LACBC Everywhere: Dan Mack and the Science of Cycling
Cycling is a science and that’s something Dan Mack knows all to well. With his engineering background, Dan loves the mechanical aspect of not just riding bicycles, but fixing them too.
As a dad living in Mar Vista, he incorporates cycling not just as a way to work, but a way to navigate through all the westside traffic.
Dan is also fortunate enough that his work embraces bicycling with facilities waiting for him after making his daily commute.
We caught up with Dan to see what it’s like to balance work, family and fun with cycling.
Growing up in the Washington DC area, how did you spend your time outdoors?
Dodging mosquitoes and summer afternoon thunderstorms. It was hard to maintain possession of a bike in the DC area as a child, but when I had a bike to call my own I was free to roam the streets of beautiful Cheverly, MD. After loosing yet another bike to theft in middle school, I switched to inline skates as my preferred mode of transportation. This worked well with my love of ice hockey and skiing, as my home town is fairly hilly.
When you started college out did you ever think you’re love for science would develop into the complex world of working with highly specialized lasers?
When I started college at Holy Cross, I really had no idea what I wanted to do. I think that’s why I went to a liberal arts school. I figured that I could get a broad introduction to a lot of academic areas and then decide what I want to be when I grew up. The lasers and other things that I have been involved with have been very rewarding and I’m happy with the way things worked out.
When you moved to Los Angeles for graduate school, did you bring your love for hockey along?
I brought my hockey gear with me. I was lucky to play for the UCLA ice hockey team. Through the team I got to travel across the West Coast for the first time with a group of guys that have become life-long friends.
William, Julia and Dan are supporters of everything UCLA
You bike from your home in Mar Vista to work in El Segundo daily, but you used to make that trip when you lived in Encino?
Yes, I used to bike from Encino to El Segundo pretty regularly. I worked out a routine that involved a 32-mile ride from Encino to work on Monday morning followed by a commuter express (574) ride home and then the reverse the next day and so on. I usually got in over 120 miles a week and good amount of climbing. Towards the end, right before we moved to Mar Vista, things were getting dicey in the Sepulveda pass with the 405 expansion construction. The ride from Mar Vista is flat an easy. I can do the 22 mile round trip almost daily if I like.
What do you like about the technical aspect of cycling?
Being able to be self sufficient. They aren’t that complicated of machines. With a little bit of reading, Googling and YouTube comes into play sometimes, you can easily get yourself fixed up and rolling again.
You have a number of different bikes because you enjoy the functionality of each one. Tell us a little bit about them.
Having a beach cruiser is obviously casual, a lot of fun and has a place to fit my dog in the basket. My cyclocross bike was an answer to a problem that didn’t need answering. I made it up and it seemed like fun. When they were doing the Sepulveda Pass construction, I just needed a way to get through the fire roads. When I got back to the regular roads, I wanted to be in a road bike position so I could go faster than a mountain bike. My road bike is by far the best out on a road. They all have their own utilitarian aspect to them. I tried a fixed gear riding around the velodrome, then I just realized I was going around in circles. I just like going places.
Is your three year old son involved with your commute?
Yes, but he’s part of the reason I don’t make the ride every day. The bike commute is probably about 45 minutes to an hour longer (round trip) than driving. I have some days of the week that I need to drive so that we can have some time together and I’m not on the bike. But, a lot of days that I do ride he starts out with me in the trailer. He loves to stroll in to preschool with his bike helmet on and to tell his friends that he rode with me there.
Does your work have a culture for supporting cycling?
I work for one of the largest aerospace companies in the world. Our CEO happens to be an avid cyclist. When the CEO is in town he typically arranges a fast group ride with his employees. Any big company in SoCal is bound to have a bunch of cyclists. In terms of bike commuting, the company is fairly supportive. There are a few buildings that have showers and commuter lockers available.
Of course, Dan would bike by the monument recognizing the engineer of the Golden Gate Bridge.
When you and your wife visited Europe, you both made sure to make cycling part of the trip?
On our last trip, we visited the Netherlands and Belgium during April. In Amsterdam, we rode around the city with the locals. The bike is the best way to get around in the heart of the city there. We even saw couples going out on their date on tandem bikes equipped with cargo rack. When the road pitched up to go over the canal bridges, the person in back (usually the lady) hopped off and pushed until they could hop back on to descend the other side. We also caught the E3 in Harelbeke and through a mix up in translation, I ended up with way to many beers at the post race “velodisco.” This was not a catastrophe and we had a great time dealing with the excess refreshments. I like Belgium because they seem to also like bikes and beer (not always together).
Now that you’ve bought a home in Mar Vista, what is it about the westside that makes it so appealing?
The weather is great and it’s a quick 20 minute or so bike ride to the beach from our house. On sunny weekends we will get on our bikes with the trailer filled with toddler and sand toys, and head down Ocean Park Blvd to the ocean. I don’t feel like I have access to all the challenging rides that were accessible from the valley. The westside is a bit denser and getting around on bike can often save time and aggravation.