Meet Cle’s (many) bike advocates
There are people who care how you get around.
These people encourage you to thread into their tight-knit community. They invite you to enjoy the in-between of Point A to Point B. They hope to assist you in enhancing your lifestyle with vehicles designed for your needs.
Their dream? You on a bike.
In the form of stores like Joy Machines Bike Shop, event planners like Crank-Set Rides (organizers of the Nerd Ride on Sat 7/2) and grassroots organizations like Cleveland Critical Mass, prominent cyclists are using their love of bicycles to better the city, two wheels at a time.
Joy Machines Bike Shop opened this June at 1836 West 25th Street in Ohio City. Owner/Mechanic Renato Pereira-Castillo and Owner/Manager Alex Nosse operate their bike shop from a transportation-oriented point of view, as opposed to a recreational or sport-oriented perspective.
“We encourage the use of the bike as a transportation tool,” Nosse says.
Nosse and Pereira-Castillo are unique in that biking is their primary form of transportation.
“Neither of us even has a driver’s license,” Nosse says. “It’s a commitment to living a certain way. In an urban neighborhood it’s more feasible. Not everyone can go completely car-free.”
While Nosse expects that most people will not quit driving, he believes that everyone can incorporate more biking into their schedule.
“Our informal mission is to maximize the role a bike can have in a person’s life—from one day a week of bike commuting to committing to not taking the car on any trip under two miles all summer long. There’s a whole spectrum for a lifestyle. Our goal is for more people to move towards biking.”
The shop’s success has risen thanks to their West 25th location, a nexus for neighbors, Northeast Ohioans and tourists. Nosse and Pereira-Castillo also benefit from a ready-made client base of friends and contacts.
“We knew a lot of cyclists from riding and participating in Critical Mass and advocacy groups,” Nosse says. “You get connected to people quickly. Everyone knows about the environmental and health benefits of biking, but after you start riding, one thing you realize is how much community can be organized around it.”
The cycling community—fueled by physical activity and word-of-mouth support—offers a real-world alternative to the popular, though strictly two-dimensional, choice of social networking. Yet Joy Machines Bike Shop still maintains a strong web presence, with a Facebook page, a Twitter account (@JoyMachines) and an official website. During the slow season of November to March, Nosse plans to expand their social networking platforms.
Joy Machines is open seven days a week. As a bonus for the after-work crowd—and friends who come by to visit—Mondays through Saturdays the shop stays open until 9PM. Nosse and Pereira-Castillo personally assist every patron.
“We’re 50-50 partners,” Nosse says. “Right now we have no other employees. For customers, I think it’s a nice thing that the two owners are the ones they’re dealing with. I like to think we’re approachable, and very interested in providing a good experience.” With their knowledge of and love for bicycles, Nosse and Pereira-Castillo draw upon a wide range of parts, accessories and services to complete patrons’ biking needs.
“A young woman came in last week who had just gotten a bike in the mail from eBay,” Nosse says. “She stopped in on it on her way home from work. I could tell she was flustered. She told me, ‘When I ride this bike, I feel scared.’ It was a racing bike. It was too big, and just not appropriate for what she needed. So we put in a new stem and handlebars, and wider tires with more traction, and we were able to convert it from a drop-bar racing bike to a quite serviceable commuter bike.”
Nosse concludes, “We want biking to be more comfortable and more doable for more people.”
Lindsey Bower and Dan Krivenki share this philosophy. Crank-Set Rides, their non-profit organization, channels the energy of cyclist friends and volunteers towards introducing more Clevelanders to the benefits of biking. Bower and Krivenki plan themed events that raise cycling awareness, support local establishments and offer an extended evening of entertainment.
Bower and Krivenki state: “Crank-Set Rides is always aiming to put new faces on bikes. Cleveland is years behind many cities as far as bike commuters go, but we are working our hardest to change this. Our themed rides open a gateway for interested cyclists to cut loose, let go of any intimidation that cycling may have and just have fun. We’ve witnessed many new bike purchases over the past year, and we believe that our rides are helping this movement in Cleveland.”
