Photographs by Leyna Krow
Riding High: kate! takes her freak bike out for a spin.
The Top 10 Things to Do With a Bike in Santa Cruz
With our wealth of trailer park 'freak bikes,' world-class mud and bike crusaders of all stripes, is it any wonder we have it all over Huntington Beach when it comes to being Bike City USA?
By Leyna Krow
Spring has come to Santa Cruz. We know it by the usual signs--the birth of baby animals, the shedding of hiking boots for Birkenstocks, and the sight of cyclists, young and old, zipping along our fair streets. Just look at them with their tight, black shorts, muscular calves and pollution-free mode of transit. You watch from the safety of your Toyota hybrid, yearning silently to join their ranks. But what's that you say? You don't have the right equipment? You're afraid you won't fit in? You once had a bad experience with clip-in pedals? Perhaps a list of fun and useful bike resources in your very own city would help motivate you to get out there.
From tuneups at the Bike Church and training rides with local cycling clubs to late-night cookie-runs and same-day package delivery, there are plenty of exciting activities (10, to be exact) for you and your bike to share this season.
"Here's a common scenario," offers volunteer mechanic Troy Allman. "You have a bike that's been sitting out for a while and you want to fix it up, but you don't know how. So you come here. We'll show you what tools you need and teach you what you need to know to get started. Then we'll step back and let you do it on your own."
There are a lot of places you can go to get your bike fixed, but very few where you can go to learn how to fix your bike yourself. Fortunately for Santa Cruz, there's the Bike Church.
More than just a house of worship to the gods of Allen wrenches and chain grease, the Bike Church is a down-to-earth cooperative with an emphasis on education.
"That's our biggest goal: teaching people how to be self-sufficient with their bikes," Allman says.
Members of the Bike Church are entitled to full use of the shop space and tools as well as assistance from Bike Church mechanics. For nonmembers, an hour of work/instruction will run you $5. This rate is negotiable however. Those who can't afford the whole fiver can pay for their time by helping out around the church.
"All kinds of people come in here, high school kids, professors, even a number of homeless people. For them this is the only place they can go to keep their bikes running," says Allman.
The Bike Church relies on an all-volunteer staff of mechanics. Becoming a Bike Church mechanic is as easy as showing up and expressing an interest in helping out. New volunteers are always welcome.
The Bike Church is located at 703 Pacific Ave. Suite B, Santa Cruz, and is open Monday-Saturday 3-7pm.
Stack Two (or Three) on Top of Each Other to Make a Ridiculously Tall Bike
Doing their part to keep Santa Cruz weird, students living at the UCSC trailer park have undertaken a project in functional art. Freak bikes, as they are called, are created by welding the frames of dilapidated bikes together to form a kind of Frankenstein monster of 10-speeds.
The most popular (and most visible) model of freak bike is the tall bike. It's made by welding one frame directly on top of another, with the chain running vertically from what is normally the front gear mechanism to the back gear mechanism. For most tall bikes, brakes are done away with entirely. Riders bring these contraptions to a stop by stepping down on the back wheel.
"It takes a little while to figure out; then, it's just like riding a normal bike. Mostly you just have to have confidence in yourself," says kate!, an environmental studies major at UCSC and freak bike engineer.
Tall bikes are not native to Santa Cruz. They were invented in Chicago in the late 1800s by lamplighters who used them as a way to light gas street lamps without having to climb up and down each of the poles. Tall bikes, which quickly led to other freak bike variations, have seen a resurgence of popularity in the last few years. If the motivation for this resurgence is not already obvious, it should be.
"Sometimes it's just really fun to be ridiculous," says freak biker Toby Wingo.
"The part that I really enjoy is how it makes people think about bikes," says kate!. "I hope it makes them want to build their own instead of just staring at me as I ride by."
Wingo and kate! plan to hold a workshop titled Freakbikes 101 at the Bike Church on April 23 and May 7 where they will give a presentation about the history of freak bikes as well as a seminar on basic welding and construction techniques.
Time and time again, studies have shown that people who bike to work everyday are happier, more energetic and better looking.
According to Piet Canin, the program director for Bike to Work, 8 percent of Santa Cruzans ride their bikes to work each day.
"You don't have to spend money using up gas or paying for parking," says Canin. "It's also a good way to get a little exercise in the morning and get to work a bit more rested. Biking also helps take some of the tension out of your day."
The Bike to Work program provides resources and education for commuters who ride a bike to work or school. Bike to Work's Electric Bike Program offers subsidies to commuters who wish to purchase E-Bikes and the Bike Buddy service links experienced cyclists with newcomers to help first-time commuters learn the ropes.
