Bike to Work Wednesday: Monte Mead finds satisfaction -- and strange stuff -- on the road

Today is the year's first Bike to Work Wednesday, a series launched by Bike Denver, which means more bikers on the streets. And every day, bikers face obstacles: cars, construction, other bikers, kids, the weather and roadside debris that could cause a flat tire. For this reason, along with a few others, Monte Mead stops to pick up the things he sees on the road during his seven-mile commute to and from work.

And he's found some very strange, very random things over the years.

Mead has been a bike rider since he was a kid growing up in Fort Collins. Seven years ago, he started commuting from his home in Wheat Ridge to the 27th and Larimer streets, where he works at the advertising agency Cultivator. After running over a nail that caused a slow leak, Mead began picking up nails he spotted.

"It had always started with the nails," Mead explains. "Just because I hate getting flats. You get to a point where you're like, 'If I'm not picking them up, no one is.' And hopefully there's someone in front of you picking up the nail." But soon he started picking up other things he saw along the way.

Mead has now been collecting items along his commute for four years. At first he put them on a shelf in the office, where fellow Cultivator bike commuters began adding to the unique collection. When the items became too numerous for the shelf, they were transferred to a box. When that box filled, Mead started another one.

Tools, phones and license plates are some common finds -- but lighters are the most prolific roadside item. "We found so many of them. Just the juxtaposition of the word, that they're a disposable lighter. They aren't really, and they tend to end up on the ground and all over the place," Mead says.

Continue for more of Monte Mead's finds. Mead says he isn't out to save the planet, but he appreciates the morality of picking up these items. "I started biking when my dad passed away, and he's a very moral person," Mead explains. "I think I just hear his voice in the back of my head saying something like, 'Pick up the nail and the person behind you will thank you.'"

That moralistic thinking goes beyond picking up items. More than once, Mead has searched Facebook to find the owner of a wallet he found. Having lost his own wallet, he understands the frustration of having to replace the contents.

The current box contains what Mead and his colleagues have found over the past nine months, including three doll heads, a fishing knife, a neck tie and an orange golf ball. The only find Mead kept for himself was a riding crop.

Mead rides his bike year round, rain or shine. The key to that is removing obstacles, he says.

"The bike will go through anything," he notes. "Short of there just being a white-out sheet of ice, there's nothing the bike can't handle. It's just a matter of 'Can I handle it?'"

Although his commute is longer, he considers a bike the perfect vehicle. And with two young sons at home, the 30-45 minute commute is both his personal time and a personal experience. Beyond the gratification of passing cars sitting in traffic, "you're kind of forced to be aware, because you don't have safety of the car," Mead says. "It's about having a closer relationship to the world around you. It's more human. You're much closer to your environment that way."

Despite Mead's devotion to his bicycle commute, and his commitment to cleaning up the roadside, every now and again he still takes his Mustang out for a drive.

From our archives: "How not to be a dickhead on Bike to Work Day."

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