Bicycling: The power of one

Folsom man bicycles to work everyday

Tony Powers once biked almost 3,000 miles from Florida to California.

Tony Powers once biked almost 3,000 miles from Florida to California.

Photo By Anne Stokes

Some people ride a bicycle for exercise or to spare the environment, while others just think of it as an enjoyable hobby or pastime. Most will agree that once you learn how, you never forget. For Tony Powers, a Folsom resident who received Breathe California’s Clean Air Champion award, bicycling was a steady progression from passive biking enthusiast to full-blown advocate. And what started as a healthy lifestyle choice has become a steady exercise in leading by example.

For more than 16 years over multiple routes, Powers has commuted to work on his bike. Powers’ round-trip commute varies between 1.5 miles and 26 miles, depending on the location of that day’s worksite. He started out riding to work two or three days a week, but now estimates that he rides nine out of every 10 weekdays, only driving his car when his job calls for an out-of-town meeting or errand that he can’t do on his bike or on public transportation.

“It started as just a way to work exercise into my daily routine,” Powers said. Working long hours and then coming home to be with his wife and children didn’t leave him with much time to stay in shape. “Over time, it evolved into just being a good thing to do,” he said, noting that he wasn’t wasting gas while doing his part to reduce pollution. “It’s still fun, but now it’s a routine.”

Like the U.S. Postal Service, he rides regardless of the weather. “It became sort of a cheap thrill, to beat the weather,” Powers said. “But I’ve always had a shower where I worked, so it made it a little easier for me.”

Powers works in Folsom’s historic district for Alta Planning & Design, a company that plans and designs bike trails. Powers earned a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in engineering from the University of Notre Dame and University of Texas, respectively. His love of bridge design led him to become a civil engineer. However, as his affinity for biking became more prominent, he tried to find a way to get paid for what he loved to do.

Powers gets animated and is all smiles when talking about his exploits on the bicycle. He recants his stories, both good and bad, like a proud papa speaks about his children. Powers’ wildest experience on the trail is a doozy: He once rode his bike from St. Augustine, Fla., to Santa Cruz, Calif., with his wife Cecilia. Powers was working on a six-month temporary assignment in Florida at the time, but still made his home in California. As his job was coming to an end, he got the inkling that maybe he could pull off the cross-country trip.

“We ran into a lot of good people, although some people screamed at us out of their windows,” Powers said. “We got all the way to Texas before we saw another adult on their bicycle.”

Powers traveled approximately 3,000 miles and lost 20 pounds in the process. He celebrated his one-year wedding anniversary along the way, and he was even bumped by a U-Haul coming up behind him, trying to pass on a narrow road.

“It’s actually the least likely type of accident for bicyclists, and it happened to me,” Powers said, noting that most bicycle accidents happen simply because of irresponsible bicycling practices.

Powers gets plenty of time to practice safe bicycling with his wife and kids, who join him on frequent trips and family outings. For him, the adventure and family bonding is the best part about those rides. He said the key to keeping his four sons interested is to have some sort of payoff for them at the end of the journey, like going to the park or stopping to get ice cream.

“Regardless of how grumpy they may be when they start,” he said “they always enjoy it.”