Who or whatever rules the bicycling universe must have been paying attention when it paired Bike Guide Chris Holcomb to Guide-ee Suzane Um.
“I was actually afraid of riding my bike as a kid,” said Chris, a 30-year-old program analyst for the IU Public Policy Institute. “I had some accidents and really struggled to learn. It was only in college that I embraced biking because it was cheap and practical.”
Suzane, 54, hadn’t ridden for years, but recently bought herself a new bike and admits to feeling a bit wobbly at times.
“I still feel very much a beginner, and am not that great with bike handling,” she said. “I am still trying not to fall off!”
Retired from Eli Lilly & Company where she worked as a biologist for 28 years, Suzane is a freelance violist. When she worked downtown, she wanted to commute by bike but was uncomfortable riding on city streets.
“There is much more info online now! I can’t even remember what link I followed to find the Guide program (maybe “learning to ride as an adult”? Something like that) but somehow I found it,” she said. “To be honest, this program sounded too good to be true. I was half expecting never hearing anything back.”
Being paired has been a delight for both of them. Chris grew up in Northern Indiana but has lived in various neighborhoods in Indianapolis for the past six years before settling with his wife and two cats in Bates-Hendricks. His work in community development, economic development consulting, and policy research has meant he’s studied Indianapolis for most of his adult life. (No, he’s not related to Governor Eric Holcomb, and yes, he gets that question a lot.)
Suzane, a Hoosier by choice via Arizona, lives in Meridian Hills. They both recommend the program, which doesn’t require fancy bikes, or even new ones.
Chris still rides the bike his parents bought him for his 13th birthday present. “I’ve had to modify it a bit over the years, but it’s pretty cool to me that this same bike I’ve had for about 20 years is still going strong,” he said.
“Biking is one way that I enjoy getting outside, building community, and exploring this city I call home. Since I’ve lived here, I’ve tried pretty much every type of commuting: driving, taking the bus and biking,” he said. “Over the years I’ve embraced biking more and more as my primary form of transportation, because it’s cheaper, more reliable, less stressful, and easier than driving or taking the bus. The sustainability, health, and urbanism benefits are just the cherry on top.”
Chances are good that if you’re on the Cultural Trail, you’ll encounter Chris and his vintage Schwinn as he uses both to get groceries, run errands, commute, go to the gym, meet up with friends and most any activity that requires a bit of travel.
He became a Bike Guide when Bike Indianapolis’ Executive Director Damon Richards reached out to inquire about a transit-style bike map Chris created to mark Indy’s trails last year.
“It’s been a fun learning experience for me to plan rides and explore trails in a different part of town,” he said. “We’ve gone on a few rides and had a great time. In a lot of ways, we are both learning things together, and I think she has appreciated just having someone to try new things with. I think my role was just to introduce her to some things, and she’s really run with it herself from there.”
Chris highly recommends other bike enthusiasts to consider being a Bike Guide as well as to those who want to learn more about the area’s bike environment. While he’s often on the Cultural Trail downtown, he also loves the Canal Towpath, and he’s expanding his bike time from daily activities to more serious riding.
“I’m training for my first bike tour this August,” he said.
He and Suzane have ridden around Broad Ripple, the Cultural Trail and from Broad Ripple to Eagle Creek and back. She’s most familiar with the Monon Trail but is excited to expand her horizons as she emulates Chris’s biking habits.
“I’ve really enjoyed working with Chris. He is a great guide!” she said. “He gave me the tools I need to be able to really get around the city by bike. It’s amazing. And not just on the road. Tomorrow I might be meeting friends downtown for lunch. He showed me how to check out a bike route online which will have trails and streets comfortable for biking. I’ve told all my friends about it!