Bike Swapper: A Wheel Deal

Bike Swapper wraps up one-year carless journey

By Dawn DeGroot

One year ago I had an opportunity to swap my car for a very cool Black Sheep bike, thanks to New Belgium Brewing.

As such a new experience, it was a little scary at first. I caught myself thinking, “What have I done?” on more than one occasion. Really, what was I thinking? Could I even manage without a car? Would my social life go down the tubes? How would I shop for food?

There were so many unanswered questions in the beginning. And that is where I started with my one-year carless commitment in the fall of 2010. In the months following, the questions began to be answered.

Bike Swapper is sponsored by:

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We needed food so I went shopping with my Ortlieb panniers mounted to the front of my bike. No problem. I just bought smaller portions and shopped more often. My friends were willing to meet me for coffee or go on bike rides with me. My social life was probably better after the car-for-bike swap. My quality of life improved.

It has been an amazing year, even though my mind has been focused on the weather more than any other time of my life. Is it raining? Is it going to rain? What about snow? The entire experience has forced me to be completely in the present moment and that is a very good thing.

Ortlieb Bags

My husband asked me the other day: “How do you like those
Ortlieb bags?”

I told him, “I love them.”

“Are they waterproof?” he asked.

I told him, “They are amazing and everything stays very dry in this wet climate.”

“Do they hold a lot?” he asked.

I’m thinking, why is he asking all these questions about my Ortlieb bags, but I told him, “they hold more than you think they would. It is very deceiving.”

Finally, I get the truth: “Can I use them for my bike trip in Europe?”

Oh, that’s right! My husband will be riding in the Paris-Brest-Paris bike ride, a 1,200-kilometer or 750-mile journey in 90 hours, the world’s oldest continuous bike ride which started in 1891. (Editor’s note: It was held in late August.)

Anything I can do to make my husband’s trip easier is fine with me, which includes another week of riding in Holland. I will be curious to see how he will feel about my Ortlieb bags when he returns and if he had the same positive experiences I had.

Not the end of the journey

This is definitely not the end of my bicycle journey. It just took trading my car for a great bike to get it started. Knowing what I know now, I would give up my car without the trade. Looking back, the swap was just a bonus but it got me started.

It has been such an interesting year with lots of road miles on my bike to remind me what I did to get to this point. I have committed to riding in the STP (Seattle to Portland) next year and that is a big deal at my house.

Riding my bike has changed me in other ways as well. Just thinking about how we can do small things to make the planet a sweeter place to live makes me more conscious about turning off lights and using less water. My recycling efforts and yard waste at home have increased 100 percent. Some weeks we have just one small bag of garbage. It is funny how our intentions can change just by changing one small habit.

I will continue to ride with pride and purpose. It really has been an awesome year, and all thanks to the New Belgium Brewing Car-for-a-Bike swap at Tour de Fat.

Thanks to Seattle’s Dawn DeGroot for sharing her one-year journey with Outdoors NW. For an archive of her stories, log onto