When Nicole Waxmonsky Tu was a student at Pittston Area High School a decade ago, she was one of the top youth bowlers in the area. She regularly rolled 200 games and 600 series in the youth league at Modern Lanes.
These days, she's a candidate for a PhD in cell biology and a cancer researcher at the University of Minnesota. She lives in Minneapolis, where she has traded in her bowling balls for bicycles.
Living in one of the most bike-friendly areas in the country – the Twin Cities area of Minneapolis and St. Paul – Waxmonsky Tu and her husband, Haink Tu, bike everywhere and in all kinds of weather, including ice and snow.
"We ride all the time," Waxmonsky Tu said in a phone interview. "We use bikes for transportation. It's pretty easy to ride out here; it's part of the culture in Minnesota. When it snows, they sometimes plow the bike path before the road."
The bike path is the Midtown Greenway, a 5.5-mile former railroad bed in Minneapolis with easy access to most of the downtown.
Though Waxmonsky Tu initially started biking as a form of exercise, pedaling is now a lifestyle. "We save so much money," she said. "We own a car but we don't have to use it. Everything we need is within five miles. We save on gas and car insurance. Life is easier and more fun. I see things like bald eagles over the river. If I was in a car, I wouldn't be able to do that."
Waxmonsky Tu's love of biking transcends transportation. She's a member of the University of Minnesota cycling team which competes on tracks and dirt in the largest conference in the country, traveling to Kansas, Nebraska and other Midwest areas. The spring season consists of a series of 30 to 40 mile road races.
She is also is a certified winter biking instructor for the League of American Bicyclists where she teaches prospective bikers about road rules, how to feel comfortable in vehicle traffic and safe riding in the winter. She was featured in the January issue of Bicycling Magazine, providing tips for safe and warm winter biking.
Not coincidentally to the Twin Cities' bicycle culture, St. Paul is home to Quality Bike Products (QBP), the largest importer and distributor of bicycle parts and accessories in the industry. QBP distributes winter bikes and accessories like 4-inch and studded tires for manufacturer 45NRTH.
She graduated from Pittston Area in 2001 where she was a science "brainiac" and competed in the Brain Bee, a bi-county competition, in the field of neuroscience, Waxmonsky Tu credits her parents, Donald and Sylvia, for fostering her love of science.
In high school, she attended the Governor's School for science where she met Tu, a Taiwanese-American student from Philadelphia. They married in 2005 after graduating from Rochester Institute of Technology. Tu is also a doctoral candidate at the University of Minnesota.
Waxmonsky Tu and her husband own six bikes. She described them in an email:
We each have a mountain bike for dirt trail riding (by the way, the mountain biking in NEPA is one of the nation's best kept secrets).
We each have a road bike for faster riding (15-20mph) and longer distances (30 miles or more).
We each have a commuter bike for errands and transportation (racks for holding items, lights for riding at night and very comfortable riding positions).
We are currently building a cargo bike to make it easier to haul bigger and heavier items (like groceries, oil pans from the auto store or camping chairs to the lakes).
The style we are building is referred to as a ‘long tail bikes' with very large bags for carrying items and an extended wheelbase for stability.
You can modify these to carry people and many people here use them to carry their children with them. You can buy these off the shelf, say from Trek, or you can modify your existing bicycle that you already own with a kit called Xtracycle.