Beto O’Rourke Rode a Bike And the Internet Exploded

Be still our biking heart: Beto O'Rourke pedaling into the El Paso sunset.
Be still our biking heart: Beto O'Rourke pedaling into the El Paso sunset.

Add cyclists to the latest group that is going all dewy-eyed for Beto O’Rourke.

The junior Congressman who almost defeated Ted Cruz for a Texas Senate seat — and will soon announce whether he wants to try to do the same with Donald Trump in 2020 — was spotted cycling away from reporters on Thursday night, biking into the El Paso sunset on a single-speed Surley with pink bar grips.

It wasn’t Kim Kardashian breaking the internet, but bike Twitter was agape and agog.

“Sign me up to vote for him,” said Dale Schaper. “Cyclists are good, honest people. I will bet the man in the White House does not ride a bike.” [Good bet: President Trump has never been spotted on a bike, and actually removed a bike share rack from the presidential mansion and workplace.]

Twitter user Lara also added, “That’s it. I am officially on board. He bikes!!!!”

One video posted by newsman Eric Bradner had 14,000 views in a day. Another posted by CNN reporter DJ Judd had more than 165,000.

We’ve rarely seen this kind of two-wheeled excitement before. The Democrats’ 2004 nominee John Kerry famously biked, but also famously broke his femur biking — and also lost to one of the least-popular incumbents to be re-elected in recent years.

At least Kerry was serious about his cycling. President Obama liked being photographed biking on vacation (and on recreational trails) with his daughter, but very few candidates are willing to risk what they think will be national ridicule from the driving lobby by getting around on his or her own power. None of the existing 2020 candidates has been regularly spotted on two wheels, but O’Rourke “has been riding his bicycle to a makeshift office near San Jacinto Plaza” for the last few weeks, The Washington Post reported.

“Seeing a potential presidential candidate riding a Surly with a flip flop hub, helmetless, is a watershed moment,” said architect and bike advocate Jonathan Fertig on Twitter. (Several Twitter users mocked O’Rourke for biking without a helmet — but plenty more pointed out that car drivers, who never wear helmets, are far more likely to get head injuries than cyclists.)

Biking is clearly how O’Rourke likes to get around El Paso when he’s not campaigning statewide or nationally. And that’s pretty impressive because El Paso offers little accommodations for cyclists and is hostile to biking, despite efforts by tben-City Council Member O’Rourke. During his six years on the council, O’Rourke supported policies that would reduce parking, enliven downtown and add bike lanes. Thanks to O’Rourke and several colleagues, the city passed a smart growth plan that the Natural Resources Defense Council called the best in the country.

During his campaign against Cruz, O’Rourke hosted a “Biking Town Hall” in Dallas — and didn’t peel off early, either, completing the full 5.6-mile ride.

And if you need any more evidence that he’s a “real” cyclist, he got the endorsement of Lance Armstrong, who was known as the greatest cyclist in world history (until it turned out he wasn’t).

O’Rourke’s cycling is even more remarkable considering that his father, Pat O’Rourke, a former county commissioner and judge, was hit and killed as he rode a recumbent bicycle in 2001. According to the El Paso Times, the elder O’Rourke has been attempting a ride across the country. He had been writing about his adventure on a website run by his only son.

So certainly Beto O’Rourke gets props for riding his bike for transportation, but we would be remiss if we didn’t point out that he was arrested for driving — a car, not a bike — while intoxicated in 1998.

  • Southeasterner

    Count me as unimpressed.

    If you want a biking candidate you have Jay Inslee in Washington who just announced his candidacy.

    http://classiccycleus.com/home/jay-inslee/

    Not only is he an avid cyclist he understands how infrastructure is paid for and how heavily subsidized private vehicles are. He leads the only state where the DOT is taking an aggressive approach in the incorporation of vision zero and non-motorized transportation in all roadway decisions. He is also the only politician I’m aware of who has acknowledged you can’t build your way out of highway congestion.

  • Festoonic

    Dreamy centrist billionaire chooses to leave the limo at home? Be still my heart! Those are the kind of optics I can really go for!

  • Daniel

    just wait ’til Biden announces all the countries he thinks Trump’s too candyass to invade while riding a moving Acela!

  • Guy Ross

    Hmmm… any guy who rides off on a single speed with a comment about it previously being fixed is gonna be well versed in automobile sin.

    Count me as impressed that EITHER of them are serious (potential) candidates.

  • Stephen Simac

    “Lance Armstrong, who was known as the greatest cyclist in world history (until it turned out he wasn’t).” Considering that he was competing against others who were similarly “juiced”, I would not remove him from that “pedalstal”. His personality leaves something to be desired, but his accomplishments should have gotten an asterisk, like in baseball, rather than stricken from records.

  • Stephen Simac

    Could it be that he’s never had his drivers license reinstated after that DUI? Not a true bike nerd without pants clips and no chain guard. Not much fun to grind to a stop when long pants catches in the chain, if you don’t do a faceplant.

  • rohmen

    I honestly don’t recall how it played out, and I imagine they elevated the next in line confirmed “clean” rider to 1st place. I’d argue the solution should have been to just allow those years to stand without a winner to mark the rampant issues in the sport, rather than let Armstrong hold on to even a sliver of a “win” mixed with shame.

  • murphstahoe

    Be unimpressed by Trump.

    If Beto is the low bar, then we are in great shape.

  • murphstahoe
  • murphstahoe

    Are you allergic to google?

    All of his titles are marked “Vacated”

  • zucho drig

    Guess who also commutes by bike? Randal O’Toole .

  • San Franciscia

    Beto seems surprisingly hip and thoughtful, and I’m encouraged that he rides, but let’s not forget that W. was very fond of mountain biking.

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  • Frank Kotter

    I’m a vegetarian and I see where this is going, Debbie.

  • Stephen Simac

    I kind of agree, except that so many “heroes” have feet of clay, we’ll soon run out of mud.

  • Stephen Simac

    Nyet. Although I did watch all of Trotsky on Netflix in Russian if that counts. Thanks for the link. Speaking of Baba O’Reilly by The Who, George W. Bush should have stuck with “We won’t be Fooled Again” instead of his mangled quote

    “There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s
    in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on —
    shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.” Or is that before your time?

  • George Joseph Lane

    One of them (early 2,000s) was in a field so dirty that the 1st placed athlete not implicated in doping was 23rd. Cycling tends to vacate titles as it’s a team sport with individual winners, so the second placed rider often wouldn’t have won, even if the first place hadn’t been there.

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