Energy Choices Series (Part 3) – Ride my bicycle

Oct 16th, 2008 | By | Category: Campus News, October 16, 2008, September 25, 2008

Rain or shine, Mischnick pedals 18 years of 2-wheel commutes

Duane Mischnick’s pedal-powered commute has never been about trimming fuel and parking costs – that’s just gravy.

His principal reason is a bit more self-centered.

“I started riding bike to work primarily for the cardio benefit,” said Mischnick, a plumber/pipe fitter with Utility Services. “It was all about looking for good, physical activity. But, as I began to realize the economic benefits of not buying a parking permit or having to pay for gas, it just made more and more sense.”

This semester begins Mischnick’s 18th year of pedaling to campus. He started with a $100 Univega 10-speed (purchased at a local garage sale) that logged more than 13,000 miles. Today, he’s on his third bicycle, a top-end Gary Fischer mountain bike that brags hydraulic brakes.

“Through the years, I’ve learned that stopping is probably the most important factor when riding a bike,” Mischnick said. “Having good brakes is worth the extra money.”

While he loved riding to campus, Mischnick never intended to bike year round. His initial plan was to start driving when the air temperature dropped to 30 degrees Fahrenheit or below.

“That changed when I discovered that you generate a lot of heat when you ride,” Mischnick said. “You don’t need a lot of heavy outerwear, just stuff that blocks the wind.”

Duane Mischnick
TWO-WHEEL COMMUTER – Duane Mischnick stands with his Gary Fischer mountain bike. Mischnick is in his 18th year of commuting to campus on a bike.

The coldest weather he rode in has been minus-22 degrees.

While his riding equipment includes gear for all types of weather, Mischnick said the two most important things are a good helmet and a strobe light.

“The No. 1 piece of equipment any rider needs is a helmet,” Mischnick said. “And, the strobe light is important too because you want to be sure that drivers can see you.”

His daily commute is a six-mile round trip to the City Campus power plant. He also worked in the East Campus power plant for three years, which measured a 10-mile round trip.

For the most part, his commute is in the dark as Mischnick leaves early in the morning and returns after clocking out and working out at the Rec Center. He rides on city streets because Lincoln bike trails are inconvenient for his journey to campus.

“Lincoln really does have a great trail system, but it doesn’t work out for me,” Mischnick said. “I do ride the trails from time to time.”

In his 18 years, Mischnick has been involved in one accident.

As he approached a corner “in broad daylight,” a driver wasn’t paying attention and turned in front of Mischnick. He hit his brakes, slid about a foot and crashed into the vehicle and rolled across the windshield. Mischnick walked away needing only a few stitches.

“I was lucky,” he said. “I wasn’t as visible as I should have been. The driver was running the wipers and debris was smeared across the windshield.”

The accident was one reason he invested in the stopping power of the Gary Fischer bike.

While he’s never added it all up, Mischnick said he is saving money riding the bike. Faculty/staff parking permits were $35 annually when he started riding and are $500 today.

“I haven’t bought a permit in 18 years, so that has saved me a decent amount,” Mischnick said. “And, I don’t have to buy gas so that’s a savings too.”

For the record, Mischnick does drive to work, but only in extreme circumstances.

“I started out on the bike after a bad snow storm and got a few blocks from home when I saw a police car stuck in a parking lot,” Mischnick said. “That’s when I decided to turn around and drive in.”

For those days, he opts for a four-wheel-drive pickup.

While his rides double as workouts, Mischnick also finds the commute more relaxing than any drive.

“I’m improving my health by riding the bike, but I also have time to get ready for my day or to leave the day behind me,” Mischnick said. “The ride is very therapeutic. I recommend that anyone give it a try.”

— Story and photo by Troy Fedderson, University Communications

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