Capital Commuter Ricky Albores


Richard ‘Ricky’ Albores has had bike commuting in his veins since an early age.

“I started as a bike commuter in first grade going to school in Vientiane Laos. Then I started again as a college graduate in Chicago (summer of 1988) working as a pool life guard, as a law school student in Berkeley CA, and then Washington DC in 1992 as a young federal government attorney.“

Living in Silver Spring, MD and working in Washington, DC as a lawyer for the federal government, he now enjoys some real benefits of cycling infrastructure both on the streets and at his office.

“Like in most of the US, the cycling infrastructure in the Washington DC area is a mixed bag on many fronts. It is improving and may be well ahead of a number of metropolitan areas, just as public attitudes are both pro/con with respect to people on bikes.  As I get more involved with cycling advocacy and transportation policy issues related to cycling, I am more immersed in a community that is pro-cycling, so I don’t necessarily see all the negative energy, but I do know it is out there.”

He has also has really made efforts to be an advocate for the cycling to work lifestyle.

Fat Bike of the United States (FBOTUS).

Fat Bike of the United States (FBOTUS).

“I try very hard to be a positive force and example as a person on a bike so that pedestrians and motorists alike have a counter-example to their generalized complaints about cyclists. I am a member of the League of American Bicyclists, Bike Maryland, and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. I pledged to myself last year to be more active in the advocacy community, but family health issues (including a minor heart procedure for myself) kept me from fully engaging. I try to attend advocacy events and send letters/emails to politicians whenever possible. Also, getting introduced to the Bike Commuter Cabal by Ben Folsom, and getting involved with BCC community has been really fun and rewarding. The BCC is so supportive and I have learned so much from this international community.”

Of course having an understanding employer and some ‘creature comforts’ that many commuters would be envious of doesn’t hurt either.

“Work is very supportive. My management is flexible with respect to my hours, and they are astounded by the sheer number of days that I ride my bike. At HQ we have multiple secure bike parking options, depending on where employees are physically located. My building also has a shower/lockers in the basement. In the mid-1990’s I served as a bike parking coordinator at our M Street Southwest location. Back then we had some cages in the parking garage that had a secure gate and I was the keeper of the combination/access code. Showers were provided in an office gym. “

As far as being an example to others, Ricky has set the bar pretty high for himself and for the most part is keeping up with goals he’s set for himself.

“I do commute year round. My twitter handle @bikeeveryday is my aspiration, although I don’t always live up to it. I would say I am averaging about 5 days of riding a week. I have 2 routes I can take, the short one is 8.5 miles all road, and the long one is 13.5 miles of which 10 miles is a MUP called the Capitol Crescent Trail.”

As we all do, Ricky has sought to find the balance between the necessities of daily and family life that require flexibility and his desire to commute as much as possible.

“We are a one-car and 8-bike family. I have a wife and 12-year-old daughter. I leave for work before they wake up, and I get home in time to have dinner and spend the evening with them. We have chosen to have the evening as our family time. My wife works part time, and thus usually drops off/picks up our daughter at school. When there is a change in my wife’s schedule that I can accommodate, I will bike to her office, put my bike on the car rack, and go pick up my daughter.”

For me it has always been about minimizing my environmental impact and getting exercise.

For the times it doesn’t work out completely, Ricky still tries to get as much saddle time in as he can which has several benefits.

“The bike has been on both bus and subway. There was a time when I would bike to the subway (park in a bike locker), ride the subway, then walk to office from the station. For me it has always been about minimizing my environmental impact and getting exercise. I haven’t had a gym membership in over 10 years, and I think that in the last 4 years, I biked more than I drove each year. That is a lot of fossil fuels that I did not consume.“

Dedication to commute year round can often be a difficult challenge to aspire to with inclement weather, life’s obstacles, and motivational issues to overcome. Ricky finds his mojo in numbers.

“I am really a ‘mileage fanatic.’ It is the accumulation of miles that keeps me going. However, I also really enjoy the freedom of being able to go anywhere on my own power and at my own pace.”

Ricky's Van Dessel Country Road Bob fulfilling it's commuter duty.

Ricky’s Van Dessel Country Road Bob fulfilling it’s commuter duty.

Like many more seasoned commuters out there, Ricky has learned from others as well as his own experimentation as to what works for him and what his bike setup is.

“I have had many bikes over the years. I am constantly looking for the ideal commuting rig. I think I am close with my 2009 Van Dessel Country Road Bob. It came stock as a single-speed 38×16 with disc brakes. I changed i to a 42×16 and rode it that way for about 9,300 miles. This fall I updated it to a 10 speed once I found a rear disc wheel with 130mm spacing. I have put about 2,700 miles on it set up as a 10-speed (38x (11-25)). I run fenders on the bike to keep road spray off me and the frame. I really want to some day have a Zealot Bikes gates drive bike like Craig Kobayashi’s.”

I tried the Fatbike life last winter, but decided that slow and heavy was not my thing, so I sold the 2009 Surly Pugsley and got another carbon roadbike. My weekend warrior rides are usually on the carbon road rigs, a Cannondale Supersix and Cervelo R3.”

It’s not surprising to see a man who logs as many commuting miles on a bike as Ricky does venture into other areas of cycling looking to satisfy his hunger for miles and adventure.

“My love of cycling in all forms has led to all kinds of cycling experiences. I did my first and only triathlon in Chicago 1989; my first of many century rides in 1991 in Monterey CA; I have ridden the C&O Canal from Cumberland MD to Washington DC (185 miles) in a day (twice!); I have raced the 24 Hours of Moab (twice) and the 24 Hours of Canaan mtb relay; I have raced sport MTB races in the 1990’s; I have participated in the Seagull Century held by the Salisbury University in MD every year but two since 1998; I have ridden Pete’s crazy Kill Bill Century twice (100+ miles with 10,000 ft of climbing in the DC suburb of Arlington VA). I also tried, but failed to ride the Skyline Drive route in Shenandoah National Park on the summer solstice 2012. I guess you could say I enjoy suffering on the bike…”

Seasoned commuters and vocal advocates like Ricky are always a great source of tips and inspiration for other riders looking to start commuting or keep their spirits up as well.

“My main challenge was logistical. How to carry clothes to work, and dress appropriately for the weather. It was just a matter of time to work those things out and find a routine that worked for me. Also, finding and gathering appropriate and effective cycling gear over the years is fun.”

A shot from Ricky's 'BikeCommutography' photo blog.

A shot from Ricky’s ‘Bikecommuteography’ photo blog.

“I don’t have any tricks, but I would advise that because we are vulnerable road users, to always be alert and observant of what is going on around you on the road. I have avoided many near misses because I anticipated actions by motorists/pedestrians/bikers that would have put me in danger. You have to be ready to accelerate or decelerate to stay safe.”

Ricky’s journey in commuting has taken him all over the place since those early days in Vientiane Laos, and he’s definitely learned to make the best of it and pass that on to others.

Ricky’s online presence is robust and he is always reaching out to help others either start commuting or keep their motivation up. Catch up with him on Google+, Facebook, Flickr, STRAVA or Twitter. He also has a personal blog, as well as a new photo blog appropriately titled, “BikeCommutography,” that he recently launched featuring stills from his commute caught with his Contour Roam2 camera.

Photo at top: Ricky at the 2013 Gran Fondo National Championship in Frederick, MD. Photo by Vincent Ng.
About Kent Fackenthall

Dad. Biker. Designer. Minister of Propaganda for the Bike Commuter Cabal. Find me on Google+ and Instagram.