Cycling culture: Students wheelie love biking

Many students find a sense of community on campus through their love of biking.

by Stephanie Sowa | 8/30/23 1:05am

by Emil Liden / The Dartmouth

This article is featured in the 2023 Freshman special issue. 

Given Dartmouth’s rural location, it’s no wonder that cycling is a common activity in the community. With beautiful greenery characterizing nearby trails and ample exercise spots available near the Connecticut River, biking allows individuals to explore areas off campus and get in touch with the natural beauty of the Upper Valley. 

Nolan Holmes ’25 — an avid biker himself — explained that there are multiple ways to get involved with the Big Green’s cycling culture.

“There’s the Mountain Biking Club, which is under the [Dartmouth Outing Club] umbrella, Dartmouth Cycling Team — which I’m part of and is more road bike and racing oriented — and then there’s other sorts of organic things, like Wobbly Friday, as well as people just commuting,” Holmes said.

Wobbly Friday has emerged as a recent tradition of Dartmouth students who all assemble every Friday afternoon for a bike ride through campus. Maia Crichlow ’25 commented on the event.

“Wobbly Friday is such a lovely way to create a social space that hasn’t traditionally existed on campus,” Crichlow said. “It also makes bike culture, whether it's road or mountain biking, more approachable.”

In addition to DOC excursions and these various clubs, the Triathlon team is another organization that runs several bike races and brings students together through the cycling community.

“They do a really good job of getting people into bikes, and they have a lot of bikes people can borrow for longer periods of time, so they can develop their skills and the love for biking,” Holmes said.

The Dartmouth Bikes shop provides a resource for students who need bike repairs, which also encourages sustainability on campus. Holmes shared how he acquired a job working there.

“It’s kind of funny — I emailed the director of the shop [Marcus Welker], and I was just hoping to get keycard access to the shop to work on my own bikes, but then he responded saying, ‘You’re hired,’ so I started there during [sophomore] winter,” Holmes said.

Marcus Welker is the team manager of Dartmouth Bikes within the Sustainability Office. Welker received a Master of Science in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Dartmouth in 2015, and he came back to Hanover to assist in sustainability efforts on campus. Welker explained that biking has played an important role in his life from a young age.

“My dad taught me how to fix my own bike, as we biked together as a family growing up,” Welker said. “There have been many years where I’ve lived without cars and really relied on bikes as my primary means of transportation.”

Welker said the Dartmouth Bikes sector of sustainability efforts sparks his excitement.

“What I really enjoy is that learning, teaching and mentoring is distinct from academic pursuits,” Welker said. “Working in a co-curricular space is really awesome because the students who want to be in our office –– they want to be working in the bike shop –– and those are all students who are really passionate about what they do.” 

Welker said that the bike shop has the economic resources to support the students who work there with hourly pay.

“I’m really fortunate, as biking is kind of unique in that it generates revenue,” Welker said. “When a student like [Holmes] wants to work for the bike team, financially, I’m more able to do that, because [Holmes] then goes to work and he charges other students, staff, faculty and community members to fix their bikes. That’s not how a lot of internships or opportunities at Dartmouth work.”

Holmes’s time outside the bike shop is characterized by more biking, such as traveling on cycling trips as well as going to competitions during the racing season.

“This past weekend, I went on a mountain biking trip to Killington which was really cool because they have downhill mountain biking, so you get on the lift with your bike,” Holmes said. “With the cycling team, we do a spring break trip to North Carolina, and then we have a five-week racing season so we travel every weekend … our furthest race has been in Pennsylvania.”

In order to cultivate a sense of community, bikers often extend warm welcomes to new riders. Samantha Paisley ’25 — a member of the women’s rowing team — has become more involved with cycling this summer. Paisley explained how welcoming people have been.

“Everyone loves to bike here,” Paisley said. “Regardless of your fitness level or your skill level, [more experienced bikers] will bike with you because they love it,” Paisley said.

Paisley — alongside other rowers — has used outdoor biking as a supplement to her rowing regime. As a preferable alternative to biking inside for core strength, Paisley said outdoor cycling has been another great way of training and connecting with nature. She loves rowing on the water, and biking outside provides a similar, “joyous” feeling.

“For the rowing team, we do a lot of indoor biking as a part of the core workout, which prepared me well for cycling, but there’s something cool about being outside on a bike … there’s more of a sense of adventure as compared to a stationary bike,” Paisley said.

Paisley’s experienced biker friends successfully roped her into doing a 200-mile bike ride, which she completed the majority of before stopping. 

“We did this bike ride where we started at the Canadian border and rode the bike North to South through Vermont, and I had no cycling experience,” Paisley said. “It was actually insane — I think I did 177 miles, so I was pretty close. My goal was a century ride, so when I hit 100 miles, I decided to keep riding because my friends were.”

Paisley emphasized that she is new to this sport and thanked her friends for encouraging her along the way.

“Someone said that I’m the ‘most experienced, novice rider ever,’” Paisley said.

In addition to avid bikers, there are some students, such as Mahina Amoy ’25, who use a bike to quickly commute across campus. 

“I haven’t used a bike before this summer, but I’m living further off from main campus, so I needed to get one for my sanity and get to my classes on time,” Amoy said. “I feel more invigorated to get out and do more things around campus [with a bike].”

Amoy explained the “tensions” between cyclists, pedestrians and motorists in Hanover.

“If you have a bike, you know what’s up, and if you don’t have a bike, then you think all the cyclists are super irritating,” Amoy said jokingly in response to tensions between nonbikers and bikers in Hanover.

Amoy noted how “helpful” her bright teal bike has been this summer, and said she plans on utilizing a bike more often during the upcoming terms. 

“I would definitely ride it year round, besides winter,” Amoy said. “I just don’t think I am physically equipped to drift over ice.”

Holmes expressed gratitude to biking for shaping his college experience and his involvement on campus.

“Cycling is a pretty giant part of my experience, as I’m on the cycling team, which is where most of my friends come from, as well as I also just ride a bike around campus,” Holmes said. “I work at the bike shop on campus, so that’s a nice way to earn money, but I also just enjoy it.”

Paisley emphasized the importance of cycling in her life and the general Dartmouth community.

“While cycling can be incredibly convenient, it creates a sense of community within Dartmouth,” Paisley said. “It is a great way to familiarize yourself with the Upper Valley and stay active.”

Paisley is a member of The Dartmouth’s design team.