Adam's cargo bike with a keg strapped to the rear.

Local Cargo by Adam Deutsch

These are days where I think about how many post-apocalyptic narratives neglect the bicycle. We’re not at the end of world, but my motivation to bike came from the sense that driving made other activities almost impossible. How many times have we wanted to be sitting with friends over food and beer in the neighborhood, but can’t get there because there isn’t any place to park? When I lived in North Park, I figured I’d just stop off at Urbn for a little work-gathering, and circled for so long that I looked up to see I was two blocks away from my place at Texas and Lincoln. After that, it became clear to me that the only way to get around San Diego was by bike. It’s an idea I’ve kept with me for almost a decade, mostly riding if I didn’t have to crank up hills north of the 8.

Earlier this year, I decided to expand that geographical limit, riding from Normal Heights down El Cajon Blvd to either 70th or Baltimore, then heading north to my job at Grossmont College. A cargo bike (a Boda Boda by Yuba) makes this possible. I can ride 10ish miles in under an hour, and not be pouring sweat from the 276 ft. climb. I’ve been doing this about 4 times a week since January; the cargo also helped me accommodate biking with a growing toddler, and as he gets heavier, so does my imagination about what can be done with a bike in San Diego. A basket or paneer easily fit a bit of beer, but what about a 5 gallon keg?

Another factor, beyond a rebellion against parking frustration, has always been the awareness that the venture has been ecologically friendly, and I think about that in terms of beer, too. Getting beer in a keg (if one has the privilege of space and time to tinker with a carbonation system) is the most cost effective and ecologically friendly way to have beer—if you don’t mind pouring the same thing for 40 pints. Two weeks into the pandemic, the keg kicked. I hadn’t been this excited since the last time I was able to order a pizza at BLAH. I decided to bike the empty back up to a brewery in Miramar, and return with a full one. It did not happen that way.

If it’s not on social media, it doesn’t happen (right?) so I put up a quick post that I was excited to bike 15 miles with an empty keg (about 16.5 lbs) and come back with a full one (weighing in at just under 60). I wanted the adventure of trying it for the first time, and the bragging rights to say “Yeah, I bike 30 miles with kegs,” and thought of that while I aired up the fat double-wall tires, and got replies from friends: “Why did I have to go that far?” “There are like 50 breweries between Normal Heights and Miramar,” and “Why not something local?” I was going up there because that’s where I’d always gone. There’s lots of beer in between, but not all those places make kegs available to people (much less in 5 gallons). And, really, I just didn’t know that there were local options.

Also, I started to wonder (as I bungied the empty shell to the aluminum sideloaders) what does local mean to me?

Part of the resolve to ride a bike means reevaluating how we look at our city. It means thinking of new terms for how we understand distance and terrain. A drive all the way downtown becomes a 3 mile ride, mostly downhill on the way there; the freeway to OB is more of a quiet ride through Mission Hills to the path (when the paths and trails are open, that is). If I can commute to work 20 miles, surely I could also move my beer 30, in the smooth shoulder bike lane of Kearny Villa Rd. But this question of local raised some points I couldn’t ignore.

First, even a leisurely ride on a bike that weights 20 lbs instead of 60 cuts about two hours out of a day, and it’s a tall order to ask a partner to stay at home with a small child while I go out and ride my bike; it’s also possible to carry the kid along for the ride, but what’s great exercise for us is really just sitting in a chair for them. I couldn’t make this a habit, taking a ride like this every month or two (depending on how much we’re sipping at home). Another point is that Miramar, though possible and a really beautiful ride at parts, simply isn’t local. Also, I need to be honest about my own abilities and ignorance: riding with a full 5 gallon keg is a lot of weight, even on a bike designed to carry it. Bungie cords and tow straps give confidence, but I wasn’t sure it was

really wise to take on a challenge like 15 miles when I never even rode that far with my much-lighter child. Again, we stay local. That means maybe 5-10 miles, and that high end is pushing it.

