How to Get Fitter, Richer and Greener in One Simple Step

I’ve got a two-wheeled miracle product to sell you. Use as directed and you will lose weight, save money and protect the environment.

The bicycle, dubbed “the most demographic invention ever made,” by actor Matthew Modine, is indeed miraculous when you see it through his eyes.

Modine, whose resume includes Birdy, Vision Quest, Full Metal Jacket, Married to the Mob, Memphis Belle, Short Cuts, Any Given Sunday and on July 20, The Dark Knight Rises, is an avid cyclist. In May, he was in Highland Park to help promote the Glencoe Grand Prix, and to promote Bicycle For A Day, a global initiative he founded to bring together people who choose to ride a bicycle rather than use gas-powered motor vehicles, immediately reducing their carbon footprint.

Speaking to a group of avid cyclists and/or movie buffs at Alberto’s Cycles, Modine remembers, “Our parents didn’t drive us places.” As the youngest of seven, Modine says, “I wanted a Sting Ray, and my dad bought me a Pee Wee Herman bike. He took it back and got me the bike, and I loved him for that.”

So can you pick up this healthy habit? Sure. Modine says most commutes to work and school are less than five miles. And why should we? It’s great modeling for our kids, and here’s why—Modine cited statistics that in 1964, 50% of kids rode to school and the obesity rate was 12%. In 2004, 3% rode to school and the obesity rate was 45%. But don’t take Modine’s word for it. Ask Bruce Hochstadtler of Highland Park, who started biking to work a few years ago.

“The idea of the exercise and the beauty of the forest preserve, and the solitude of the experience —all those were reasons. My life is busy, the phone never stops, the patients need attention, and the work I do is stressful. It’s a great break,” Hochstadtler says.

Hochstadtler, an oral surgeon, has three offices. On the days he’s in his Park Ridge office, his 20-mile commute takes one hour and 35 minutes.

“I start biking to work in March, and finish in October or November. Some 95 percent of my route is bicycle path,” he says. “It’s a great thing and a spiritual experience to be on the bike at the end of a long day, that chance to be in nature.”

Hochstadtler rides a Quick by Cannondale, and keeps clothes at his offices. He has a bike rack on his car so his wife can pick him up in case of a flat tire or if his day runs too late to bike home.

Biking to work and school is something everyone can consider. When you’re next in New York, keep an eye out for Modine, as he cruises around Manhattan on his single-speed Dutch bike. And meanwhile, think about doing the same yourself.

4 Tips to Comfortable a Bike Commute (from Active Transportation Alliance)

Bring a change of clothes. You can wear your office clothes in milder weather. Dark pants don’t show as much grime, and most skirts are easy to cycle in (pack it if it’s a pencil skirt). Use an ankle strap or tuck your pants into your socks to keep your cuff off your bike chain. When it’s warmer, bring a change of clothes for the office. (See next tip.)

Pack smart. Invest in cycle-specific bags that allow you to carry clothes and learn how to pack to reduce wrinkling.

Stay dry. You can cut down on sweat by riding slowly or commuting earlier or later in the day. You can towel off, change clothes or even use a little talcum powder if you are feeling damp.

Consider extra storage. Saddlebags and a basket mean you can easily transport 4-5 grocery bags in comfort and safety. Add a water-bottle holder—that can cradle an iced coffee or diet soda—and you’re biking around the ‘hood in comfort.

And don’t forget the most important piece of equipment, after the bike—a helmet!