Bike Fort Collins first launched You Know Me. I Ride a Bike. back in 2009, where we featured local residents, for whom riding bikes is big part of their life in a broader awareness campaign. Beginning in 2021, we are excited to reintroduce this bio-series, where we feature one new Fort Collins resident each month here on our news-blog/website, as well as through The Pedal Post eNewsletter and our social channels, highlighting their love for bikes and for riding them. Please join us and read on, as we hear their stories and learn more about these remarkable folks who live and ride right here in our community.
August 2021: Wayne Thornes
-….by Anna Kelso, BFC Community Relations Coordinator
With the academic year beginning, we thought this would be a good time to highlight one of our school district’s most bicycle friendly principals, Wayne Thornes. Wayne assumed his position as principal of Shepardson Elementary in April of 2020 and uses his love for bikes as the underlying theme in his educational style. A year-round bicycle commuter himself, Wayne finds creative ways to get students and teachers alike out riding. In Wayne’s words “cycling is my community” and he lives to bring this community to his current students and the generations to follow.
Originally from Tucson, Wayne grew up riding his bike to school and around his neighborhood for fun, transportation, and (most importantly) freedom. Wayne’s first bike, a red Schwin with a banana seat and red streamers would last through 4th grade when his mother bought Wayne his very first 10 speed. Although it wasn’t the BMX Wayne had been hoping for, it did allow him the opportunity to continue his love of riding.
As an undergraduate at the University of Northern Arizona, Wayne was first introduced to the discipline of road racing in 1991. His college roommate was a “more serious” athlete and mentored Wayne in the sport of road racing. Although he never dabbled in collegiate cycling, Wayne’s first amateur racing experience was with the Red Rocks Racers. After college Wayne dedicated an entire year of training in hopes of possibly becoming a professional cyclist. Although these stars would never align, the experience did serve to fuel his continued love of the sport and the resultant community that follows in his wake.
At the age of 28, Wayne helped cofound the Doo-Dah Ride, a cycling group dedicated to fostering new riders as they found their way into cycling. A welcoming, low stress introductory ride, the Doo-Dah group helped folks learn how to safely ride in a group, gain basic mechanic skills, and build confidence riding in various road conditions. During these years Wayne enjoyed his days working in a bike shop and regularly leading the Doo-Dah rides all with a 15-mile round trip bike commute.
After starting a family, Wayne and his wife eventually made their way to Fort Collins. It was the bicycle infrastructure and overall bicycle friendly nature of the city that drew them here. As a platinum Bicycle Friendly Community, Fort Collins tends to be a mecca for young families who love to ride bikes; the Thorne family was no exception. Wayne’s wife, Laura, has come to love cycling here because she feels much safer on the bike trails and protected bike lanes. This has allowed their love of riding to evolve together, and they now set off on tandem bicycle tours around Colorado in place of more traditional vacation destinations. Enjoying the human pace of bicycle touring allows them to connect on a more intimate level with the landscape and the people along the way.
As principal of Shepardson Elementary, Wayne truly goes over and above to encourage students and adults alike to get out and ride. Not only does he commute by bike year round, Wayne faithfully supports and promotes all proper bike holidays including Bike to Work Day, Winter Bike to Work Day, and National Bike to School Day. Boasting a number of bicycle programs, Shepardson Elementary is a triving particpatn in BFC’s and the City’ Safe Routes to School program, it has an after school bike club, regularly runs bike field trips, and even has periodic bicycle safety skits during the morning announcements. Wayne plays an active role in all of these programs and enjoys encouraging even more kids to find the love of cycling. Because Shepardson is home to a Center Based Autism program, Wayne is committed to ensuring inclusion of all students regardless of their various needs. If a student has balance issues, Wayne can easily accommodate with his tandem or other adaptive bikes available at Shepardson. Everyone is included, this is what Wayne strives for.
It is because of people like Wayne that our bicycle community here in Fort Collins continues to thrive and grow. Inspiring new generations of a bike loving community is the momentum that will propel us into the next dimension of an even more bicycle friendly future, and Wayne is driving the pace one child at a time.
Many thanks to Wayne Thornes for all he does to support cycling in our community and for taking the time to share his story.
Name and age: Wayne Thornes, 53
What do you do for a living? Shepardson Elementary School Principal
How long have you lived in Fort Collins? 10 years
How long have you been riding? 48 years since I began riding, but only 40 years where it’s been something I’ve been passionate about
What kind of riding do you do? Road, mountain, tandem, commuting – if it’s on two wheels and human powered, I enjoy it!
Do you commute via bike? If so, how far do you commute? I’ve commuted by bike at several points in my life. Right now my commute is only about 2 miles each way – I really love living in a small city! When I was in Tucson my commute was 7 miles each way and involved a lot more riding in traffic. You have to appreciate Fort Collins for making it easy!
Why do you ride? I ride because I enjoy being outside. Even the short ride home helps me decompress after a hard day at work. I also ride to be with family and friends. I ride to be in nature. I ride to get my chores done. I ride because it’s more fun than driving. I ride to spend quality time with my wife. I ride because it’s good for the environment – but mostly I ride because it’s good for me.
What kind(s) of bike(s) do you ride? late 90’s era Cannondale Mountain Bike for mountain biking and commuting, Trek Domane road bike, Cannondale Road Tandem
What would you like to tell someone who is thinking about starting to ride a bike? It’s not about how fast or how far you go, it’s just about doing it. So get on the bike, ride, and don’t forget to brake for the occasional bagel.
What makes you smile when you’re on your bike? Seeing a child riding a bike go by. It makes me smile every time.
Where is your favorite place to ride? My all-time favorite mountain bike rides are around Crested Butte – amazing trails with exceptional views. But for the day-to-day riding experience, Fort Collins is just exceptional – whether its riding across the bridge at ….
What gets you on your bike on a cold, rainy, crummy day? A friend once told me, there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear. So now I approach cold, crummy days with better gear and excitement about the adventure of getting on the bike and riding – because any day on the bike is better than a day stuck inside.
How often do you ride your bike (vs. drive)? Generally speaking, I commute by bike every day and do a fair number of “chores” like grocery shopping by bike. I’ve been a daily commuter in Fort Collins since 2015 – I sometimes go more than a month between fill ups in the car.
Any last comments? Living in Fort Collins is as close as you can get to a bicycle utopia in the US. This is a wonderful place to ride and an even better place to introduce kids to riding.
Did you enjoy reading about Principal Thornes? Read about other inspiration individuals just like him who ride bikes here.
I do know him! He inspired me to bike-commute more often, work with the bike club, and generally Re-ignite my love of bike riding. Thanks for being a great inspiration, Wayne!
Re-ignite! Haha. Please correct my autocorrect!
Wayne is an outstanding school principal who truly understands and supports Safe Routes to School. Thank you, Wayne, for everything you do to improve the lives of kids in our community!
Wayne is an outstanding role model for students at Shepardson! As we all know, kids are more inclined to “do what we do, not what we say.” Modeling healthy behavior matters, whether that is having a growth mindset or proactively engaging in activities that bolster mental and physical health. Wayne does this every day and we are thankful that our son and daughter have him as a role model!
Wayne is an inspiration in so many ways. We share a love of teaching and being outdoors, even though I have never been able to ride a bike because of very poor balance! Happy trails, Wayne Thornes.