"If you're a novice cyclist, we can help you out with what to wear, what to do when it rains, that sort of thing," Canin says.
Twice a year, the organization sponsors national Bike to Work weeks, with hearty encouragement and free breakfasts for cyclists. While some may see this simply as a chance to get a free muffin and a glass of orange juice, it is Canin's hope that a few first-time cyclists, lured by the temptation of free food and a pat on the back, will see just how nice it is to bike instead of drive.
The next Bike to Work week will take place May 14-20. For more information about other Bike to Work services, check out www.bike2work.com.
The idea behind Pedaler's Express (PedX) is simple--think UPS, only instead of brown shorts and big trucks think Lycra jerseys and bike trailers. Their motto: Delivery solutions without pollution.
Riders for PedX offer a same-day delivery and will deliver packages, letters, legal documents, etc., to downtown within 30 minutes and to the city limits within an hour. Deliveries can also be made to Capitola, Scotts Valley, Watsonville and even as far away as New York. For a delivery to the Big Apple, the PedX website lists the cost at $3,772. According to co-owner Rick Graves, no one has ever requested this service. "But we're ready to if they do," says Graves.
PedX is a worker-run cooperative with five co-owners making deliveries and working in the office. All decisions are made by consensus.
"When you hire PedX, it's one of the owners who is doing the delivery, so you know you're getting the best service," says Graves.
PedX bikes are equipped with saddlebags and bike trailers and are capable of delivering up to 500 pounds.
For pick up and delivery, call 831.425.2453.
You've probably seen them cruising around the Boardwalk and the Wharf in the tourist-packed days of summer. Half-bike, half-rickshaw, pedicabs are Santa Cruz's eco-friendly answer to the taxi.
The Santa Cruz Pedicab Co. has been in business for two summers and has quickly become a favorite attraction among Boardwalk visitors.
According to Santa Cruz Pedicab owner Rush Bolender, "It really is a tourist attraction. Pedicabs are an extension of the Boardwalk. It's another ride to go on."
There are no employees at Santa Cruz Pedicab Co. Rather, drivers rent the cabs for a flat hourly rate, and then keep any money they make beyond the initial rental cost.
According to Pedicab driver, Patrick Lynch, it is up to the drivers how much they charge per ride.
"From the Boardwalk to the end of the Wharf, I charge $5. To downtown it's $10, because it's a haul. I give bums rides for free occasionally," says Lynch. "If you see some swanky rich people come up, you can milk them for more, especially if they're drunk."
The majority of Santa Cruz Pedicab's drivers are students who rent the cabs a few times a week for a part-time summer job.
"It's not exactly career-building material, but it's a great summer gig," says Lynch. "You're outside riding along the beach out in the sun. It doesn't get much better than that."
Lonely? Grab a helmet and some form-fitting padded shorts and you'll feel like the most popular kid at recess because the cycling clubs of Santa Cruz are just itching to have you as a member.
For those inclined toward fat tires and mud stains, there is Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz (MBOSC), which offers weekly rides through Wilder Ranch geared towards intermediate cyclists.
"It's basically just a bunch of friends riding, and we're always willing to meet new people," says MBOSC president Mark Davidson.
MBOSC holds monthly meetings at Seabright Brewery to discuss upcoming rides and trail maintenance projects.
If road biking is your game, then the Santa Cruz Cycling Club (SCCC) is for you. Furthering the cause of group bike riding since 1971, the SCCC offers workshops, seminars, twice-weekly rides and volunteer opportunities for its participants.
Boasting almost 200 members, the SCCC is a great way to meet new cycling pals. "You go to one of these group rides, meet people and then make plans to ride with them again," says SCCC president Richard Bedal.
SCCC rides are ranked for cyclists of all levels, with rides designed for beginning and intermediate riders as well as experts. The emphasis is on fun and safety rather than speed.
"Sometimes you'll see people in groups going real fast. That's not us," says Bedal. "We usually go at a more leisurely pace."
For the serious women cyclists among you, consider Velo Bella. The pelotons of Velo Bella are easily identifiable by their brightly colored team jerseys.
"They're bright blue and they have a picture of a woman riding a bike with a kitty in the front basket," says Jennifer White, a Velo Bella team member. "I think some people join just to get the jerseys."
Velo Bella offers a number of weekly race-paced training rides throughout Santa Cruz and the Monterey Bay while also fielding a large team of racers who compete in road races, mountain biking and cyclocross.
For more information: MBOSC: www.mbosc.org; SCCC: www.santacruzcycling.org; Velo Bella: www.velobella.org.
Don't Get It Stolen
Last year, over 200 bicycles were stolen in the city of Santa Cruz, according to the Santa Cruz Police Department.
