Dean Wette, Trailnet Champion
Dean Wette enjoys challenging himself by setting personal goals. When he got into bicycling three years ago, he wanted to maximize the number of miles he put in the saddle. Averaging 150 to 200 miles per week, he has bicycled more than 6,000 miles each year. He rode 15 centuries in 2015, some of them on Trailnet BFC and nonprofit partner rides, qualifying Dean as a Trailnet Century Club member.
Riding 15 centuries in a year is an accomplishment he shares with several of his friends, demonstrating the physical challenge involved as well as the camaraderie he enjoys in cycling. Although he loves the social aspects of bicycling, Dean found himself riding solo a couple of years ago, noting, “I wanted to see if I could ride a hundred miles in all sub-freezing temperatures. I got 70 miles in at 24 degrees, but then the roads got so slick from snow that I had to stop.”
So what could be so great about being on a bike that Dean braves frigid temperatures and spends so many hours rolling on two wheels?
“It’s just fun!” he said. “You never really know where you live until you get on a bike. You can explore the entire metropolitan area. There’s just no way to really experience things if you’re in a car, and if you are a runner or walker, you just can’t cover the miles that you can on a bike.”
Most of the miles Dean rides are for recreation, although he did participate in Bike to Work Day this year, completing a 40-mile round trip commute. He and his wife do almost all of the Trailnet BFC rides every year.
“They bring cyclists of all capabilities together,” Dean said of Trailnet’s events, adding, “It shows them that there is a real community that they can belong to.”
In addition to his participation in the BFC rides, Dean is a strong supporter of Trailnet’s Advocacy work.
“Trailnet has done a lot to make St. Louis safer for bicyclists,” he said.
Going forward, Dean believes Trailnet’s most important contributions will be to educate drivers and bicyclists about safely sharing the road. Although he appreciates efforts to increase the number of bike lanes in the region, he believes these infrastructure changes should be met with education and maintenance.
“If a bike lane has bad pavement or a lot of debris, I won’t use it,” he said. “So the drivers get confused when they see a bike lane and I’m not in it. And ‘sharrows’ are even worse – drivers don’t know what they mean. All of this should be covered in driver’s ed and questions should be included on the driver’s test.”
Because issues sometimes come up with drivers and even with law enforcement, Dean carries Trailnet’s “Missouri Bicycle Law” cards with him when he rides.
“Sometimes drivers will tell me that I should be on the sidewalk, so I have the card to show them that that is not only unsafe, but also illegal,” he said.
Dean also sees bicyclists doing things that compromise safety:
“I still see cyclists riding in the wrong direction, on sidewalks, or desperately hugging the white line on streets when there isn’t enough room for cars to pass safely—in which case the cyclist should be taking the full lane,” Dean said. “I see a lot of bicycle commuters riding as if they’re just unwelcome guests on the road. I see it differently: I’m not blocking traffic, I am traffic!”
For this year, Dean will be seeking out routes with lots of hills. His current goal is to become a better climber. His abilities will be put to the test at the end of July, when he and his wife travel to Colorado to ride in the mountains with Dean’s brother. Dean credits bicycling for greatly improving his own health and is also amazed at the benefits of cycling for his brother, who has Parkinson’s disease.
“When I got back into riding three years ago, I had a diagnosis of pre-diabetes and pre-hypertension,” Dean said. “I wanted to get healthy without medication. It worked. I now have great blood pressure and my blood sugar dropped down to ideal levels. Cycling also nearly eliminated my chronic lower back pain, got me off medication for high cholesterol and helped get my allergies under control, not to mention reducing stress in my life. For my brother, bicycling has really helped to control his symptoms, and has allowed him to live a more normal life.”