Today is Wednesday so that means that it is time for another Twin Cities Cyclist profile. Be sure to check out our previous posts to get glimpses of what it’s like for other cyclists that ride in and around the Twin Cities.
This article also marks our first contribution from Mike Courteau, check out his introduction from last week here.
A Profile of Derek Loftis by Mike Courteau
Perhaps it makes sense that the U.S. Postal Service sponsored the cycling team of Lance Armstrong and his domestiques for seven years. After all, its famous creed, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” applies accurately to the climatic rigors of riding that professional cyclists endure.
But there is another class of professional cyclist that deserves the same level of adulation and respect for its dedication to service in all types of weather: the delivery rider.
Minneapolis cyclist Derek Loftis has been delivering for the sandwich chain Jimmy John’s for three years and, as you might imagine, he has pedaled his bicycle and peddled Jimmy John’s wares through all types of inclement weather.
“Every Saturday I do a ten-hour shift,” Loftis said. “It’s basically ten hours of grueling pain.”
Loftis estimates that he and his delivery compatriots average between thirty and forty runs per shift. While most runs are short—from a few blocks to a few miles—the potential for logging 40 miles or more per shift is real.
While such a grueling gig might not appeal to all cyclists, Loftis’s reason for continuing to perform it is clear. “I do it because I love cycling.”
One might expect that such an intrepid cyclist would have plenty of winter cycling advice to dispense, and Loftis did not disappoint.
Asked about his preferred winter steed, he said, “The fixed gear is the better option.” Between his two bikes, a Tommaso Track Frame fixed gear and a Trek 1.2 road bike, Loftis feels that the fixed gear gives him greater control and has fewer moving parts to maintain after a long shift of grinding through the admixture of salt and sand found in the brown slush of Minneapolis roads and paths.
After the snow melts and the roads dry, Loftis hangs up his fixed gear and takes down his road bike. “The Trek is reserved for kicking ass,” he said. He will alternate between the Trek and the Tommaso as conditions permit until the gales of November turn gloomy and the relative simplicity of his fixed-gear bicycle makes sense again.
Whenever it turns cold, Loftis recommends having “good, wind proof gear” to withstand the elements. And, while one might expect that mountain bike or even fatter tires would offer advantages in Minneapolis’s snow-packed lanes, Loftis actually prefers the relatively thin tires of a road bike because they do not collect snow and provide narrower contact with icy road surfaces. “Nothing above 35 millimeters wide,” Loftis said.
Of course, having hearty gear is not the only winter-weather cycling consideration. Bike handling skills are also important. “Watch out for ice,” Loftis said. “Constantly be looking ten seconds ahead. That’s a real skill.”
Even such a skilled and experienced cyclist as Loftis confesses that the toll such a job takes on a rider’s body makes it a difficult gig to sustain long-term. Still, since Loftis is among a select group of Jimmy John’s riders at his location who have endured for three years, he credits his mental approach for enabling him to keep to the trail. “There’s always that voice saying ‘This is crazy. This is ridiculous.’ Just ignore that voice.”