A Story of Wanting Less: Nick Pedatella, His Lifelong Car, and Commuter Bike

Nick Pedatella is an ultrarunner and scientist who says an older sedan and commuter bike get him everywhere he wants to go.

By on January 26, 2022 | Comments

In an age where it seems like everyone is buying a bigger, newer, more kitted-out vehicle to get to and from their adventures, it’s refreshing to see that ultrarunner and scientist Nick Pedatella is using a 28-year-old car and a commuter bike to get out further and do more than the vast majority of us.

Nick’s 1994 Toyota Camry has been with him longer than he has been in the sport, and for someone who has been racing ultramarathons for almost 15 years, that’s saying something! Known for his success at mountain 100-mile races and most recently for his 2021 capture of the men’s supported fastest known time on the Colorado Trail via the Collegiate West route traveling west to east, the Camry has been with Nick through it all.

“It’s the only car I’ve ever owned, and I’ve had it for 20 years. Surprisingly, it doesn’t have that many miles on it, only 205,000, and I really regret not knowing how many were on it when I bought it,” said Nick.

Nick Pedatella Toyota Camry - trailhead vehicles

Nick’s 1994 Toyota Camry looking right at home at a trailhead. Photo: Nick Pedatella

A big reason Nick hasn’t put that many miles on his car is that he doesn’t drive that much. Living in Boulder, Colorado, and working for the National Center for Atmospheric Research there, Nick usually bikes to wherever he needs to get in town. He mostly runs and occasionally bikes — more on that in a moment — to the trailheads that are right in his Boulder backyard. From September through May each year, Nick estimates he drives maybe once or twice a month and, if then, it’s usually just to get into the mountains.

Nick grew up in State College, Pennsylvania, home of Penn State University and many trails for hiking and biking in the nearby Rothrock and Bald Eagle State Forests. While he didn’t run in high school or college, he did mountain bike, an interest that came in handy when he decided to head to Boulder for graduate school in 2007. By that time, the 1994 Camry had already been with Nick for seven years.

His bike, on the other hand, is almost brand new. Nick bought a Surly Bridge Club touring bike after a previous bike was stolen last year. He estimates he puts 1,500 to 2,000 miles on his bike annually, getting around town for errands and to the occasional trailhead.

Nick Pedatella Surly Bike - trailhead vehicles

Nick’s Surly Bridge Club bike. Photo: Nick Pedatella

“You know, I’m not really attached to my car,” said Nick, when asked if the car has a name — it does not. “It’s just a thing to get me from here to there, and it just keeps surviving. Toyotas are known for their long lives, they don’t seem to die very easily.”

The nearly three-decade-old vehicle was originally maroon in color, but years in the salt and sun have given the paint-damaged veneer a bit of a tie-dye look. But what it lacks in beauty, it makes up for in reliability. When asked why he’s never replaced it, Nick said he’s just never felt the need.

“If you have something that works, why replace it? There’s no reason to get rid of anything you have if it works. That’s an environmental problem more than anything [with people replacing things so often], you don’t always need something newer,” he said.

“I’ve really not put much repair into it other than the basic things, so I might as well just keep it going. It can get me to 90% of the places I want to go. You can drive to most trailheads in this car, as long as you’re careful.”

That includes trailheads throughout Colorado for what Nick likes to call his “long walks,” including his successful 2021 completion of the Colorado Trail, and his 2016 and 2017 successful bids on the Nolan’s 14 route, which he attempted, coincidentally, on the same days as iRunFar’s own Meghan Hicks. In the event that Nick wants to get to nearby Indian Peaks Wilderness or Rocky Mountain National Park, a bit out of reach of his bike, he has no problem asking for a ride.

So, what’s up next for Nick, his unnamed Camry, and his faithful bike? Well, he said he needs a little bit of a break after last year’s week-long, 500-mile jaunt through Colorado as well as his seventh-place overall finish at the 2021 Hardrock 100, but he is signed up for the Chukanut 50k and the Massanutten Mountain 100 Mile this year. And we all know his trailhead vehicles will be accompanying his preparations for them!

Call for Comments

  • Who else out there has a long-term relationship with a vehicle? Share your story in the comments!
  • Have you ever seen Nick, the Toyota Camry, or his bike out around Colorado?

Nick Pedatella and Meghan Hicks at the Fish Hatchery Trailhead in Colorado post-Nolan’s 14 success in 2016. Photo: Vince Heyd

Alex Potter
Alex Potter is a contributor and former editor at iRunFar. Following a nearly decade-long hiatus from running after college, she has found a new love in trail running. As a photojournalist, Alex has reported throughout the Middle East and East Africa for publications like 'National Geographic,' 'The New York Times,' and 'The Washington Post.'