I ran all this by my father in-law, who loves a long ride up to places like Torrey Pines or out to Santee. Marty’s the ideal riding partner: he’s not trying to break any records, is excited for the challenging new route, and is always happy to cheers when we arrive! He came with me, and we decided that if something went wrong, he didn’t want a torpedo making som

ething like a roadside flat repair more complicated (we attempted a ride up to Mira Mesa a couple of years ago, and popping a spoke on Black Mountain Rd. really killed that whole flow).

I also got some tips on local options I’d never known about, so the plan changed. A car is not necessary to get around the region, and we had a blast bringing the empty back up, but decided to return home with a few crowler cans instead of the full 1/6 barrel. But we didn’t head straight home; instead, we made it back to Uptown (via Texas, which is no longer impressive once the pedal assist is engaged), and went to a new spot on El Cajon Blvd. Just 1.3 miles from my place, I figured the ride was over.

Cargo bike with beer keg
Turns out a full 5 gallon keg on the sideloader isn’t a good idea.

It was not.

Turns out a full 5 gallon keg on the sideloader isn’t a good idea. I thought the lower position would make it easier, but it was a precarious few blocks. A keg is not a bag of groceries (which have also thrown me off, especially if you’re loading up and unlocked on a hill in a parking lot). No big deal. We repositioned it on the middle rack, and a couple walking their dog gasped, “He’s got a keg!” when I crossed Oregon on Madison.

I’ll do this again. If the ride is local, anything’s possible.

The next plan: a bag of chicken feed…

Adam Deutsch is the publisher at Cooper Dillon Books, and has work recently or forthcoming in Poetry International, Thrush, The Cossack Review, Ping Pong, and Typo, and has a chapbook called Carry On (Elegies). He is an English professor at Grossmont College and lives in San Diego, CA.


Soma Mixte bike frame

My favorite items for a comfortable and enjoyable ride

Soma Mixte bike frame
Soma Mixte (frame is retired from fabrication)

 

The refrain, "these are a few of my favorite things," runs through my head when I think about what I take along when touring by bike. I thought I'd share some essentials in case this helps you plan for your next ride.

Key Basics

Soma Mixte Step-through frame - providing easy access for mounting and dismounting. The Soma and Rivendell are the only steel frame women’s step-through bikes that can be found in the United States. It's a sad commentary on how the cycling market treats women riders and their needs, but at least we have a few options.

Brookes saddle - The best answer for a comfortable seat. Never use bike shorts again.

My helmet - Provides shade, protection, and a great place to display stickers of my favorite organizations.

Arkel bags - Carrying everything from the local grocery store and providing freedom from carrying loads on your back,to traveling down the California coastline.

 

Good Accessories

Hydroflask - Or any reusable bottle; one for water, one for coffee.

JBL speaker - Providing great tunes for every ride.

Mirror of any type - Always wise to keep an eye out for what’s behind you.

Bell - Letting others know you are coming by.

Odometer - To keep track of my savings, speed, and time. Every 100 miles on a bike rather than a car is approximately $70 savings.

Old inner tube - Great for tie downs and straps.

Yuba Child Ring - Perfect for the yoga practice as it provides a nice stretch and a reminder to stay aligned. Also wonderful for carrying extra passengers.

Flip Flop socks - Ride all year long in Flip Flops. Make a pea size hole for big toe and a bit larger for the rest. Give it a try - experiment and create your own.

Sweatshirt and bathing suit - Weather in San Diego can bring all possibilities.


Poster of for stolen bike with drawing of a missing bike in black marking pen.

Heartbroken Over a Stolen Bike

Poster of for stolen bike

I know the feeling all too well: that awful, sinking emotion when you realize your bike has been stolen. It's never easy to have your personal belongings stolen, not least when it's your main mode of transportation. It is frustrating. It is a violation. And it is wrong.

