When Andrew White decided to ride his bicycle to ITD on National Bike to Work day, he knew he was in for more than just a leisurely pedal on a bright spring morning.
White, who lives in Mountain Home, rode for three hours to get to work, and he did most of it on the Interstate 84, sharing the road with semi-tractor trailers and other vehicles whizzing past him at 75 miles an hour.
“The noise was unbelievable,” he said.
the end of the day, he made the trip all over again – in reverse,
riding most of the way in a rainstorm. And, when he got within two miles
of his house, one of his bike tires went flat.
“Bicyclists don’t mind the rain. It’s
the wind pushing against you that you want to avoid,” he noted,
adding that as he got closer to Mountain Home “the skies parted
and it stopped raining, and I even got a little tailwind,” a welcome
push after a 105 mile round-trip trek.
“A good bicyclist never leaves home without a patch kit or new tire tube,” he said.
White, who is a senior Right-of-Way agent at ITD headquarters, started biking competitively in high school where he raced in 70- to 90-mile courses. He continued competitive racing in college and went on to race on a professional team, earning the sponsorship of corporations like Seven Eleven convenience stores and Motorola.
Racing competitively required a very structured life, he admitted.
“Every day was training. When you compete, you don’t have much of a social life. You have to be very careful how about you treat your body when you place that type of demand on it.”
He talks about the science of eating “recovery food,” such as fruit, bagels, yogurt, energy bars or pasta, soon after a long ride to replenish the glycogen in the muscles. “You have less than an hour to replenish your body before the window of opportunity closes, and if you miss the window your body can’t recover as quickly,” he said.
White still competes in about two races a year and rides to raise money for charities, including the Lance Armstrong Cancer Foundation, and the Bob Lebow benefit for people who are uninsured.
He also puts in about 30 miles a day on his bike after work, and another 90 to 110 miles a day on the weekends. And, when he takes vacation, he’s not prone to lie around a cabana or peer out of a tour bus. White spends his vacation bicycling 70 to 90 miles in such environments as Spain or Italy or the wine country of California, enjoying the countryside, meeting local people and experiencing the culture.
“You stop in villages and people invite you to their homes for dinner,” he said of the organized bike tours. “The trips have opened up a new chapter in cycling for me.”
For 10 years, White served as the Chief Marshal of the HP Women’s Challenge, at the time the longest-running and most prestigious women’s cycling race in the world. The Idaho-based race ended in 2003 after 19 years when it lost its corporate sponsorship. But during its prime, the challenge attracted racers from throughout the world and elevated the sport of women's cycling.
“I lived and traveled with the racers for a week and was responsible for the safety of the women on the roads,” said White, referring to the grueling mountainous course that covered more than 540 miles. “It was the Tour de France in women’s racing.”
White said bicycling opportunities must have three elements to capture his attention. “It’s got to have adventure, danger and romance,” he said.
OK, so the romance is fulfilled by his bicycling vacations, the adventure through his racing life. What about the danger?
“I’ve gone downhill biking with my son from the top of Mt. Baldy in Ketchum,” he said, describing how they “went screaming down trails that were only a foot wide with a 2,000-foot drop down the side,” while jumping over stumps and rocks and reaching speeds of 40 miles per hour.
“It was truly a living-on-the-edge experience,” he said. “What an adrenaline rush. It woke me up.”
White said his life is oriented around the cycling culture and that he wants to do whatever he can to preserve biking in Idaho. And, while he doesn’t necessarily enjoy bicycling to work via I-84, he will likely make the trip again next year on National Bike to Work Day as part of his effort to promote bicycling.
“There are numerous positive impacts that bicycle commuting, walking, jogging, or inline skating can have for a person and a company,” said White. “Increased levels of activity lead to greater productivity and bring about a greater sense of balance in employees’ lives.
“Our cities are growing, but we still have the opportunity to be smarter than other metropolitan areas that grew up before us in the way we develop highways and byways,” he said. “People should advocate more, raise their voices for what they want for transportation.”