Illustration: Ryan Perkins
Velo City Bags has been providing Salt Lake with handmade, vegan bicycle bags and accessories since 2008. The company was started by Nathan Larsen, a local bicycle enthusiast who commutes around Salt Lake. “I needed [a bag] for myself. I searched everywhere trying to find one that was something that accommodated what I needed, and I couldn’t find anything ... I thought I could do better than what’s out there, so I did,” Larsen says. He designed and produced a customized bag that was functional, unique and comfortable. This successful design was the beginning of Larsen’s business of producing custom products for cyclists and pedestrians alike.
Larsen has recently started a new non-profit project, Velo Weekend, looking to gather the bicycle community on June 24-25 for some friendly bike competitions and events. With help from SLUG’s editorial assistant, Esther Meroño, who acts as the marketing coordinator for Velo City Bags, Larsen has designed Velo Weekend to “take all the big urban cycling events and put them into one big event,” says Larsen. Meroño adds, “The fact that we’re putting all these events together in one weekend is kind of something that hasn’t been done yet ... bringing all these events together hopefully will, first of all, unite all of the urban culture that is in town and secondly, inspire everyone else to put on more events and to start coming out to more events.”
Velo Weekend will commence with Critical Mass. This regularly happens on the last Friday of every month, so it is fitting that it starts off on the weekend of cycling celebrations. Cyclists will gather on Friday, June 24 at 5:30 p.m. at the Gallivan Center and then continue on a bike ride throughout the city. The route isn’t planned, but is chosen by those who are participating that day. This event is universal and meant to promote cycling as a valid form as transportation. The path of Critical Mass will come to a close at Vertical Diner around 8 p.m. where the riders will find entertainment in a tall bike joust––think Middle Ages, but instead of knights and horses participating, it’s your neighbor on two bikes welded on top of each other.
The bike bash will continue on Saturday, June 25 at 1 p.m. with an alleycat. This scavenger hunt-like race challenges cyclists’ speed and knowledge of the city, and is open to anyone who registered and wants to participate. “We’re not gonna make the race really intense, so that anybody who rides a bike will enjoy the race and just have fun,” says Larsen. Around 3 p.m., a freestyle trick competition will be held in the parking lot of Cakewalk Vegan Bakery, also open to those who registered. Refreshments provided by the women’s cycling crew Salty Spokes will be served during this time along with easy access to treats from Cakewalk to allow participants of Velo Weekend to enjoy watching experienced cyclists show off their moves. The weekend will come to a close at Pie Hole, who will host a raffle and the final event, a stationary bike race commonly known as Goldsprints. The participation of local businesses is essential to the idea behind Velo Weekend. “It’s really important that all the local businesses support each other. We want to become a bigger part of the community, hopefully this will get us out there,” says Meroño.
Larsen and Meroño hope to attract current bike enthusiasts out to the event this year with intentions of attracting more people to the bike community in years to come. Of the first annual Velo Weekend, Larsen says, “This first year will probably just be people that bike already. Hopefully we get some casual bikers involved, and as they see how the event goes, hopefully we can get more people interested in biking.” The two incorporate biking into their lifestyle and want other people to be open to doing the same. “Cars are such a hassle to get around in. Especially when you’re living in an urban setting. [Bikes] get you where you need to go just as fast or faster. You don’t have to worry about the parking,” says Larsen. “You see so much more on your bike ... You experience the city in a different way.” Meroño adds that biking can affect your mind and body. “You get on your bike and you go for a ride and everything is just so much better. Because you have the endorphins and the exercise, you feel better about yourself. Biking is just so much less stressful than driving,” she says.
Registration for Velo Weekend is $20 and will be available online at veloweekend.com. Pre-registering will provide the participant with a custom-sized t-shirt. The last chance to register will be from 3 to 5 p.m. at Fresh on 870 E. 900 S. Friday, June 24. Registration in general will cover the event costs, get you a patch and swag bag, and will allow entry into the competitions and raffle with prizes provided by the sponsors. Those who do not register can attend all events at no cost, except the alleycat, but will not be eligible for prizes or sponsor perks. Sponsors include the event hosts Velo City Bags, Fresh, Vertical Diner, Cakewalk and Pie Hole. Other sponsors involved include Coal Headwear, Cognition Caps, Fyxation, Knog, OUTLIER, Planet Bike, Pryme Gear, Rothera Cycling, Saturday Cycles, SLUG Magazine, Urban Velo, and Zuriick. Come out and support the cycling community with a whole weekend of bicycle fun.