The avid cyclist
Bicycle courier Ben Barry on the thousand-mile-a-month life
If you live in downtown Sacramento, you have probably seen Ben Barry, 22, tearing through the streets on his bicycle. Barry’s enthusiasm for cycling started about four years ago when he ended his track career and began a new one as a bike courier. Currently, Barry works for Bicycle Business on Freeport Boulevard, and the sport, which started as a hobby, is now a career and a way of life. Barry spoke with SN&R at a coffee shop the other day to discuss his fervor for cycling, and as we chatted, he doodled a stick figure (with a large butt, the product of years of cycling) riding a bike being chased by a giant beetle: athletic, dedicated&8212;and imaginative.
What kind of bike do you ride?
I used to ride a fixed gear, but now I ride an old Schwinn with a big basket. I recently purchased an Independent Fabrications road bike [for a] race that I’m pretty excited about.
Do you own a car?
I used to, but I sold it to buy my first fixed gear. I think getting out of a car and riding a bike is a great way to improve the environment.
I drove my car here. What do you think of me?
Eh, whatever. Will this interview get me babes?
Let’s move on. I am assuming you ride your bike all the time?
I ride everywhere I go. In winter, when it is raining and I can’t ride as much, I use my rollers. Riding rollers is like riding your bike on a treadmill. It is the most miserable thing in the world. You sit in the exact same spot on your bike, you start chaffing on your saddle, you get saddle sores and can’t cool off because there is no wind on you. I also do cyclocross, bike polo and race two to three times a week.
Tell me about cyclocross and bike polo.
Cyclocross is the best sport ever. It is a cross between mountain biking and road biking. It is done on a lap course, and you can do multiple laps. The course is set up over mud and grass and there are usually man-made barriers, natural barriers and fences that you have to hop over with your bike.
Bike polo is a lot of fun. It gives many young people who are just getting into cycling, especially amongst the fixed-gear community, a place to meet new people. It is also very good if you like breaking and repairing your bike.
What do you think about when you ride?
I am by myself and on my bike for hours and so I have time to think about anything and everything. And I am quite the daydreamer, so riding really helps me sort thoughts out.
How many miles do you ride per week?
I’d say earlier in the season I was pushing 300-400 miles per week, but now it’s down to 250 or so. It really depends on the time of year. Today, I rode 35 miles before I got here.
Describe your best and worst experience as an avid cyclist.
My worst experience on a bicycle would be the day I got hit by a car on my way home from working as a courier. The driver of the vehicle was scratching his leg, not paying attention to what was in front of him, and hit me. I broke my collar bone and shoulder blade. I wasn’t able to ride my bike for two months and I lost my job as a courier because of it.
My best experience would be my first cyclocross race. I remember thinking I had a shot of winning but ended up placing 17 of 33. I was still stoked because I had done my first race.
Why do you love riding your bike?
One of the best things about cycling is that it teaches you to suffer and, through suffering, you can be rewarded with joy. Plus, I get to wear spandex, which is one of my favorite things about the sport of cycling!