Company: Asheville on Bikes
Founder: Mike Sule
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Mike Sule is a freakin’ powerhouse. Unfettered by obstacles, naysayers or odds, he stays steady and unwavering. Mike started Asheville on Bikes 9 years ago, and with a lot of blood and sweat, he is now managing AoB full-time. His goal? To make Asheville a more robust biking city.
This goal might sound simple, but it’s actually a huge undertaking and incredibly far reaching. There is the city infrastructure to consider, wads of red tape, public education and awareness, advocacy, networking, etc. We aren’t sure when he sleeps, or that he sleeps, but he’s done a lot for Asheville commuters and joy riders. Namely, you can thank him for fostering community among bikers, establishing more bike racks around town at restaurants and shops and getting more bike lanes added throughout the city. Can you imagine what Asheville would be like if we could get around the city solely using bike lanes - how dreamy!
Interested yet? Read more about Mike and AoB below. And check out www.ashevilleonbikes.com for more information about community rides, advocacy and volunteer opportunities.
Q. Tell us a little bit about you, your background, and what you did prior to Asheville on Bikes.
Before Asheville on Bikes I was a teacher. I taught for ten years in the middle school of Evergreen Community Charter School and worked at The Wedge Brewery on weekends and weeknights.
During summer breaks, I did a variety of bike tours throughout the US. It was those tours that really inspired me to keep pursuing Asheville on Bikes. If other parts of the country could advance bicycle culture and infrastructure, so could we.
Q. Why did you decide to start AoB, and how did you define what that would be?
In ‘05 after a heart wrenching break up, I knew I needed to get out of Asheville for the summer. One of my dearest friends, Blue Miner Young invited me to join him in New York City. Since college, he had really gotten into riding bikes as a commuter. He was also a teacher and off for the summer so I took advantage of the opportunity to join him. We rode all over the city and then ventured to do an overnight ride to my parents place in South Jersey.
The morning we left for our overnight, Tropical Storm Cindy rolled into the coast. The rain pummeled us. It was unrelenting. At the end of the day, we were exhausted and soaked, but loving life, goofing off and looking forward to the next day’s ride.
As I was dozing off that night, I realized that I was the happiest that’d I’d been in a long time. There was something about the simple freedom of riding a bike.
I spent the rest of the summer riding, returned to Asheville, sold my car, bought a bike, and kept riding.
Q. What have been the biggest obstacles, or most difficult aspects of starting a non-profit?
Time management and balance. I love the work and I’m excited for Asheville on Bikes to grow and advance our city’s transportation options. My office is in my home and it’s very easy for me to work all the time.
Q. What have been your biggest successes?
Hands down, it’s been the community’s response to AoB. AoB has an amazing board, strong committees and a broad and dedicated volunteer base. People continually show up to contribute and build the organization. AoB is shared and strengthened by many people working in several different ways. The community’s response is humbling.
Q. What is the most valuable lesson(s) you've learned in life or your business journey?
Listening. In my experience, listening is essential to success. Learning how to squint with my ears has been my biggest asset. It’s a life long lesson and I don’t always get it right.
Q. Where do you go for inspiration or trends? Any go-to blogs, websites, stores, or instagram feeds?
There is nothing like bike touring for inspiration. Nothing comes close to it. When not touring, I follow and read:
People for Bikes
Q. What's the best advice you've ever received?
“You can’t rush the river.” My natural tendency is to push things along in a specific direction so it’s important to remember that change takes time and the only real option is to work with the existing currents.
Q. Any favorite cycling gear and/or accessories? Any top riding trails?
I really love my Surly Long Haul Trucker. It’s my go to bike. I ride it everyday, everywhere. It’s ten years old now and at times people poke fun at it. It’s worn and showing a bit of rust, but there is nothing like it.
Q .Any favorite Asheville makers, shops, restaurants, bars, etc. right now?
I really like anyplace that is welcoming to ride to. There are places that are great, but I never go to because it’s either not accessible by bike or welcoming to cyclists.
Q. And, one from left field. If you were a drink, what drink would you be and why?
I think I’d be a simple cup of black coffee - a touch of bitterness, a touch of sweetness, and chuck full of energy.