Bikes and Beer: A Natural Match

By Jeffrey Stern

What started as a simple, off-the-wall, one-time-only proposition has turned into a passion. A passion born in the gritty, adventure driven sport of mountain biking and washed down with what’s surely the greatest recovery meal to ever come out of a draft’s tap. And by recovery, I mean the best way to combat the lower back aches, sore buts, bashed shins and bruised elbows. Don’t be confused by the pro’s sciency mumbo jumbo, 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein recovery meal requirements. That’s just foolish and silly. We’re talking mountain bikes after all, right?

Yes, damn right. Now let’s make this a regular thing. Enter ride and pint night.

It’s even alright to call it ‘PRP’ or Pint Ride Pint, alluding to the fact that the smartest, most well-trained regulars begin the evening ride by showing up early. That’s right, starting your ride off with a pint and finishing it with one, or maybe two is encouraged. Again, all for the recovery benefits of course.

Where’s the spot?

Top of my list is Pedaler’s Fork, a restaurant, bike shop, coffee, beer (and whiskey) drinking establishment in Calabasas, California nestled against the foot of the Santa Monica Mountains, just a stone’s throw north of Los Angeles. Cycling enthusiast and co-founder of Pedaler’s Fork, Robbie Schaeffer, saw an opportunity to create a hub of activity for bike riders of all types when he and Tim Rettele opened their one of a kind, hybrid location just off Highway 101 in the Fall of 2012.

Fast forward five years and business is booming, from hosting private parties to throwing their own gravel grinder event and naturally the weekly Thursday night ride and pint. Robbie and his crew offer Tuesday morning sunrise rides and even team up with local shops like Topanga Creek Bicycles to promote their weekend rides. For Robbie and Pedaler’s Fork, it’s all about encouraging others to get out there, try something new and enjoy all the riding this northern Los Angeles county hotspot has to offer.

Nursing an injury and can’t ride? Some riders show up to see the group off and keep the recovery going until the group comes rolling back into town. With nearly 50 beers on tap and one of the biggest selections of whiskey anywhere in LA, it’s no wonder the popularity of bikes and beer have taken off in Southern California. Not only can a bike ride with beer help you numb a bad day at work, with the full-service bike shop on location, they can help bring your bike back to life.

And California isn’t the only place featuring hip bikes, brews and chews. From North Carolina (The Hub), to Idaho (Power House Pub), Oregon (Velo Cult) and everywhere in-between bike shops are finding ways to build deeper relationships with their customers that extend beyond just selling and fixing bikes.

I don’t know about you, but a fine selection of beers, grub and good times is one of the easiest ways to my heart.

Pint and Ride or die!

AllThePizzaAndAllTheBeer

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Support Slow Roll Chicago at the 6th annual BOOST Funding Night Pitch Fest

Slow Roll Chicago, an organization that uses bicycles as a vehicle for social change, is one of five finalists to potentially receive funding from Delta Emerging Leaders of the Delta Institute. The organization will be pitching the Slow Roll Chicago mobility model in front of an awesome crowd at the BOOST Live Crowdfunded Pitch Fest tomorrow, Tuesday, November 14, from 7-10pm at the Chop Shop & 1st Ward.

From Slow Roll Chicago:

We need YOUR help in order to win the BOOST award!

Please support our bicycle movement by purchasing tickets and attending the BOOST pitch fest event. All the proceeds from ticket sales will go toward funding two initiatives. With each ticket purchased, you get two votes to cast in the pitch fest competition. In other words, you get to decide who receives the funding! Free food and two beer tokens will be available. Please also share this email, encouraging your family, friends and colleagues to attend the event.

Join us tomorrow evening (Tuesday, November 14) from 7-10pm at the Chop Shop & 1st Ward and help support Slow Roll Chicago’s mission to transform lives and improve the condition of our communities, while building an equitable, diverse and inclusive bicycle culture in our City.

Purchase tickets and learn more about the BOOST Pitch Fest here:
Eventbrite
Website
Facebook

Thank you, let’s ride…

The Slow Roll Chicago Leadership Team
(Oboi, Jamal, Romina & Dan)

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Peddling through Beijing

Words and photos by Matt Moir

Pundits and politicians from all over the globe like to talk about the metaphoric rise of China. Cui, a 51-year-old bicycle repairman, has had a front row seat.

