Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Multimedalist masters spin control

Bicyclist Dwight Nelson rides on the westbound frontage road amid Thursday evening traffic along Interstate 10 at 29th Street. Nelson works as an engineer at Raytheon.

Bicyclist Dwight Nelson rides on the westbound frontage road amid Thursday evening traffic along Interstate 10 at 29th Street. Nelson works as an engineer at Raytheon.

Name: Dwight Nelson

Age: 50

Occupation: General Dynamics Corp. technology contractor under contract to the U.S. Navy through Raytheon Co.

Height: 5-10

Weight: 155

Health/fitness accomplishment: I commute by bicycle to Raytheon four days a week, a distance of 23 miles one way. I also participate weekly in the “Shootout” (Saturday unsanctioned all-comers bicycle competitive ride) and ride 15 miles to begin that. So that’s about 290 miles I ride every week.

How long have you been commuting? I started at Raytheon last year and, before that, I went only five miles a day to my job at Casas Adobes Baptist Church. Before that I worked at IBM and would drive one way and bike home and bike back one way the next day. I used to ski race before that but you couldn’t do that here in Tucson, so when I moved here (1979) I found out that the real thing Tucson is known for is cycling and it’s something very enjoyable.

What is your daily routine now as a commuter? I take the bus (Monday) with my business clothes, leave my clothes at Raytheon all week and ride back and forth all week then take the bus home Friday. It’s an hour-and-a-half ride on the bike.

What is your route? I take I-10 frontage road to I-19, then 12th Avenue to Los Reales to Old Nogales Highway and to Raytheon. I follow the same route back.

What is your biggest challenging in commuting? It’s how to get to work and still be presentable for meetings. Figuring out how to take my clothes and get a shower and make sure I still look good. I can’t stop at a lot of places. . . . And there’s the logistics of it, the aspect of finding the different routes that work. Right now the I-10 Frontage Road is easy but they are about to reroute traffic there (I-10 construction). I don’t know what that’s going to do, but I still think commuting (by bike) will be preferable.

What do you think about when you travel? I try to organize my life and make sure that I am getting training, that I’m working. Sometimes I get into a mode where I just cruise, but that’s not really me. As far as training goes, I make sure my muscles are hurting a bit and I’m breathing hard. In the morning, it’s quiet, even along the frontage road – dead.

What about on the way home with traffic congestion? You have to watch the traffic. You can’t be slacking; you have to be alert. I can pass cars for a change, though. Crossing over from Nogales Highway from Los Reales, you have to be very alert. It’s very busy.

Does your mind wander? When it’s peaceful, I really have to work hard on training. I sometimes have to switch my mind back on to something. But sometimes I can look around and enjoy the moment. I do a lot of meditating and praying; it’s very soothing.

How many sets of tires have you worn out? I have an old Specialized commuter bike, probably 15 years old, with bigger tires, pretty resilient to flats. The wider gives you more surface area. I maybe go through a couple of sets of tires a year. I use a Cannondale for racing.

Speaking of racing, you have had quite a career. Can you summarize? My first was El Tour de Tucson in 1986. I started training a few months before on my own. I did it and made the gold qualification by 20 minutes. I realized I like this sport and I had a god-given ability. I haven’t missed El Tour since. I had a little coaching after that but since, I have trained myself. I won the 1991 (35-and-over) Tour of the Gila, a big National Racing Calendar event, the 1991 Cochise 252-mile, and won seven age-group state championship road races in a row in the ’90s. Last year, I was second in the Colossal Cave road race and finished third in Mount Graham (state hillclimb championship). I had a good year.

How many races have you won? I don’t know. My wife (Nancy) got tired a few years ago of looking at all the medals so the guy next door, a woodworker, made this thing like a wind chime. A piece of wood with slots in it and you can slide the ribbons. Must be about 30-40 in that.

You have become legend for long, endurance “fun” rides. What about these? I used to ride to Show Low, 180-190 miles, and the next day ride back. I did some long rides but I didn’t really like to do them alone in the ’90s. I have kind of gotten away with the superendurance stuff. I found out once on a long ride alone I would start going to sleep. There are so many other things in my life. It was fun, though, kind of crazy.

What are your nutrition habits? I eat regular meals and don’t snack a lot. I’m a great believer in coffee in expanding the glycogen in your system to avoid bonking. Instead of 100 minutes of extreme exercise normally, with coffee and caffeine you can expand it to 120 minutes before losing it.

So commuting is really your training program? Yes. The miles I do a week plus the Shootout fits my program.

What is your ultimate goal as a cyclist? Every thing I’ve done, including commuting and racing, has been for fun. What success follows, follows. I never want to get burned out, do it so seriously I lose my taste for it. When commuting, sometimes I might not feel so much like getting up and getting on a bike, but it’s what I do. Being competitive, I want to be doing it when I’m 90.


Breakfast: Bagel, lots of coffee

Midmorning: Fruit

Lunch: Leftovers (pasta, chicken, etc)

Dinner: Pasta, chicken, fish, rice, lots of bread

Before bed: Light fruit


Please add link here to 1a poster from 2-10 about I-10 construction:

“39-month ordeal beginning on I-10″

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