The next Crank-Set Rides event is The Nerd Ride on Sat 7/2. Participants are challenged to arrive in their most exaggeratedly nerdy attire (e.g. glasses, bow ties, suspenders, etc.). The biggest dorks win prizes.
Why the nerd theme?
“Everyone is a bit nerdy over something, whether that is computing, owning a vast novel collection or simply knowing the stats of every Indians player,” Bower and Krivenki state. “Let’s let go of the differences over what we are nerdy about and all be nerdy about the same thing for a day: Bikes.”
Registration begins at 4:30PM at the Root Cafe in Lakewood. Participants can bring their own bike or rent one through BikeCLE. (Visit http://BikeCLE.com for more details.) At 6PM, cyclists start to snake their way to five events along the route. “We would love for everyone to join us on the full ride, but we don’t mind riders jumping on or off at any of our stops,” Bower and Krivenki state.
Cyclists can test their math skills and/or drink beer along the way. After the Root Cafe, the Nerd Ride hits Lakewood Library, Happy Dog, Joy Machines Bike Shop, Room Service and Reddstone. Summary: Nerds on bikes tour the West Side with beer.
Besides a good time, another goal of The Nerd Ride is to raise donations of five dollars from each cyclist. The proceeds pay for bike racks created by Rust-Belt Welding; the racks will be distributed across Cleveland to increase biking’s practicality and accessibility.
The king of Cleveland bike events is Cleveland Critical Mass. Held the last Friday of every month, Critical Mass sees hundreds of cyclists converging upon Public Square to spin their way to a preselected endpoint, usually a local bar or pub. Bikes flood the streets, temporarily halting traffic, giving riders the rule of the road. Last summer, the largest event turnout was 325 cyclists.
Shawn Mariani, a promoter for Cleveland Critical Mass, states, “The main aspect of improving CCM is to increase turnout with new riders each month. We have heard some great feedback from all types of riders; some say it’s a reason to love Cleveland, others say it has excited them enough to get back on a bike for the first time in years, and more. We pride ourselves on being a simple and fun event. We strive to not overcomplicate the group.”
By way of advertising, CCM promoters distribute flyers around Cleveland. They also manage their official website http://ClevelandCriticalMass.com and Facebook page, where they upload pictures and video to increase interest in the rides.
Mariani believes in CCM’s universal appeal.
“Everyone should participate as CCM is a fantastic way to discover Cleveland in a way they normally wouldn’t experience,” Mariani states. “Riding through unique parts of Cleveland and waving at people behind gated patios or inside their cars is a great feeling. People clap and cheer us on and are happy to see a few hundred bikes ride by on a Friday night. It’s a great event to meet some great people, make friends and have fun!”
Beyond CCM, Mariani enjoys the daily benefits of cycling.
“I love riding my bike around Cleveland for a number of reasons. You can be anywhere in the city in a relatively short time, park for free and save on gas. It’s a liberating feeling and it makes me feel even more connected to Cleveland. Aside from all that, bikes are just cool.”
On the road and on the web, East Side and West Side, for business and pleasure, biking enthusiasts push forward in their hope to turn more people into cyclists. That’s their common goal, outside of any individual ideology. They are going to ride bicycles whether you do or not—but it would be better for everyone if you did.
For more details on The Nerd Ride, go to http://BikesInTheHeights.org. To tap into Crank-Set Rides, contact Bower and Krivenki at CrankSetRides@gmail.com. Check http://ClevelandCriticalMass.com for CCM event information. CCM recommends Great Lakes Touring Co. for all bike rentals.
Isaac Mell grew up in South Euclid, OH and attended American Jewish University in Los Angeles. He welcomes conversations with potential employers, collaborators and friends.