Jonathan Kirsten, a Health Sciences student at UCSC, had his bike stolen in February when he left it in front of the Cardiff Street 7-Eleven overnight. The silver mountain bike adorned with streamers, a squeaky horn and a plastic "Billy" license plate was Kirsten's primary mode of transportation.
"It was locked up, but with a cable lock, which, as I now know, can be cut really easily. Get a U lock. That's the moral of the story," advises Kirsten.
However, Micah Posner of Santa Cruz bike advocacy group People Power argues that it doesn't matter what type of lock is used, provided that the bike is locked in a location that is public and well trafficked.
"The lock isn't as important as the location. If someone walks up with lock cutters but it's in a public place with a lot of people around, they aren't going to steal it," says Posner.
Other tips for protecting your bike from abduction or molestation include locking both the frame and the front tire to the bike rack and either securing or removing accessories such as lights and panniers. Know your bike's serial number and register it with the police department, so police will know the bike is yours if it's stolen and recovered. Posner also suggests decorating your bike with numerous People Power stickers to make it more recognizable, but this may just be shameless self-promotion.
No Littering: Even criminals can do their part to help keep our streets clean by stealing the entire bike, not just the frame.
Drag It Through the Mud
As if mountain biking and trail running weren't hard-core enough on their own, ambitious cyclists have combined these two sports to create one high-energy hybrid known as cyclocross.
"Cyclocross is the very early evolution of mountain biking created by people who wanted to ride their road bikes in the winter," says Kimberly White, a cyclocross enthusiast who rides with both the UCSC cycling team and Velo Bella. "So it's basically mountain biking with a road bike."
A typical cyclocross course involves a dirt track, obstacles and mud. Competitors ride slightly modified road bikes around the track, dismounting each time they reach an obstacle (which may include hurdles, dirt mounds or fallen logs), then pick up their bikes and carry them over said obstacle. Competitions usually take place in late fall and early winter.
Originally a product of France, cyclocross made its way to the United States in the 1970s and quickly gained popularity with the plethora of outdoor enthusiasts in bike-happy Santa Cruz.
Each fall, Santa Cruz hosts the Surf City Cyclocross Series. This series, which celebrated its 30th year in 2005, is one of the longest-running cyclocross competitions in the country. Held each year at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds and local area high schools, the Surf City Series draws cyclocrossers from around to country who want to compete in Santa Cruz's world-class mud.
Stay Out Late
If you stick around after the movie at the Guerrilla Drive-in, you can go for a bike ride. But not just any old bike ride--it's the Midnight Mystery Ride.
The mystery ride, which emphasizes safe cycling at night, begins at the Bike Church and goes through back streets of Santa Cruz to a surprise location.
According to Midnight Mystery Ride co-organizer Jeffery Lester, "Only the leader knows where we're going and that rotates each time, so every ride is different."
The ride generally concludes with a stop at someone's house for hot drinks and cookies.
The idea for the mystery ride came originally from Portland, Oregon's annual Pedalpalooza, a festival for bike enthusiasts that features a variety of wacky rides such as the Crazy Shorts Ride, the High Fashion Prom Ride and the Top Ten Taco Tasting Ride.
Lester plans to return to Pedalpalooza this year and hopes to inspire new wacky rides in Santa Cruz in the near future. Look for a Santa Cruz World Naked Ride sometime this spring.
It's no accident that Santa Cruz is a bike-friendly town. The plethora of bike lanes, paths and well-groomed trails is the result of years of work on the part of local bike advocates. Most prominent among these bike crusaders is People Power, an advocacy group with a 20-year history of making Santa Cruz safe for self-powered transit.
"People are naive to think that the infrastructure will form itself, because that's simply not the case," says People Power's Micah Poser. "If you want to ride your bike, you have to advocate for it."
People Power is responsible for bike lanes on Beach Street, bike racks on Metro buses and the preservation of the path through the Great Meadow at UCSC, just to name a few of their victories. Currently, they are working to build a "Rail Trail" along the rail line connecting Felton, Davenport and Watsonville.
The creation and maintenance of local trails is also of particular interest to Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz, which has been working for the last 10 years to get access to more trails in Wilder Ranch State Park. Members from MBOSC also volunteer their time to maintain existing trails in Wilder Ranch and in the UCSC Natural Reserve.
"We like nice trails and we want to be able to work on them and make sure they are environmentally sustainable," says MBOSC president Mark Davidson. "Most of the trail work done in this county is by volunteer labor from mountain bikers."
