Tales on Two Wheels: cycling podcasts
Words and photos: Adam Newman
When Brock Dittus and Aaron Flores started cycling together, they certainly had no plans to start a podcast. Now 300 episodes later, the Sprocket Podcast “simplifies the good life” with its lighthearted take on microwaves, fertility, and of course, bicycles. The show isn’t an interview with guests, it’s a conversation with a theme centered—often quite loosely—around a single topic, and it’s not always about bikes. Because they are so good at keeping listeners engaged, I thought I’d let them tell you about it in their own words. What follows is an edited excerpt from my chat with them at The BeerMongers taproom and bottle shop in Portland, Oregon.
BROCK: We were on XRAY for awhile—broadcast radio— and I don’t know if it was a joke or it was serious but the guy in charge was booking us as “The Bike Show” or something and he was like, “Well, as long as you don’t do a kombucha episode…” And I had been seriously thinking about reaching out to Brew Doctor or someone and doing a kombucha show.
AARON: He wanted to keep us in that niche.
BROCK: That was one of the reasons radio didn’t work out for us. They want a certain niche at a certain time.
AARON: There was just so much work we had to put into each episode to make it a radio show. This sounds kind of cynical, but we were putting a lot of work into it and weren’t seeing a whole lot in return.
BROCK: We talk a lot about bikes. The show is 90 percent of bikes. But we also wanted to feel the freedom to talk about whatever we wanted to talk about. Like talking about transit. Mobility is a big thing so like bikes and other ways of getting around simply. When I started the show and listed it in iTunes, I chose “Philosophy” as the listing to put it under.
BROCK: I started commuting, trying to replace my car with a bike, in about ‘05 or ‘06. But before that, it was just kind of fun rides. I wanted to go see places, whatever. It was fun, it was cheap.
AARON: I grew up in Michigan so I got into cars because that’s what you do when you grow up in a farm town in Michigan. And [bikes] never really seemed like a thing for me. It wasn’t until I started hanging out with you guys that the idea of a bike is more than something you do for sport, as an adult that is.
BROCK: Or even that it was sort of cool in some way…
AARON: Right! Yeah, it was like this both elite and accessible sense of coolness.
BROCK: I wanted to prove that you could do it in like, Dickies shorts and not just super fancy clothes.
AARON: Yeah, that was part of the draw for me.
BROCK: “I’ve got these used polyester pants, and I ride a bike.”
AARON: You had this sort of social cachet, but all I had to do was get on two wheels.
BROCK: It’s like transportation straight edge: “Look at me—I don’t need anything! I don’t need anybody!”
BROCK: I’d been musical earlier in life and had a band and had all these creative pursuits back in the day. I’d gotten into a stage in life where I was not really doing much and [my roommate] was like, “You know, all you’re doing these days is listening to podcasts, so maybe you should make one. You know, more output and less input.” And I said all right. So the band I was in, we had a sound system that one of the guys’ dads had purchased and it was just kind of sitting around and got used like twice a year by people having events and stuff. So I just said, “Hey, can I borrow those mics?” And they said sure. So I started out with three good mics and a couple of really shitty RadioShack ones, just the worst stuff you could find. The first couple of podcasts were recorded with just whatever I had laying around. The first show I think we literally duct-taped microphones to the furniture and hung out next to them.
AARON: The first few episodes were just kind of all over. I remember you interviewed a friend of ours because he cooks without a microwave.
BROCK: Right. He was like, “Microwaves give you cancer” or something. That was like episode five or 10, I’m trying to remember.
AARON: One of my favorite ones from the early days to go back and listen to is the … I don’t know how to title it exactly…
BROCK: Are you talking about the Fertility Awareness episode?
AARON: Yeah! The Fertility Awareness episode.
BROCK: Doin’ it without getting pregnant.
AARON: Without going through too much latex.
BROCK: I will say, when it comes to favorite interviews, I think comfort and chemistry have a lot to do with how an interview goes. So, I think some of my favorite episodes haven’t been the quote “famous” people we’ve talked to. I think my favorite episodes have been the ones that are people we just hang out with in regular life.
AARON: There’s a bunch that I just don’t remember because I spent all the time laughing. I remember coming home a couple of times and being asked, “Oh how was the interview?” “Oh, it was great—we laughed a lot.” “Oh yeah, what was said?” And I was like, “I don’t know…”
BROCK: There are a couple of meta-genres of podcasts. There are the ones that are NPR style that is story-driven and super produced and those are great. There are some shows, like The Rick Emerson Show, where they talk about a hundred amazing, funny, fascinating niche interests, but the reason you stayed is that you like the banter, you like the personalities on air. And when I started the show, I was like, “Well, we’re going to talk to cool people, we’re going to talk about interesting concepts, but what I’m hoping people come back for is that they want to hang out with us.” We’re not a story-driven show, we’re a personality-driven show.
6 More Cycling Podcasts Worth Subscribing To
THE KBOO BIKE SHOW: A monthly chat with notable guests about cycling and transportation from Portland, Oregon.
THE BIKE SHOW: A weekly radio show from the U.K. that has been on the air for more than a decade, covering everything from e-bikes to the Tour de France.
THE HONEST BICYCLE PROGRAM: A pull-no-punches roundtable that reaches into every corner of the cycling universe.
THE BICYCLE STORY: A tale of people and bikes, this show covers “adventure, heartbreak, political intrigue, philosophy, science, history and more.”
THE BICYCLE COALITION PODCAST: Even if you don’t live in its hometown of Philadelphia, this podcast has a ton of useful information.
PEDALSHIFT PROJECT: A combination website and podcast, Pedalshift focuses on the bike touring lifestyle.