Cycling Politicians

Donald Trump at the Inaugural Tour de Trump

President Trump is not an avid cyclist.  In fact, he is not a bike rider at all.  I can’t say with certainty that he has never ridden a bike.  But as an adult the closest Donald Trump has come to riding a bike was founding a multi-stage bike race called the Tour de Trump.  Starting in 1989, it was throughout the northeastern United States and was billed as a rival to the Tour de France.  Interestingly, the race never did include a criterium around the White House as Mr. Trump wanted.  But the inaugural 10-stage 837-mile race did end at the Trump Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City.  And much like today, the race was met by anti-Trump protests, where demonstrators held placards reading “Fight Trumpism”.  The Tour de Trump ended the following year when the name was changed after its sponsorship was taken over by the DuPont Corporation.

The closest President Trump has gotten to a bike during his time in office was when he criticized former Secretary of State John Kerry for the time he broke his leg in 2015 while bike riding in the French Alps during a break from negotiations crafting the Iran nuclear agreement.  The only other President during my lifetime that similarly did not ride a bike was Lyndon Johnson.  Every other American President (see below), including Barack Obama (1), George W. Bush(2), Bill Clinton (3), George H.W. Bush (4), Ronald Reagan (5), Jimmy Carter (6), Gerald Ford (7), Richard Nixon (8) and John F. Kennedy (9), occasionally rode a bike.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., goes for a bike ride in Chicago, Sunday, June 8, 2008.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)   2     3 

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Actually, some Presidents have been quite avid bike enthusiasts.  One example is George W. Bush.  Our 43rd President was and is a fanatical mountain biker.  He has even celebrated some of his birthdays by mountain biking in the same way his father, George H. W. Bush, celebrated birthdays by skydiving.  The former cyclist-in-chief would even go mountain biking during holidays at Camp David, and on the campaign trail while running for re-election.  However, he was not always that way.  Previously a runner, during his first term he swapped his running shoes for bicycle pedals due to painful runner’s knees, and transformed himself into a devoted mountain biker and high-tech gearhead.  And it was during this time that he acquired some of his favorite bikes, including a Cannondale mountain bike with a custom red, white and blue paint job. which was given to him by the manufacturer before the new 2007 model was even available to the public.  President Bush also rode a Trek mountain bike that had “United States of America” painted in white letters across the blue top tube, and a 2-inch presidential seal affixed to both sides of the head tube.  Revolution Cycles, a local chain of bike shops at the time, not only maintained that bike but kept on hand an identical backup for the President just in case.

President George W. Bush and his Presidential Trek Mountain Bike

Another avid Presidential cyclist was Jimmy Carter.  He and his wife, Rosalynn, went for bike rides in different parts of the world while he was in office, and afterwards while traveling for The Carter Center, the former President’s charitable foundation that tackles numerous difficult, ugly, and often dangerous causes that many other charities and groups ignore.  After leaving office, the Carters were known to ride their bicycles four to six days a week when they’re home in Georgia, including to the former President’s favorite breakfast joint in Plains to start the day right.  Former President Carter and Rosalynn are known to most often ride custom his and hers Rivendell Atlantis bikes (one of the bikes still on my Bike Bucket List).

Former President Jimmy Carter and Rosalyn Carter with their Rivendell bikes

It is not just Presidents.  Many other American political figures and leaders throughout the world are known to ride bikes as well.  Former Presidential candidates Senator Mitt Romney (10), Governor Jeb Bush (11), Senator Rand Paul (12), as well as his father, Congressman Ron Paul (13), Secretary of State John Kerry (15), Senator Chuck Schumer (15), and Congressmen Earl Blumenauer and Vern Buchanan of the Congressional Bike Caucus (16), an informal group of Congressional Members supportive of bicycling and walking, are a few examples.

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World leaders who have been known to at least occasionally ride a bike include Russian President Vladamir Putin (17), Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (18), former Presidents of France Nicolas Sarkozy (19) and Francois Hollande (20), Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Saeed Hussein Khalil el-Sisi (21), prominent English Member of Parliament Boris Johnson (22), as well as Prince Charles and Lady Diana and their sons, Prince William and Prince Harry (23).  Additional world leaders include Dutch Queen Maxima and King Willem Alexander (24), Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott (25), Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (26), Belgium’s King Philippe and Queen Mathilde (27), former President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff (28),  Venezualian Ex-President Hugo Chavez (29), and former Secretary-General of the United Nations and South Korean diplomat Ban Ki-moon (30).

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In the Netherlands, bike riding is very popular.  In fact, there are more bicycles than residents in The Netherlands.  So it is n surprise that it is a common mode of transportation in the Netherlands, with 36% of the people listing the bicycle as their most frequent mode of transport on a typical day.  And in cities the percentage is even higher.  In cities like Amsterdam and The Hague, up to 70% of all journeys are made by bike.   And that includes its leaders.  Not only can King Willem Alexander and Queen Maxima be seen riding their bikes, so can Prime Minister Mark Rutte.  And in the case of Prime Minister Rutte, he not only rides his bike frequently, but he commutes to work and back on his Dutch ‘fiets’ bike.

Prime Minister of Netherlands Mark Rutte on his bicycle riding to work

All these national and world leaders cannot frequently agree on very many things.  But despite the divisions between all of these Republicans and Democrats, capitalists and socialists, and royals and commoners, one of the few things they have in common is a support for cycling.  At least that’s a start.  Maybe there’s reason for hope after all.