On a hot, humid June afternoon, Cui is sitting on a toolbox under an oversized beach umbrella. Tools are spread across his section of sidewalk near a busy intersection. Cui is the proprietor of a sidewalk bicycle shop in southwest Beijing.

“The area has changed so much. Business is,” he pauses, “OK. Before I came to Beijing I was a farmer in Henan, but I didn’t make a lot of money. It was seasonal work and it wasn’t consistent.”

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In a typical day, Cui helps seven or eight customers. He charges 20 yuan (about $3) for a tune-up, and earns about 20,000 yuan per year. It isn’t a lot of money—only about $3,000—but it’s enough, for now, to support himself, his wife and two children.

But can businesses like Cui’s survive in modern China? Beijing and other large cities across the country are rapidly modernizing, and more Chinese are embracing a North American-style car culture. The reality is that Cui’s enterprise and other makeshift bicycle repair shops face an increasingly tenuous future.

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China was one of the 20th century’s great cycling societies. During the 1950s, a bicycle—along with a watch, a radio and a sewing machine—was considered one of the “Four Big Things” for young families to own. As recently as 1986, 63 percent of the population used bikes as their primary mode of transportation, according to the Beijing Transport Research Center.

Today, China has the world’s second largest economy and a middle class more than 100 million strong. Beijing and its car-clogged streets are now home to the most billionaires (100) in the world, and even a cursory tour of the city reveals an obsession with luxury goods.

Bicycles don’t really fit into this materialist landscape. Research indicates that less than 14 percent of Beijingers in 2013 used bikes as their primary mode of transportation. In fact, the attitude of some newly wealthy young people toward bikes might be best encapsulated by the now-famous quip —“I’d rather cry in a BMW than smile on a bicycle”—uttered in 2010 by a young woman on a television dating program.

It’s in this difficult climate that entrepreneurs like Li attempt to eke out a living.

Li operates a sidewalk bicycle shop beside a looming, four-story high school in south Beijing.

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The 40-year-old native of Hunan province used to manage a traditional bike shop in a different part of town, but the government bulldozed the plaza in which the store was located to make space for development. Because Li is a migrant from a different province, he was not offered any compensation by the Beijing government when he lost his job.

He was, however, given the opportunity to choose a location for his own business. He chose a stretch of sidewalk outside the school because he thought students would ride their bikes to school everyday. He didn’t realize that most of the students lived in an on-campus dorm.

Li says he usually works 13-hour days “rain, shine or snow,” and that he “doesn’t mind” breathing Beijing’s notoriously poor air, day after day.

Customers, however, are becoming increasingly scarce.

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“Business is not good. There are more cars and taxis and people don’t ride bikes as much as they used to. And the government doesn’t subsidize my business,” says Li, who also has a wife and two children to support. Beijing’s obsession with modernization has pushed sidewalk and street vendors from the city center to the city’s periphery. There is a sense among locals that these small businesses, whether bicycle shops or food stalls, don’t fit with the image city and federal officials want to project for China’s capital, but some experts see vitality in sidewalk entrepreneurialism.

Zhixi Zhuang is a professor of urban planning at Toronto’s Ryerson University. She considers a thriving street vendor scene as an opportunity to build a sense of community in China’s increasingly dour urban centers but questions whether city planners see things the same way:

“They are surviving right now, but when it comes to the future for those street vendors or small retailers, it goes back to that big question: How do governments see the value of public space? Do they want everything very tidy, very bland … only a symbol of the administrative power or government authority? Or do they want to see people there and enjoying themselves?”

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On a sweltering afternoon in late June, Cui tinkers away on the brakes of bicycle that looks like it saw its best days a generation ago.

While he works, he answers questions about the future of his industry and his country. Asked if he thinks working sidewalk bike shops will exist a decade or two in the future, Cui simply shrugs.

“This type of work can’t last forever,” he pauses, “but in China, anything is possible.”

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