The neighborhood biking scene comprises a variety of two-wheeled styles. Here are a few of the faces you might see on the streets and trails, along with their rides.
• Read our March 2012 cover story: Making a path for cyclists.
The Chic Cyclists
Names: Tracy and Amanda Popken
Ages: 27 and 30
Neighborhoods: Bishop Arts and Kessler Plaza
Occupations: Fashion designer/shop owner and economic development researcher
Bikes: A pair of Pinnacle bikes their dad bought at a garage sale many years ago
You’ve seen them, these Popken sisters of Oak Cliff, riding their similar bikes in adorable day dresses and knee-high boots. Tracy Popken is the fashion designer who owns Salvage House Boutique. And Amanda is the founder of Dallas Cycle Style, which aims to encourage cycling through fashion and espousing the type of bicycle lifestyle enjoyed in stylish European cities, such as Copenhagen.
If you see these lovely Popken sisters riding around Oak Cliff, you might notice something is missing. Neither frequently wears a helmet. Amanda says she doesn’t like the way a helmet feels on her head. She doesn’t like lugging the bulky thing around. And she thinks of it as sort of a protest: “Why should I have to be the one to take this safety measure against cars? They should be watching out for me.”
She is onto something. There are studies indicating that attractive women riding bikes in dresses and heels are less likely to be the victims of distracted motorists.
“I pretty much ride in skirts and heels as my safety component,” she says. “Not that that’s going to help me if I get hit by a car, but this little bit of difference makes me more noticeable on the road.”
She is quick to say she does not advocate riding without a helmet. And after two Oak Cliff residents were injured in separate accidents in which wearing helmets saved their lives, Amanda’s eyes opened a little wider. In fact, she wrote a blog post on her website, formerly known as Dallas Cycle Chic, advocating helmets. The Copenhagen-based owner of the Cycle Chic brand, with whom she was affiliated, is against wearing helmets. The theory is that helmets give the perception that riding a bike is not safe and therefore discourage riding. When he read Amanda’s post about helmets, he told her she had to stop advocating helmets or change the name of her group. So now it’s Dallas Cycle Style.
“I should wear a helmet more often,” she says.
Amanda and Tracy have a lot in store this spring. Among other things, they are planning a bicycle flash mob, where hundreds of cyclists suddenly descend on, say, the West Village. Amanda is busy researching cute helmets for a blog post.
“There are at least half a dozen cute helmet brands out there,” she says.
The Mountain Bike Rider
Name: Jonathan Roach
Occupation: Manufacturing engineer
Neighborhood: Near Spiral Diner
Bike: Santa Cruz Chameleon Hardtail, plus a cyclocross bike, a neighborhood cargo bike and a dirt bike
Jonathan Roach started riding BMX bikes in kindergarten, and unlike most of us, he never stopped riding bikes. When he was 21, he took a job as a bike messenger in downtown Dallas, and that’s when he bought his first mountain bike. The BMX wasn’t practical for delivery, but a mountain bike could still jump curbs like a dirt bike. And Dallas is a pretty sweet location for mountain biking.
“We have probably 10 good trails within an hour’s drive, and some are within riding distance,” Roach says.
His favorites are Boulder Park, near Dallas Executive Airport, and Big Cedar Wilderness Trails, west of Duncanville. The closest is Oak Cliff Nature Preserve, and that’s where Roach had the George W. Bush experience. The former president is an avid mountain biker, and most riders know they could run into him eventually. Roach fell in with Bush, his secret-service team and pals one day in October 2009.
“I happened to see him out there, and I did the right thing and caught on with them and rode in that group,” he says. “It was pretty crazy.”
Roach says riding a mountain bike can make anyone a better cyclist. It helps with handling, reacting to obstacles and strength.
“No matter what kind of cycling you may do, it improves your skills,” he says. “It’s going to make you an all around safer rider.”
Rasor doesn’t have a car, so he rides his bike or takes DART everywhere he goes.
A graduate of Booker T. Washington High School for the Visual and Performing Arts, he started working on bikes when he was 18. Soon, he amassed a hefty bike collection.
Besides the red, white and blue fixed-gear he rides every day (“It matches all of my clothing and most of my hats,” he says), he owns five other bikes, plus enough parts to build two or three more. One of the five is exclusively for bike polo, which Rasor plays with a group at Norbuck Park every Tuesday and Thursday.
