Cyclists of the Month: The Copelands

Controversy sparked this past spring as Mercer Island (MI) law enforcement officials began targeting cyclists “who do not follow the rules of the road or use the required bicycle and safety equipment,” according to Ron Elsoe, Director of Public Safety for Mercer Island. Tickets are being distributed to cyclists for speeding, not coming to full arrests at stop signs, and other violations.

Despite the crack down, Mercer Island remains a jewel of cycling in King County, and it is home to its share of biking enthusiasts as well. One couple that may exemplify the well-rounded cycling couple is Robert and Lisa Copeland who have lived on MI for seven years. CBC members since 1997, the Copelands met many of their current riding partners through the Club. Avid riders, Robert and Lisa support their local bike club, ride recreationally on- and off-road, participate in races and events, tour, and bike commute.

Lisa, 42, is a dental hygienist and works for Philips Oral Healthcare. Robert is 46 years old and is currently a financial / supply chain operations consultant at London Fog.

Why do you ride?
Robert: To enjoy the outdoors, explore new places and ride with my buddies.
Lisa: To enjoy Seattle’s beauty and to travel to new places. I love climbing mountains for the views and the rewarding downhills. Cycling has introduced us to many friends from all walks of life. It is a very social way to keep in shape.

Robert: I commute on my Cannondale a couple times a week from MI to Seattle (Westlake). I’ll extend the return home by going around the north end of Lake Union. Total distance is between 15 – 20 mi depending on my route.
Lisa: NA

Bikes you own:
Lisa: 2004 Airborne Zeppelin, Trek 1400 (rain bike), and 2001 K2 Razorback
Robert: 2004 Airborne Zeppelin, 1999 Litespeed Unicoi, 1995 Cannondale F1000 (commuter), and 1965 Swiynn 3-speed

What are your favorite rides?
Lisa: Thailand, Bali , Tasmania, New Zealand, Mt St Helens,
Robert: My favorite local road ride is the North Cascade ride from
Darlington to Winthrop. As for mountain biking, nothing beats Mt St Helens’
“Plains of Abraham / Smith Creek” loop. My favorite event is probably the Tour de Blast.
We’ve also done many memorable rides in Asia (Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand) and Australia (New Zealand and Tasmania). Moab is also a great riding destination.

What first got you into biking?
Lisa: My husband and the desire to compete in triathlons
Robert: I’ve been riding bikes ever since I can remember. I grew up on a
hillside filled with kids that owned Stingrays. After-school activities entailed riding dirt trails and getting max air off of jumps…and usually crashing.

Have your biking habits changed over time?
Robert: Definitely. I think as less time is available to ride due to career /
family, you try to optimize your training to get the most out of
riding. Monitoring heart rates, cadence, nutrition, etc. seems to be the norm
now. We use to hammer until we puked and then reloaded with beer and pizza. Ahh….. the good old days.
Lisa: Yes, I have worked to improve my endurance and speed.

I understand that there was some cycling involved in your wedding ceremony.
Lisa: I had my photographer take a photo of me in my wedding dress
with my Cannondale.
Robert: Nothing particular in the wedding, but I can tell you the first time she
did an endo into some mud and came up smiling, I knew she was the women for

What do you recommend to other couples who would like to ride together?
Robert: Group rides are a good way to enjoy the sport together. You can get
split up due to different abilities but there are always other people around
and the riders can regroup often.

What’s your favorite piece of cycling gear/accessory?
Lisa: My aero bars and my Bento box
Robert: There’s nothing like riding a well tuned bike that fits like a glove.

What was your worst, or most memorable, biking experience?
Lisa: Completing an Ironman was pretty awesome. The bike leg was particularly great in Couer d’Alene.
Robert: Best biking experience?
Riding through a small village in Indonesia with about 50 screaming kids running beside us – closest I’ll ever get to know what it feels like to ride in “Tour de France” crowds!
Winning the National Championship Mountain Bike Series in Singapore was a highlight; it sounds impressive but Singapore is a small country.
Touring in New Zealand during a cold, wet storm with heavy winds. We used baggies on our feet as booties. As we neared our destination, I spied a small diner. I sped ahead, ordered a hot tea and had it waiting for Lisa as she pulled in. The look on her face as she pealed her frigid hands from the bars and took the steaming cup of tea was priceless.
My worst biking experience was running head first into the side
of a van that turned in front of me – tucked into my aero bars, pedaling
flat-out, head down. I never even saw it. It resulted in a stay at the
hospital and the helmet probably saved my life (bike was totaled though).

Lisa, describe your Ironman experience?
Lisa: What an amazing day. The feeling of accomplishment is huge. The 250
hours of training were overwhelming at times, but the end result is crossing
the finish and knowing what you can accomplish. The run after 112 miles of
cycling and 2.45 miles of swimming was my biggest mental challenge. But I
knew if I was strong on the bike, I could get through the run without too
much pain.

Robert, any ‘epic’ rides that you could compare with the CDA?
Robert: One event that pushed me well beyond my limit was a two stage mountain bike race in Langkawi, Malaysia. I truly believed my life was going to end in the middle of a tropical jungle. Each stage was three hours long with a one hour break. Temperature was high 90’s with close to 100% humidity. The first stage was a brutal hammer fest. During the one hour “recovery” before the 2nd stage, my heart rate never
dropped below 100 (should have told myself to bail but I was young and stupid). Second stage was pure survival with no support what so ever, other than what you could carry. By the end I was severely dehydrated, zero energy, delirious and could barely stay on my

Cycling is dominated, by men; Lisa, how do we encourage women to participate?
Lisa: Appeal more to the sport’s social aspect. Offer Women-only rides. Many women are intimidated by riding in large groups and with men.

Any final comments on cycling around M.I.?
Lisa: MI is such a great riding loop. Most of the bikers and vehicles get along quite well. MI has really done a great job of making people aware that cyclists use the roads too.
Ed note: part of Mercer Island’s efforts to educate the public about sharing the roads included cleaning road shoulders for cyclists.
Robert: MI has one of the best riding loops in the area. It attracts such a diverse crowd: riders from 10 to 80 years old, an equal split of men and women, racers, soccer moms…. The common denominator is that everyone is enjoying their ride, getting some exercise and soaking up the fresh air. We should do all we can to ensure this cycling treasure is not lost.