A few years ago, when Cortland resident David DiPietro lost his driver's license to a Driving While Intoxicated charge, he says he was faced with a choice: Be miserable or make the most of it.
DiPietro chose the latter option: He kept going-this time on two wheels instead of four.
After surrendering his license in January of 2017, DiPietro invested in a pedal bike though later upgraded to an e-bike for ease and speed.
"I'm 56 now and my knees are good but not great and I'm not getting any younger," he says.
The upgrade wasn't cheap, it cost DiPietro $1,800 for the Addmotor electric fat bike and hundreds more for all the additional gear (saddlebags, cold and rainy weather gear, lights, over-boots to protect his shoes, etc.)
But DiPietro says it's been worth every penny and he estimates that the conversion from a car to a bicycle has actually saved him thousands of dollars yearly. And he's probably right. According to AAA, the average cost of owning a car can tally over $9,000 a year.
DiPietro chose the Addmotor fat bike for one main reason: the battery easily pops out so he can store it inside on cold days, extending its life. On DiPietro's other electric bike, the battery is not a quick release model, so removing it is more complicated and sometimes results in shorting circuits. He got tired of going through that every time he had to bring the battery inside on a cold day so the fat bike is his winter bike and he uses the other one for warmer weather.
DiPietro also chose the fat bike-named for its sturdy frame and fat, knobby tires- for its stability in bad weather. The bike keeps him upright and smoothly enjoying the ride even in the slush and snow. However, DiPietro has a note of caution: "Don't let the big, knobby tires fool you."
On a recent morning slick with freezing rain, the bike went down and DiPietro went with it. His shoulder still carries a painful reminder of how cautious he has to be when roads are icy.
DiPietro also has to take special care of his bike given the corrosive salt applied to the roads in the winter. He periodically does a thorough cleaning of the bike; placing it atop a plastic sheet, rigging its back tire up off the ground so he can rotate the wheel, and using a spray bottle to clean it down from top to bottom. He carefully removes all the grime and debris, cleans all the sprockets and gears and thus prevents rust from forming.
"I took care of this bike better than any car I ever owned," he says. And he has to. "I don't have a license so this is my transportation."
DiPietro also does his shopping on the bike. The saddle bags can carry a family sized pack of chicken, salad materials, milk and other necessities. He acknowledges he's lucky, as everything he needs-shopping and work-are within about a 1/4 of a mile from his home. The rest of his needs may be a few miles out, an easy 15-20 minute ride depending on traffic.
And he has the help of family and friends to take him on larger shopping trips once a week and also supply him with lumber for his woodworking hobby.
Overall, says DiPietro, he learned an important life lesson from the experience and his perspective on life has changed dramatically.
"I was a carefree, irresponsible schmuck for so many years that I'm lucky I'm not dead or in jail," he said.
"So losing the license, a lot of people think that's harsh, it's not harsh-I look back on 40 years of my life and I got exactly what I deserved."
And while the bike isn't always the easiest- his bruised shoulder and the need to don multiple layers for a quarter mile trip, are daily reminders of that-his motto is to make it work, make the most of a difficult situation.
And there's also enjoyment in it and a sense of pride too. In the nice weather and in the snow, the bike is a blast to ride and DiPietro's health has improved from the activity.
"This is less convenient but it's far from miserable."