There are many things that people that own bikes can do to prevent being a victim of bike theft. Bikes are an easy target for thieves. So it's up to you, the rider, to take extra care of your bike to ensure it is safe and out of reach from these sticky fingers.

Ten tips for bike security:

1. Do this right now: take photo and serial number.

Take a picture of your bike and the serial number. Keep this info on your phone or somewhere safe but make sure you have this info. You can enter this information on the website of the National Bike Registry (529 Garage) as well. You will need the serial number to report a stolen bike. The serial number really is the only way for police to find a bike's owner.

2. Ride your bike often.

The more you ride it, the less time they have to steal it.

3. Always keep your third eye on your bike.

Park where you can see it. Just because bike racks are around the corner does not mean you have to use them. Instead find a pole that is right out front where people can see it.

4. Use a good lock.

A cable lock is easy to cut and one should never rely on a cable lock to prevent a local thief. A u-lock (example: Abus Granite X) or folding lock (example: Abus Bordo) is recommended. Investing in a proper lock is a wise investment.

5. Add plenty of bells and whistles to your bike.

Deck out your bike and give it moxie. Extras on a bike create a paper trail for thieves. Thieves prefer an easy, clean bike and don’t want to deal with all the extras. Give your bike character and the perception that you are right around the corner.

6. Don’t leave your bike unattended for long periods of time.

Store your bike safely at your house. An unlocked bike on the side of a house is an easy target for bike thieves so take your bikes inside. If you are confined to a small space, consider your bike your best piece of wall art and hang it proudly over the couch. If you ride to work, encourage your employer to provide a secure place for bikes.

7. If your bike is stolen, report it to your local police.

This is so important and valuable. Creating a report is simple and can be done online in San Diego. If there is no report, then technically there was no bike stolen. Please make a report if your bike is stolen, otherwise no-one will know, enforcement will be limited, and bikes will continue to be stolen from our community. You will have a better opportunity to get your bike recovered if you can provide serial number. A police report will also be required if you decide to file an insurance claim as many homeowners and renters insurance policies will help cover the cost of stolen bikes.

8. Keep an eye out for your stolen bike.

Often your stolen bike never leaves your community. I have recovered a bike six months after it had been stolen and still check every black beach cruiser as if it could be my lost childhood treasure that went missing a few years ago. Be optimistic and look out for it. It may just come back to you when you least expect it.

9. Use social media to bring awareness.

Neighbors are your best allies. Post on Nextdoor, check Craigslist, and send to your social network. Creating signs stating "Reward for Stolen" work great.  It did help me recover a stolen bicycle in Ocean Beach.

10. Bike share.

If you are still discouraged with bike ownership due to fear of it being stolen, or just haven't got around to replacing a stolen bike, I recommend bike share (such as Jump bikes). With the recent roll out of dockless bikes, there are more opportunities to enjoy our city by bike. With bike sharing, there's no need to worry about having a bike stolen, maintenance, or a lack of space to store a bike. It can be a wonderful transportation option for residents and a way to embrace all the benefits of a bike.

For the unfortunate ones that have been victim of their bike being stolen, I am sorry for your loss and understand the agony. Time will make it easier and realize that there are far worse things that can happen in the world. Hopefully you had some memorable rides on your bike. And that you're able to find it or replace your lost set of wheels to get you back on the road soon.

Keep your bike secure, enjoy the ride, and ride often.

Your Bike Friend,

Nicole BurgessNicole
BikeSD Board Member


Xtracycle Cargo Bike - Yours to Enjoy - BikeSD Member Bonus

A great BikeSD supporter recently donated an XtraCycle Free Radical bicycle extension / conversion kit to BikeSD and thanks to some additional donations of a bicycle, labor, and parts from MJ's Cyclery we now have an awesome cargo bike for members to use!  Big thanks to the donor and MJ's for making this happen!


