David Nestvold’s Passion for Cycling Intersects Every Aspect of His Life

Passionate people sometimes plan their lives around the hobby they love. Skiing becomes the focal point of vacations; evenings get devoted to training for a big running race; expendable pennies are funneled into the latest and greatest backpacking gear.

But David Nestvold has taken his dedication to cycling beyond the realm of passionate hobbyists. Bicycles are an integral part of his transportation system, his social life, his physical and mental well-being, and even his philosophy on life.

As engine strategy manager at Boeing, Nestvold handles long-range planning on propulsion systems and other technologies the company might be using in 30 to 50 years. Some days, he’s on the phone with engine manufacturers in the East Coast or Europe. Other days, he’s working on engine selections for new airplanes, working with Boeing’s sales team to ensure it is delivering on campaign promises, or crafting MOUs for multidecade (and multibillion-dollar) manufacturing contracts. “Commas and their placement make a really big difference when contracts are that big,” Nestvold says.

That massive size of his projects — coupled with the equally massive consequences of getting things wrong when working on an airplane — makes for stressful work. “The need for perfection absolutely adds a level of stress,” says Nestvold. “It’s one of those things where the devil is in the details.”

That’s where cycling comes in. His daily 19-mile round trip bike commute between his Bellevue home and Boeing’s Tukwila facility helps alleviate some of that stress.

“On the ride in, I’m thinking through the plan for the day,” Nestvold says. “With endorphins and everything else kicking in, I can hit the ground running when I arrive. The ride home is my opportunity to process my day and take a deep breath. If I had a really stressful day, I can tackle all the worst hills so by the time I get home I’ve just let it go.”

Though he’s had other job offers, Nestvold has remained at Boeing for nearly 30 years, and his daily bike ride played a role in his staying put. “I arranged my career this way because quality of life is very important,” he says.

Nestvold’s love of cycling began when he was a boy in Eugene, Oregon. His father had a tradition of buying 10-speeds for his children when they entered junior high. Nestvold’s two older sisters received Schwinn Varsity models. By the time Nestvold entered junior high, the Varsity had become cost-prohibitive, so he got a Japanese-made Nishiki Sport. Nestvold rode that Nishiki everywhere: to school, to sailing practice with friends, and on multiday bike-touring adventures.

“The bicycle became my freedom,” Nestvold says. “That sense has stayed with me. It is one of those core beliefs I’ve held my whole life.”

Instead of eventually falling in love with cars as many teens do, Nestvold’s love for cycling only compounded when he entered high school. He began racing bikes and picked up summer jobs in bike shops. At one point, he considered pursuing a career as a bike shop owner, but he saw the difficult booms and busts local shop owners had to deal with. Thus, he decided to head north to the University of Washington to study aeronautical engineering. While attending the UW, he interned with Boeing and set his sights on landing a job there. “I’d interviewed with Rockville International, Lockheed, and others, but my heart was in Boeing,” Nestvold says. “I wanted to be with the best commercial airplane manufacturer in the world.”

Nestvold (center), with other members of the Northwest Ride to Cure team at the Tour de Tucson in November 2014. Photo by Adam Arlan

Nestvold (center), with other members of the Northwest Ride to Cure team at the Tour de Tucson in November 2014. Photo by Adam Arlan

While Nestvold was in college, cycling evolved into more than a passion. It became a health care regimen. In 1986, when he was 21, Nestvold was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, which can lead to organ damage, blindness, heart disease, and other complications. He approached the disease with an engineer’s mind. “Diabetes is very much self-managed,” he says. “You make a decision about how often to take insulin based on blood sugar readings. I thought, ‘I should be able to do this just fine.’”

But the disease proved far more complicated than Nestvold initially expected. “There are so many dimensions to figuring out what you have to do to stay healthy. There’s a high prevalence of depression,” he says. “It was hard.”

Nestvold discovered that cycling helped him manage both the physical and mental hurdles diabetes posed. “It’s tough to control a disease, but you can manage it. Cycling can be a very good way of dealing with it.”

