loser

A pedometer, 40 extra pounds, and a garage bike transformed Michael Snyder into an avid, daily bike commuter and touring cyclist–completing multi-day self-supported cross-state tours, and getting in shape in the process.

Age: 31
Occupation: software development engineer for NetMotion Wireless
Degree: Computer Science, University of Idaho
Hometown: Rupert, Idaho
Residence: Ballard
Commute: bike – 5 miles round trip from Ballard to Fremont
Bikes: Giant Cypress LE, Specialized Allez, Bianchi Volpe, and a Schwinn 10-speed Continental
What inspired your healthy, active lifestyle?
Since college, I’d gained forty pounds working at Microsoft. Going to the gym was not working; I only used it twice in six months.

I purchased a pedometer and realized that many days I did not even walk 1,000 steps (the recommended number of daily steps is 6,000 for health and 10,000 for weight loss). One of my good friends told me that I was the laziest person that he knew when it came to exercise; I sat at a desk all day, I drove everywhere…to the grocery store, to the video store…

How did you get started cycling?
In November 2004, I sold my car to force myself to exercise. I joined Flexcar so that I had the flexibility to access a vehicle when I needed one.

I had not ridden a bike since junior high school. My first few days on my old Mongoose, I increased my mileage slowly from one to just a few miles. Quickly, I realized I could bike to Montlake and catch the bus over 520. After four months, I lost forty pounds!

That heavy garage bike must have contributed to some of your weight loss?!
A friend forwarded me Bicycling Magazine’s annual essay contest to win a new bike. I wrote about selling my car and losing weight; I was riding an old Mongoose mountain bike at the time, but I wanted something more suitable for commuting. Bicycling called and told me that I won; they published some of my comments alongside other new cyclists. Giant Bicycles donated a seven-speed internal hub Cypress, which was assembled by Montlake Bike Shop with components donated by other manufacturers. The contest rules stipulate that you must keep the bike for at least one year and ride it regularly. Since my commuting skills have improved, I’m now ready to donate the bike to a needy cause or new commuter. Of course, I’m a regular Bicycling reader these days.

What is your daily commute like now?
When I found my job at NetMotion, there was simply no excuse not to ride. It’s only 2.5 miles – less than 15 minutes – from Ballard to the Adobe building in Fremont.

NetMotion has a bike cage and showers for fifty employees. I am envious of the Adobe bike cage with its bike tools and air pumps.

Year-round, two other employees bike commute; plus, there are five fair weather cycling commuters. In the summer, we’ll lead as many as eight people along the Burke-Gilman Trail (BGT) for lunch rides.

What other types of riding do you enjoy?
In the last two years, I’ve ridden Chilly Hilly, Flying Wheels, and the Group Health STP. A Toastmasters companion and two other friends rode independently from Seattle to Spokane in three days.

The STP was also a jumping off point for my self-supported tour from Bend, Oregon to Boise Idaho. I took two busses from Portland to Bend, and then biked to Boise in three days – following an alternate route to the Oregon Trail, along Highway 20. Going by bicycle was inspiring; I realized that I was traveling ten times faster than the early settlers!

Any favorite rides?
My favorite ride probably remains the out-and-back Ballard to Redmond route along the BGT. It’s nice to see so many people.

The Thursday Gas Works Social Ride led by Scott Kralik is another favorite. I enjoy the sociability and leisurely pace – meeting new people while exploring the city.

Any future trips planned?
For my next trip, I’m planning to ride from Seattle to San Diego along Highway 101 to visit my sister. The Adventure Cycling website is helpful for researching long multi-day trips, and I talk with many of my cycling friends.

I’d like to see Cascade lead more laid back (versus high performance) rides. A lot of people are garage bikers. If they can be encouraged with beginner five mile rides, they’ll get enthusiastic about 20 mile rides, commuting, and touring; they’ll become cycling advocates.

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