To explain a bit more, the XtraCycle Free Radical is an attachment that takes an ordinary bicycle and extends the frame, adding capacity for carrying more people, groceries, tools, beach toys, etc.  Please see below photos to get an idea of what the bicycle looks like and what you might use it for.  The bicycle frame used is a GT Outpost Trail mountain bike with 27 gear options (3 in front, 7 in back) and is a really nice choice if you are putting a lot of weight on the back since mountain bikes have nice low gears to help getting up steep inclines.

We're still trying to figure out what we'll be using the bike for but first and foremost we want to offer it for use free of charge to any BikeSD members.  If you're thinking about buying an XtraCycle or a cargo bicycle and would like to test one out first, please borrow ours and give it a spin for the weekend.  Want to try out taking your kids to school by bicycle?  You can borrow the bike and take them out for espresso then drop them at the school gates in style.  Grandma coming to visit and you don't have a spare bike? Borrow this one and you can ride together all over town.

If you'd like to borrow this great bicycle and give it a spin please drop us as email at talk@bikesd.org with the date(s) and time you'd like to use it and the location that's best for you.  We'll do our best to accommodate and look forward to seeing this great bike around town.

Notes: when using this bicycle please make sure to lock it up at all times (lock provided with bicycle) and use lights when operating.

 


Bikes del Pueblo Keeps Mid-City Rolling

photo from Bikes del Pueblo
photo from Bikes del Pueblo

On a sunny Saturday morning, the City Heights Farmer’s Market is bustling with activity. If not one of the largest farmer’s markets in San Diego, it is probably one of the most utilized and most appreciated by the neighborhood’s residents. At one corner of the market, every Saturday morning, San Diego’s only bike kitchen, Bikes del Pueblo, sets up a tent and sets out several boxes full of tools and spare parts. A hand-lettered wooden sign tells you everything you need to know: “–Come build, fix, and learn about bikes; –Non-hierarchical, volunteer, cooperative; —Just ask if you have a Q.”

Bikes del Pueblo started setting up at the farmer’s market in City Heights about a year ago, and before that they shared space with the City Heights Free Skool/Escuela Libre de City Heights. The bike kitchen’s mission is to provide a non-threatening environment for people to come and learn to diagnose and repair problems with their bicycles. The tools and the expertise of the volunteers are both completely free.  While I was there, a young girl who had just finished repairing a flat tire shyly pushed a one-dollar bill at one of the volunteers before riding away with her family. Donations, when offered, are accepted by the bike kitchen, but there is no suggested donation, or any requirement to donate.

As much as Bikes del Pueblo are committed to educating residents about how to fix their bicycles, they are also deeply interested in forming bonds and building trust within the community. On the morning I spent with them, a lot of people from the Vietnamese community were stopping in. Hernan, one of the bike kitchen’s volunteers, explained that last week they had helped a Vietnamese man fix his bicycle, and he thought that word about the kitchen must have spread through that community.

photo from Bikes del Pueblo
photo from Bikes del Pueblo

Bikes del Pueblo helps community members work on between fifteen and twenty bikes every Saturday.  Common problems include bad brakes, broken chains, and flat tires. Most of the bikes people bring in are cheap, second-hand department store bikes, the only kind they can afford. “You can’t always replace everything or fix everything,” said Hernan about the low-quality bikes, “sometimes you just have to get it going again.”

When they have the parts available, kitchen volunteers build up good quality bikes and sell them at extremely low prices to people who wouldn’t normally be able to afford them. The goal is simply to get people mobile. As Hernan explained, “most of these people, bikes are their only transportation, and they have to get to work.”

Currently, Bikes del Pueblo is staffed by just three volunteers. They are always looking for new volunteers, especially multi-lingual ones, to staff the kitchen and they always appreciate donations of cash, tools, parts, or whole bicycles. For now, they can be found on Saturday mornings at the City Height’s Farmer’s Market, but they are hoping eventually to establish a permanent location somewhere in the Mid-City area.

Here's some contact info from Bikes del Pueblo.