In 2001, Nestvold’s love of cycling and struggle with diabetes intertwined. That year, he became involved with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. The foundation — a nonprofit focused on funding Type 1 diabetes research — was doing one of its first clinical trials of a possible cure in partnership with Virginia Mason hospital in Seattle. Nestvold got involved with the study and eventually received an islet transplant, a procedure in which insulin-producing tissue from a donor pancreas is transplanted in hopes the new islets will help regulate insulin production. The transplant failed, but during the study Nestvold learned about the diabetes foundation’s Ride to Cure Diabetes fundraiser, an annual series of rides across the U.S.

Nestvold started volunteering, coaching, and mentoring riders in 2002 and helped found the Northwest Ride to Cure team in 2003. Nestvold says the group has raised more than $1 million for diabetes research. As a coach, Nestvold helps the team train for and participate in rides in Vermont, California, South Carolina, and Arizona.

“It goes well beyond a one-day charity ride,” says Nestvold. “We train weekly throughout the year so our riders are ready for (100-mile rides) at all these events.”

The time spent training and riding builds strong bonds between team members. “We’ve built a community of support for families who are trying to deal with this disease. Bicycles have created this amazing network of friends.”

The Northwest Ride to Cure team is a social endeavor, but Nestvold still turns to riding as a way to be alone with his thoughts and to relax.

“I love the quiet back-road rides where you can just kind of meditate and just let go of everything,” he says. “It allows me to get into that rhythm where I can look around at the beauty in the Northwest, forget about the stresses of everything else and just be part of the environment. It really grounds me as a person.”

Nestvold says a man once told him to make every day a work of art. He tries to do so, and his bicycle is his paintbrush.

“Cycling has opened up so many opportunities for me: traveling, helping others, teaching, empowering, creating community,” Nestvold says. “I’ve been able to share my passion with my own children. The bicycle is food for my soul.”

The Gear

Long-distance cycling gear has three duties: keep you safe, keep you moving, and keep you fueled. Here are the requisites for a safe and productive ride:

  • Helmet
  • Bright, reflective clothing
  • Lightweight cycling jacket
  • Gloves
  • Sunglasses
  • Road shoes and pedals
  • Water bottle and cage
  • Front and rear lights
  • Portable tire pump
  • Spare tire tubes
  • Tire levers
  • Allen wrench set
  • First-aid kit
  • Cash or sack lunch
  • Nutrition bars or gel

The Service

If it’s been a while for you since the rubber met the road, consider taking your bike in for a tuneup. A basic tuneup includes tire inflation, chain lube, adjustment of shifters and brakes, and a thorough cleaning of the bike. Most repair shops will charge $50 to $200 for a tuneup depending on how long it’s been since the bicycle’s last service.

Gregg’s Cycle Inc.
105 Bellevue Way NE, Bellevue

Stay Tuned Bikes
12001 NE 12th St. #82, Bellevue

Pedal Dynamics Bike Shop
15592 NE 36th St. #200, Redmond

Gerk’s Issaquah Cycle
1875 NW Poplar Way, Issaquah

G.H.Y. Bikes
230 Main Ave. S., Renton

The Rides

The Puget Sound region is filled with amazing cycling opportunities. From quiet country roads in the Snoqualmie Valley and easy cruises along the Sammamish River Trail to leg-crushing hills and heart-pounding descents in the Issaquah Alps, there’s great riding for everyone. Here are two of Nestvold’s go-to rides in the area.

Goin’ for the Gorge
This ride takes you through the scenic Green River Gorge primarily on the smooth, flat Cedar and Green River trails. From Bellevue, head southeast on the Lake Washington Loop route. When you get to Renton, hop on the Cedar River Trail for about 11 miles before heading south on the Cedar to Green Trail toward Black Diamond. Hit the juice bar at the Black Diamond Bakery & Deli before continuing to the Green River Gorge or heading back north the way you came.

Snoqualmie Valley to Iron Horse
Did you know you can ride all the way to Snoqualmie Pass almost entirely on paved and gravel bike paths? Starting east on the Interstate 90 Trail, you can connect with the Issaquah-Preston Trail. A short ride on High Point Road takes you to the Preston-Snoqualmie Trail. After cutting through Fall City, riders can hop on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail. From there, catch the Iron Horse Trail, which leads to the top of the pass.