Rain or shine, Aims College prof loves to ride | SummitDaily.com

Rain or shine, Aims College prof loves to ride

In this Wednesday June 3, 2010 picture, Aims Community College teacher John Mangin rides his bike home on U.S. 34 west of Greeley, Colo. On his bike Mangin commutes to Greeley from Loveland and home again every day. (AP Photo/The Daily Tribune, Greeley, Colo., Eric Bellamy)
AP | The Greeley Tribune

GREELEY – The sky insisted on rain as it turned a shade of angry gray. Maybe even lightning and thunder and a little hail. Oh, and wind. You can’t forget the wind.

It was early, so the sky was giving out a warning: It was in a bad mood, so take shelter, and don’t even think about going outside.

Sure enough, that afternoon, it rained buckets, thundered, hailed, blew gusts that overturned trees and even spawned a few funnels, including one that floated over Aims Community College.

If you were by Aims, as you ran to your car, probably with a newspaper over your head, you might have spotted John Mangin riding home to Loveland on his bike.

Yep. To Loveland. On his bike.

Mangin, 37, rides to his job as the chairman of the department of applied environmental technology almost every day. And he loves days like that one. Well, maybe “loves” is a bit strong. But he certainly doesn’t mind them.

“It teaches me to ride in crappy weather,” Mangin said, “and it’s a great way for me to get out and test new equipment. There isn’t one day when I say, ‘Boy, I wish I hadn’t of ridden today.’ “

That includes most of the coldest winter days, though he won’t ride if there was a good snow the night before.

As you might have guessed from his job title – he enjoys teaching sustainable construction methods – Mangin likes to push biking to work. He enjoys being the perfect example for fun holidays such as Bike to Work Day, which will be Wednesday this year. His commute takes two-and-a-half hours out of his day. He figures riding in the car would only save him an hour a day, and he’d probably have to spend longer than that on the bike to train. He rides up to 4,000 miles a year because of his commute.

Mangin also enjoys being on his bike for fun. He just recently did a 600k ride in Boulder. It’s a casual ride, really, not a race. Mangin enjoys those the most. He’s raced a few times, something he took up after his father got a couple of cheap mountain bikes when he was in high school, but he was never really fast, so he gravitated toward the longer distances. He loves Colorado for that reason alone. He doesn’t think there’s any better place to ride.

In fact, his favorite event, something he’s done twice, is a 1,200k ride in Paris. It’s every four years, and it takes several days to complete. He hopes to do the next one.

Mangin hesitates to talk about these rides when he talks about biking to work. He knows he’s not normal, and he doesn’t want others to assume that if you can’t ride, say, 600 kilometers in one sitting, then you’re not ready to bike to work.

“I see all these people yelling at each other as they’re driving,” Mangin said. “I honestly think if they knew how great it was to bike to work, everyone would be doing it.”

There’s a system to it, and it gets easier once you figure out a system, Mangin said. He takes U.S. 34, which is safe thanks to its wide shoulder, and he showers at the Aims gym once he gets there. But he also loves tweaking the system. He’s rigged an LED light powered by his own pedaling. The light is so bright, he believes he’s actually safer in the dark during his morning commute. But he’s not sure it’s the best thing. Equipment is trial and error, he said with a grin.

When he’s riding in the afternoon, when there are more cars and the LED light isn’t on, he assumes the worst, and that helps him avoid cars that pull out in front of him or almost run him off the road.

“It’s just best to pretend you are invisible,” Mangin said, “because you pretty much are.”

But Mangin also believes most drivers are safe and friendly. They wave. They watch. He remembers a really, really nasty day, when a record four drivers stopped and asked if he wanted a ride.

He turned them all down.

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