Dust off your bike, you might fall in love

Bikes are poised to have a big year ahead. Last month, our own Kirsten Liske offered a look at 2021 and how Ecology Action is thinking about moving out of a year that presented intense challenges and massive disruptions to our lives and into a year of possibility and hope. The incredible bike boom that we saw take off in spring last year, which resulted in many saying that “bikes are the new toilet paper,” has by most measurements, continued through winter. Wait times are still long for some new bikes, bike repairs are even backing up with some parts back-ordered, and used bike sales are through the roof.

I’m interested in riding more, but where do I start? Let’s talk!

It’s 2021 now, and we are looking at how we can break the sometimes-intimidating proposition of riding a bike more into smaller, more approachable steps. Given current estimates on vaccines and virus transmission, we think that by fall of this year most people will be back to some version of commuting to work. This means we have between now and then to get into gear and prepare for that commute. The task right now? Dust off your bike or work to get ahold of one.

If you are reading this thinking, “I’m ready to try to it out or get started again,” or you know someone who is feeling ready to get back on a bike, here is a quick update on what the current bikescape is for Santa Cruz County.

Getting ahold of a bicycle might be a little tough right now as it appears that everyone and their extended family also wants one. Bike shops around the county do have bikes in stock and are working hard to get ahold of more bikes for folks, but you might find some gaps in inventory. Repairs and tune-ups for used bikes are booming since new bike supply is limited, but some bike parts are difficult to get ahold of (do you know anyone with extra 26” inner tubes?). Fortunately, our community hubs The Bike Church in Santa Cruz and the Watsonville Bike Shack can help get you on a complete used bike or repair/build a used one from parts. The local used bike market is still going strong, but selection might be getting thin. If you are an essential worker, our friends over at Bike Santa Cruz County are still matching folks in need with bikes through the Bike Match initiative.

OK, now that we’ve handled some logistics around dusting off or getting a bike, let’s talk about what you might encounter when you swing that leg over and shove off into the world on two (or three) wheels.

Warning: The following contains graphic descriptions of joy and fun and may lead to feelings of nostalgia and/or inspiration.

We asked our friends from around the county why they love to ride, and we wanted to share their responses with you. The following is a crowdsourced love letter to bikes from educators, transportation planners, community leaders, artists, librarians, nonprofit professionals, and local government employees. Our hope is these experiences from our own neighbors can help illuminate the myriad ways incorporating biking might just make your life, well, better.

Tiffany W.

I ride because I love to be outdoors breathing fresh air and staying out of traffic congestion! In the past, my primary kind of biking was commuting, but now during COVID, it is longer rides for pleasure and exercise. I have been riding my whole life since the age of 4, but the type of bike and style of ride has changed over the years—from a purple banana seat starter with training wheels back in the early 70s to now being ready for my second-generation e-bike!

Gina C.

I loved riding bikes as a kid. We even had a neighborhood kid Bike and Paper Airplane Club. I started riding seriously on a green hand-me-down Peugeot touring bike when I was about 18. I rode everything and everywhere for 10 years—until kids came along. I rode and raced BMX for about 10 years when my kids were small. And then I got back on a road bike about 5 years ago. I am predominantly a roadie, but I’m digging gravel rides too (drop bars are my thing). I love to ride because, as I realized today on an early morning ride, I am at my absolute happiest when I am on my bike.

Claire G.

I love to ride because I get everywhere happier. Lately, I ride because we just taught my stepson to ride a two-wheeler, and he is full of bike stoke and joy. I mostly ride for utility and recreation. Most days, I hop on my bike to get outside, relax, and make my short trips around town. I’m certainly not a hard-core rider! I’ve ridden for the past ten years.

Karen G.

I love to ride because it makes me conscious of joy moving through my body and mind and into the world. Mostly, I ride to places around town or to work. My true bike love is touring, which I hope to resume soon. I didn’t learn to ride until I was 7 or 8, so I’ve only been riding for about 55 years. Sadly, there were no balance bikes back then; otherwise, I’d probably have another 5 years to my name.

Gabe R.

I love to ride because it just makes good sense from a health and fitness perspective as well as an environment and expense perspective because parking downtown is crazy expensive! I mostly ride for work commuting, but I also incorporate cycle classes and some leisure riding. In our current social distancing world, it just feels better leisure riding rather than leisure walking. I’ve been riding on and off for 20 years. I am really looking forward to warmer weather and the time change!

Shauna S.

I love to ride because it feels like freedom. I can get around town easily, run errands, and get a good workout—all with pedal power! In the past, I mostly used my bike to commute to and from work, but nowadays, with the stay-at-home and work-from-home infrastructure, I find myself doing more pleasure and exercise rides and using my bike to grocery shop at local stores. I’ve been cycling regularly since elementary school, all the way through college, and beyond! I think that one of the best things about cycling is that you’re “present” in the world a lot more than in a closed-in vehicle, and you end up seeing details in the world around you a lot more clearly. There are also the myriad health benefits and the fact that you are free from the demands of filling up the gas tank. Of course, filling up the human body’s “energy tank” and staying hydrated is important, so a protein-filled snack and a canteen of water are essential to bring along for a ride!

Everett O.

I love riding my bike because it helps me reconnect with myself and my body while also providing insight into how I connect with the land and the world around me. It makes me feel both brave and vulnerable. And I appreciate the way cycling helps me connect the dots between people, places, and ideas. The riding I do the most is long distance gravel rides and bike overnights. It feels like forever when I go to type it out, but I’ve been riding bikes in some form or another for about 30 years now.

Leonardo C.

I love to ride my bike because, by design, it forces me to put my phone away and be more present and attentive to my surroundings, and it is one of the few COVID-safe activities to do with humans. I mostly do sunrise or sunset rides and burrito/grocery rides. I’ve been riding since I moved to Santa Cruz in 2006 and noticed that the buses were too expensive and didn’t run often enough.

Marisa G.

Riding bikes started as a way for me to avoid traffic and make a nice outing out of an errand, but the more you ride, the more you love to ride. My bike rides help me clear my head, explore nature, spend time with people I love, and get in a good sweat! I used to be an around-towner (commuting to work, biking to a brewery), but now I spend much more time on long bike rides exploring our area (and #hammering, obviously). I also still grocery shop by bike and commute by bike on the rare occasion that I am not working from home. I have ridden bikes on and off since I was a kid, but riding became more of a lifestyle for me two years ago when I moved back to downtown Santa Cruz after having lived for a few years in the Aptos hills. Participating in Bike Month two years ago was also a huge push towards riding more frequently!

Susan T.

I love to ride my bike because I’d be insane if I didn’t! Seriously, nothing makes me feel better. I have never regretted getting out there, and it’s always the happiest way home. The kind of riding I do most is a tie between errands and sunset trips on my cruiser bike, long rides on my gravel bike, and tons of time at Wilder Ranch on my mountain bike. I got a banana seat with a sweet basket for my 7th birthday, but I have never ridden more than I did in 2020.


So, go dust off that bike or get your hands on one and get out there. We’ll see you in the bike lane.