Uncommon Challenge: 365 Days of Biking

One REI Co-op Member explains why he ditched his truck for an electric bike and challenged himself to ride every day in one year.

Shawne Martinez’s big story starts small: His daughter was accepted into a preschool program at a nature center. But the class was 8 miles away, and he drove a large pickup truck—it seemed wrong to him that he should drive her in a diesel-belching truck to a class teaching her to cherish and steward nature. “Could we ride a bike to preschool instead?” he wondered. 

So, the Portland, Oregon, dad dusted off a front-loader cargo bike that he’d built out a few years before and began to pedal his daughter to class. They started out strong, even bringing the kid’s 14-inch-wheeled bike for her to ride the few sidewalks on the way. Martinez learned quickly how to avoid some of the busiest roads and studied maps to find the “secret” neighborhood shortcuts. He also felt great that they were saving money by not driving.   

Soon, Martinez started seeing bike challenges on social media: Ride your bike to work day; cycle for a week; even ride your bike for a month. But his growing daughter and her stuff were getting heavier. Climbing the last hill before home was brutal. He had been drooling over electric cargo bikes for years but now understood the benefits of that extra boost. He finally took the plunge, buying an e-bike to assist in pedaling.

That e-cargo bike replaced his truck for most trips, and he realized he really didn’t need it. So he threw down a challenge to himself: Could he ride his bike every day for one year? 

Day 1 was a 15-mile round trip to the farm supply store. He picked up 40 pounds of chicken feed and a bale of pine shavings. He started pushing the e-cargo bike to its 400-pound total weight limit and began hauling lumber, bags of concrete, paver blocks, even a carpet cleaner. “This thing truly was a car (or truck) replacement!” he says.

The next hurdle was the weather. “We had quite the snow and ice event that year, but I wanted to keep riding to school,” he adds. That’s when Martinez discovered studded tires for bikes. In snow and ice, they never slipped once.

Then there was also the matter of staying warm and dry. A rain canopy on the bike kept his daughter protected from the elements, but he needed better year-round gear. He invested in a quality rain jacket with armpit zips and a back vent. It was an “eye-opener,” he says, “a huge difference from the stuffy rubberized jacket that I had been using.” Waterproof knit gloves and waterproof boots also made him happier as he cruised through slush and rain.  When he and his daughter wore the right clothing, they were unstoppable. He laughed at that hill before home.

Their mileage steadily increased until 30-40 mile days became common. Martinez eventually sold his truck (though his family still owns a car that his wife mainly uses). The e-bike became his primary wheels for school commutes, library and grocery runs and park hangouts. He even loaded it with camping gear for a family bikepacking weekend, towed a kayak for a day on the river and pulled his kid on a sled through snow-covered streets.

Martinez pedals while towing his daughter on a sled.

By the end of the year, Martinez had pedaled 6,467 miles, climbed 441,479 feet, and avoided burning 500 gallons of diesel, saving the family thousands of dollars.

Today he’s got more than 16,500 miles on his trusty e-bike.

“It’s been a game-changer,” he says.  

Here, Martinez shares some of the items that helped him become an everyday cyclist: 

Ergon GP1 BioKork Handlebar Grips 

After 10,000 miles on my electric cargo bike, my stock handlebar grips were gross and falling apart. I decided to try these Ergon Biokork grips for a change. After installing them I totally forgot that they were there — that’s how comfortable they are. $49.95 

Showers Pass Crosspoint Waterproof Knit Gloves 

Portland in winter is wet. Really wet. Simply put, wearing these waterproof wool gloves made me a happier rider. I recommend buying them a size larger than your normal size, so you can get them on and off easier. I like the orange color for higher visibility when signaling turns. Be sure to read the care instructions: It’s best to hang dry these gloves to avoid shrinkage. $45 

Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic Panniers – Pair 

When you’re riding in all seasons, having a clean and dry place to store gear on the bike is essential. These Ortlieb Panniers have provided thousands of miles of leak-free storage. The bright colors and reflective patches also increase visibility. They’ve also got a strap, so in a pinch, they do double-duty as grocery shopping bags! $200 

Portland Design Works Sodapop Fender Set 

We installed these fenders on our kid’s bike since it didn’t come with a set from the factory. If you want to raise kids who like riding bikes in all conditions, it’s essential to provide them with the equipment that makes it more enjoyable. That starts with good rain gear and bike fenders, to keep water and road grime from spattering them. This set from Portland Design Works is made mostly from post-consumer recycled beverage bottles. $21 

Schwalbe Marathon Studded Tire – 29 x 2 

I was absolutely amazed at the performance we’ve gotten from these Schwalbe Marathon studded tires. With them on our e-cargo bike, we were able to navigate the steep, ice-covered hills along our route to school without slipping or sliding. As with other Schwalbe tires, we’ve had only a few flats over thousands of miles. $89 

REI Co-op Junction Cycling Rain Jacket – Men’s  

I had no idea just how big a difference a good jacket makes to the riding experience until I swapped out my stuffy rubberized jacket for a quality jacket with amenities like armpit zips and snug wrist cuffs. A recent addition to my gear closet, this windproof and waterproof jacket has those bases covered, along with an attached hood that’s large enough to fit over my bike helmet. Remember to consider the bulk of your winter layers when sizing. I’ve been experimenting with wearing the hood under my helmet which keeps it in place on the downhill but makes me sweat more. $135 

Oboz Sypes Mid Leather Waterproof Hiking Boots – Men’s 

When riding my e-bike around town in a Portland winter, I don’t mess around with fancy schmancy bike shoes. Waterproof hiking boots are my go-to. I like the Oboz Sypes for the level of insulation, the feeling of protection I get from the high tops and the aggressive tread that sticks to my pedals in both rain and snow. I usually struggle to find the right footwear, but these boots were comfortable from the get-go. $165