Kimberly-Clark launches bike challenge for Wisconsin

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By Michael King
Reprinted with permission from the Appleton Post-Crescent
Originally published February 19, 2011

Three years ago, Rob Gusky decided to take positive steps to lose weight. In the process he reduced his carbon footprint on the environment.

Gusky, 48, an engineering technical leader at Kimberly-Clark Corp., lost 25 pounds when he started biking to his Neenah office from his Appleton (Wisconsin) home in 2008. He's kept the weight off.

"It's 8.5 miles each way so it's 17 miles roundtrip, year-round, every day," he said.

His passion for bicycling as part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle is one of the reasons why K-C this week announced the Scott Get Up and Ride Wisconsin Bike Challenge.

Last year, Gusky was one of 587 K-C employees at 62 locations worldwide who biked over 205,000 miles, a 40 percent increase over 2009. That translates to about 6.8 million calories, or about one ton of fat, burned by K-C employees. By avoiding use of gas-powered vehicles, it also led to a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by more than 200,000 pounds.

"This is our first year going beyond K-C," said Gusky. "We have our Scott brand sponsoring it and they're very focused on reducing the amount of vehicle miles."

The free competition has two components: cycling for transportation and cycling for sport. K-C will continue its internal competition but the Wisconsin challenge is open to anyone 18 and older, including about 25,000 employees at 12 of the largest Fox Valley area companies or organizations.

The challenge begins May 16, the start of Bike to Work week, and runs through Sept. 30. Prizes will be offered to participants in the transportation category, encouraging commuters and any trip that displaces motor vehicle use.

"This is such a tremendous opportunity for Wisconsin bicyclists to encourage more and more people to ride," said Kevin Hardman, executive director of the Bike Federation of Wisconsin.

Noting the $1.5 billion economic impact of bicycling in Wisconsin, Hardman said the challenge will provide statistics to help support funding requests for improvements to biking infrastructure.

For 2011, the Kimberly-Clark Foundation is pledging 10 cents per mile logged by challenge participants, up to $5,000, in the form of a grant to Fox Cities Greenways to support local trail development.

One aspect for tech savvy bicyclists is the use of a free sports tracking service through Endomondo, a Danish firm. "If you're a runner (or bicyclist) and you have one of these smart phones, you can press start when you run and when you stop it shows where you went, how fast you went, all that stuff," Gusky said.

"I actually got rid of my second car now that I've decided to bike," said Gusky, who was also spurred to biking by $4 per gallon gas and now logs about 3,000 miles annually.

"For me, it's really about staying healthy," he said.

Saving money and helping the environment is a bonus.

"It feels like the right kind of thing we should be doing," Gusky said.

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