When it comes to the power of cyclists out on the roads, nothing shows the strength of local convictions like Critical Mass. The last Friday of every month cyclists converge at the Clock Tower and then ride en masse through the streets to show the power of bikes in numbers. A kind of Take Back the Night for bikes, critical mass can at times be a traffic-halting affair, although according to Posner, "It's not that we are blocking the traffic, it's that we are the traffic." The ultimate goal of Critical Mass is to make sure that motorists are cognizant of bikes, both on roads with bike lanes and on those without.
According to Posner, those who really love biking in Santa Cruz ought to dedicate themselves to some manner of bike advocacy, whether it's maintaining trails, fighting for lower speed limits or convincing motorists to share the road.
"Bicycling is a way of life and it needs to happen with community and with intention, otherwise it won't happen at all."
To learn more about People Power call 831.425.0665 or visit www.peoplepower sc.org. Critical Mass participants meet at the Clock Tower at 5pm the first Friday of every month.
Grease Monkey: Bike Church mechanics will change your oil and rotate your tires every 3000 miles.
A selection of bike businesses in the Santa Cruz area
Amsterdam Bicycles and Coffee Shop Sales and rentals. 2-1231 E. Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz 831.475.1394
Another Bike Shop Service for all types of bikes. 2361 Mission St, Santa Cruz 831.427.2232
Aptos Bike Trail Rentals and sales, one year free service with new bike. 7556 Soquel Drive, Aptos 831.688.8650
Armadillo Cyclery New and used bikes and parts, servicing, electric bikes and batteries, wheel building, tours and rentals. 1211 Mission St, Santa Cruz 831.426.7299
The Bicycle Trip Bike sales, accessories. 1127 Soquel Ave, Santa Cruz 831.427.2580
The Bike Church Community bike shop and tool cooperative. 224 Walnut Ave, Santa Cruz 831.425.2453
The Bike Co-Op Full service, not-for-profit bike shop. 1156 High St, Santa Cruz 831.457.8281
Bike Fix Mobile repairs. Santa Cruz 831.212.8277
The Bike Station Bicycle fitting specialists. 8061 Aptos St, Aptos 831.688.4169
Bill's Bike Repair Repairs and rentals. 2628 Soquel Drive, Aptos 477.0511
Calfee Design Frame manufacturing. 831.466.9041
Cycle Works 1203 41st Ave, Capitola 831.476.7092
CycleAware Bike Station Bicycles and frames. 831.685.1115 www.bikestation.cycleaware.com
Dave's Custom Bikes Buy, sell and repair new and used bicycles. 910 Soquel Ave, Santa Cruz 831.423.8923
Easy Racers, Inc. Bike design and manufacturing. 200 Airport Blvd, Freedom 831.722.9797; 831.768.9468
Electric Bike Rentals Electric bicycle rentals. 115 Cliff St, Santa Cruz 831.459.7235
Electric Sierra Cycles Sales and rentals, electric bikes and scooters, mountain bikes, beach cruisers. 302 Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz 831.423.1593 1916 Freedom Blvd, Watsonville 831.722.1233
Family Cycling Center Rentals, tune-ups, complete overhauls, wheel rebuilding, full line of parts and accessories, clothing and shoes. 914 41st Ave, Santa Cruz 831.475.3883
Hunter Cycles Frame manufacturing. 111 Lee Road, Watsonville 831.761.3528 www.huntercycles.com
Mr. E's Cyclery Bikes, parts and accessories. 8059 Aptos St, Aptos 831.662.2973
Recycled Bikes of Santa Cruz 2420 Seventh Ave, Santa Cruz 831.465.9955
Rock Lobster Cycles Wholesale and manufacturing. 831.429.1356
The Santa Cruz Bicycle Shop New and used bicycles, parts and accessories. 1325 Mission St, Santa Cruz 831.454.0909
Santa Cruz Mountain Bikes Bicycle sales, clothing and accessories. 104 Bronson St, Santa Cruz 831.459.7560
Scotts Valley Cyclesport Bike sales and repairs. 245 Mt. Hermon Road, Scotts Valley 831.440.9070
Spokesman Bicycle LLC Full service bike shop. 231 Cathcart St, Santa Cruz 831.423.5683
Sprockets Comprehensive bike shop. 1420 Mission St, Santa Cruz 831.426.7623
Trey's True Wheel Sales, service, accessories, tune-ups, overnight repairs. 1431 Main St, Watsonville 831.786.0200
WalkLock Bike Post 831.426.9255
What Happened Custom Bikes 323 Rigg St, Santa Cruz 831.458.2453
Wylder Inc. Bike products for women. 104 Bronson St, Santa Cruz 831.420.1117
Zzip Designs Bicycle manufacturing. 831.425.8650 www.zzipper.com
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