This portable didn’t fold under pressure: Bike commuter wins Marty’s Challenge in Morristown


The bike is portable. But it doesn’t fold under pressure.

Morristown lawyer Matthew Vance calmly loaded his 24-speed Dahon bicycle onto an NJ Transit train in Madison on Wednesday morning, checked his email for a few minutes, got off the train in Morristown, unfolded the bicycle and breezed to the Hyatt Morristown to win the first Marty’s Commuter Challenge.

Matthew bested a Chevy Volt and a cyclist on a fast road bike in the five-mile Madison-to-Morristown race.

The winning time: 12 minutes.

Please click icon below for captions.

“I think I’ll celebrate with a nice meal today at the Health Shoppe,” said Matthew, 43, who commutes every day by bike and train from his home in Newark’s Ironbound section to his law office on Washington Street in Morristown. He has been doing that in all weather for seven years.

The race was cooked up by Marty Epstein of Marty’s Reliable Cycle to promote alternative modes of transportation.

“You don’t have to use your regular car all the time,” said Marty, whose next act is a Bikefest at the Morristown EcoCenter after the monthly Critical Mass ride on May 27. That’s followed in August by the Gran Fondo bike weekend.

The Chevy Volt was piloted by David Baranauskas, 30, of Wigder Chevy in Livingston. He used his GPS to find the Hyatt Morristown. Although David finished second, he said there is some consolation in knowing the electric car is getting the equivalent of 135 miles per gallon.

No excuses, mind you, but third-place finisher Bill Ruddick of Backyard Bike Tours in Randolph might have improved on his 21-minute time if he had not stopped for a school bus.

“Hey, you’ve got to obey the rules of the road,” said Bill, 56, who worked in the telecom industry before starting his touring company. The Montreal native tuned up for the Marty’s Commuter Challenge by pedaling 5,300 miles across Canada last year.  On Wednesday, he warmed up by cycling from Randolph to Madison.

Bill’s race route was King Street to Madison Avenue, Franklin Street behind the Morristown Medical Center, to South Street and Speedwell Avenue. He considered taking the Traction Line bike path; maybe next year.

TransOptions, the commuter information clearinghouse, greeted the racers at the Hyatt.

“This is to raise awareness of the different ways of getting around efficiently and with reduced air pollution,” said John Ciaffone, TransOptions president. “We want to encourage people to take mass transit. And if you can’t, then take an alternative vehicle or carpool or vanpool. You can’t do these things every day. But when you can, it helps save money and the environment.”

Matthew got hooked on bike commuting as a grad student in New York. “The only way to get around town was on a bike,” he said. A stint in Washington DC reinforced the habit. His folding bike weighs about 25 pounds and it “runs like a jackrabbit.”

He dresses light for his daily bike commute and changes into his “lawyer monkey suits”–by Brooks Brothers–stored in his Morristown office at Niedweske Barber, where he practices benefits law.

On Wednesday a fourth racer–from Marty’s Morristown shop–was supposed to ride an electric-powered bicycle. Apparently, there was some confusion over the race date and location of the bicycle.

You should have less trouble finding your pink slip, Eric.

(Just kidding!)

marty's reliable challenge
WINNERS CIRCLE: Bill Ruddick, David Baranauskas and Matthew Vance after the Marty's Reliable Challenge. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

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