Rasor sports a punk-rock haircut and, sometimes, a handlebar moustache. We warned him we were planning to label him a “hipster,” because he’s young and trendy.
“That’s fine,” he says. “I’ll take that.”
Name: Scott Yockel
Occupation: Manager of high performance computing at The University of North Texas
Neighborhood: L.O. Daniel
Bike: Giant Defy 2 with fenders, a rack and two waterproof panniers
Scott Yockel’s workday begins long before he arrives at his office in Denton. It typically starts once he’s on the first of two trains he rides every workday.
“I answer emails, or I have time to read on the train,” he says. “I also get my exercise to and from work, so I don’t have to go to the gym.”
Yockel rides his bike a little over five miles from Oak Cliff to Downtown, where he hops onto the Green Line. Then he transfers to the new Denton County Transit Authority A Train into downtown Denton, where he rides his bike two miles to the UNT campus. Altogether, it’s about 15 miles on the bike and an hour and 45 minutes each way. Why not just drive to Denton?
“Driving is kind of annoying,” Yockel says. “It puts you in a bad mood. There are times, especially on Fridays, when it could take two hours to drive from Denton to Oak Cliff.”
Yockel and his wife moved to Dallas from Chicago a few years ago, and he decided he didn’t want to return to commuting by car. For one thing, he has a Ph.D. in chemistry, and he’s calculated how much pollution that would contribute. Plus, riding a bike is more fun, he says.
Commuting without a car in Dallas has its drawbacks, however. If he misses the second train, for example, he’s missed it for the day. Yockel has been forced to work from home a few times when that happened.
Also, he won’t ride his bike in a downpour, not so much because he doesn’t like rain, but because it’s too dangerous. Once, in the rain, he hit a car in Denton, going about 10 miles per hour, when it pulled out in front of him. He wasn’t injured, and the motorist gave him a ride home, but Yockel doesn’t like to ride in the rain any more.
The most dangerous part of his route, he says, is crossing the Jefferson Viaduct, where the speed limit is 45 miles per hour. He stays in the left-hand lane all the way from Zang to the Green Line stop on Market.
“They still whiz by at 50 miles per hour, but I find it to be safest in the left lane,” he says.
Name: Jim Dolan
Neighborhood: Kessler Park
Bike: Cannondale CAAD9 with Shimano Dura Ace components
Dolan started racing bikes in the early ’80s, after a running injury. Triathlons were becoming popular, so he trained for one as a way to stay fit.
“I met a group of bike racers and realized that I really hated triathlons, but I really loved racing bikes,” he says.
Later, he was injured in a race, and he gave up cycling for a while to focus on work and family. In the meantime, he became a master swimmer, and two years ago, decided he’d had enough pool time. So he saddled up again.
Dolan completed about 35 races last year.
“I like the intensity of it. I like the speed. When I’m in the middle of a pack of riders going 25 miles per hour in a criterium, peeling through the same turn, I just love that,” he says. “I feel more alive than just about any other time. You’re just right in the moment; you can’t be anywhere else.”
Now Dolan trains twice a week with Richard Wharton at the Cycling Center of Dallas. They are “painful, very difficult” sessions performed indoors on bike trainers. Plus, he rides between 50 and 80 miles every weekend.
Names: Luis and Sylvia Salcedo
Ages: 61 and 60
Occupation: Owners of Salcedo Group Inc., a civil engineering firm
Neighborhood: Bishop Arts
Bikes: Walmart; each one cost about $100
The Salcedos have owned a business in Oak Cliff since 2002, but they just moved here in September. Before that, they lived in Mansfield and commuted every day, a three-hour round-trip drive. Now they ride their bikes less than a mile to work in the Oak Cliff Bank Tower from their house in the Bishop Arts District.
“We try to ride as much as we can,” Sylvia Salcedo says. “It gives you some fresh air, and it puts you in a good mindset before work.”
Besides that, they’re not whizzing past everything. From a bike, they can look the neighborhood in the eye.
“We say ‘hi’ to people in the street,” Luis says. “We see what’s happening in the neighborhood.”
They also ride to church at St. Cecilia, and they sometimes pick up groceries at Fiesta and carry them home in their baskets. They’ve ridden across the bridge to Downtown a few times on group rides with Bike Friendly Oak Cliff. And once, they rode across and back by themselves. Recently, they took the DART rail to Mockingbird Station.
“Next we want to figure out how to get on the Katy Trail,” Sylvia says. “That’s our next adventure.”