Illustration: Ryan Perkins
Photo: Helen Leeson
In 2008, on the corner of 2nd and 2nd in Downtown Salt Lake, a beautiful bike shop opened up alongside the booming bicycle community with a definitive name: Salt Lake Bicycle Company. The shop was a little intimidating at first for a newbie cyclist like me, with fancy, expensive-looking road bikes hanging in the big windows and a sprawl of gear I knew nothing about, but its staff immediately jumped into the community to prove they were there to serve us little guys, too. My first time inside was during a Ladies Night, where I learned how to fix a flat without getting grease on my hands, met one of my best friends, and bought my very first racing saddle.
You may have noticed that the historic Second and Second building is no longer home to SLC Bicycle Co., but its heart and soul have simply moved a few blocks up! Their new location at 247 S. 500 E. (sharing their north wall with Urban Lounge) mimics all of the shop’s previous designs and aesthetic in a space that feels more integrated and accessible. “I’ve looked at probably 20 different buildings in Downtown Salt Lake,” says owner and founder Brent Hulme. “We found this place and it seemed more homey than we were used to, and it seemed like it would work out really well.” Hulme was determined to stay Downtown after the decision was made to move out of the building, though relocating to the ‘burbs would have been more economical. “I’ve always liked it Downtown: I like the urban feel—I like the urban environment. I think that Downtown Salt Lake City is one of the finest cities for riding bikes in the urban setting that I’ve seen anywhere,” he says. “A lot of it is that we’ve had great customers here that we want to continue to help and serve. They’ve been good to us, and we’d like to continue to support them and their riding. That’s really what it comes down to.”
Hulme’s dedication to this city and cycling is apparent in the fact that he commutes daily via train and bike from Provo—I’ve run into him myself a few times in the morning, riding up 200 South. He’s been working in the bicycle industry since he was a college kid in the ’80s, where his degree in Psychology was pushed aside for his passion for cycling. “The only other job I’ve had in my adult life was making bagels, and it was so I could save up money to buy another bike,” says Hulme. In 2008, he founded the shop after an opportunity presented itself to “change again and invent my own thing,” he says, and though the challenges of owning a business in the post-9/11 economy are great, Hulme finds the role worthwhile in itself. “It’s not about wealth—it’s not really about prestige: If you’re gonna do something, do it right, and that’s what’s been rewarding about this. Everything you see here has something to do with some effort that I’ve made,” he says. Of course, it’s his dedication and passion for the perfect machine that drives his business and work ethic, regardless of the long hours and little recognition. “One of the neatest things about the bike industry is that sometimes you see somebody’s life just completely change from a bike,” says Hulme. “There’s a bunch of different ways of riding a bike, but there’s very few things in the world that help so many problems. It’s such a great solution to so many things that plague our society right now. To me, that’s the best thing about bicycles.”
Hulme can count all of his passions on one hand, and art is one of them. May 16 marks Salt Lake Bicycle Co.’s sixth annual Bicycle Art Show, running alongside Gallery Stroll in celebration of National Bike Month. “It was a hare-brained idea I had before I even opened the store,” says Hulme, who saw the open space of the old location as a perfect venue for a pop-up gallery. He explains that SaltCycle founder Zed Bailey served as a catalyst for the first show, which has since been curated and organized by Hulme himself during the busy Bike Month.
The Bicycle Art Show, or Gallery Roll, as it has also been called, provides the bicycle community an outlet to showcase their artistic sides, and for the artistic community to showcase their bicycle sides. Alongside entries from local, amateur visual artists and photographers, highlights have included the large, bold bicycle oil paintings of Steve Smock, imaginative sculptures composed of bike parts by Joe Norman, charcoal drawings by Sarah Mannion and even masking tape murals by Chad Farnes—all in celebration of the bicycle. Those interested in submitting to this year’s Bicycle Art Show should contact the shop at Hulme’s email or phone number.
Salt Lake Bicycle Co. has supported this community in a big way over the years—Hulme has never turned me down for sponsorship of an alleycat race or group ride. Alongside the national brands, you will always see local products like Velo City Bags and Tüb, and not every business owner is willing to open up their space after hours to advance community and art. Head up to their new location on 247 S. 500 E. and give them some love in return, and don’t forget to include the Bicycle Art Show as a stop on your Gallery Stroll, May 16. More info at slcbike.com.
Salt Lake City has seen a sizable increase in bike-friendly programs and infrastructures the past few years, thanks to pedal pusher Mayor Ralph Becker and his team of cycling enthusiasts. You won’t see Mayor Becker preaching the bicycle’s many benefits to our city and its residents, and then riding off into the sunset in a Hummer like you’d expect from most politicians, though. Salt Lake’s Mayor lives his word as a dedicated bike commuter himself, riding 2.5 miles to work every day! We picked up some bicycle-commuter tips from the city’s pedaling hero himself—and don’t miss out on your chance to ride alongside him on Mayor’s Bike to Work Day, Tuesday, May 7, meeting at the north end of Liberty Park at 7:30 a.m.
SLUG: What’s your favorite part of commuting via bicycle?
Becker: Exercise, outdoors, interaction with community members, developing better understanding of our bicycling infrastructure and needs going forward.
SLUG: What kind of bicycle do you prefer to commute with?
Becker: I’ll take two-wheel, non-motorized transport of any kind, happily.
SLUG: What are three must-have accessories/gear for your commute?
Becker: Helmet, lights and not doing anything to get me distracted.
SLUG: Are you a ride-in-a-tie kind of guy, or do you change when you get to work?
Becker: I wear my suit (my uniform) to work and home, but have the advantage of a downhill ride to work. When I get home, I’m usually sweaty, so I strip off my clothes quickly to try to avoid ruining them. I’d wear more suitable biking gear to work and shower and change, but often have meetings to start the day or end the day away from the office.
SLUG: What’s the most challenging part of your commute?
Becker: Staying alert and being prepared to make changes based on driver behavior.
SLUG: What advice can you give to other commuters, or those who want to start commuting via bicycle?
Becker: Please be careful and follow the rules of the road. And, please give us input on how we can make Salt Lake City the great bicycling city it should become.
Find out more on the bicycle initiatives Mayor Becker and his team are working on, along with details on events that they have planned for Bike Month over at slcgov.com or bikeslc.com.
There aren’t a whole lot of female bicycle activists out there, so the moment I found out Sarai Snyder, founder of the website Girl Bike Love (girlbikelove.com) and the worldwide Cyclofemme ride (cyclofemme.com), was due to speak at the Utah Bike Summit on April 25, I knew I had to pick her brain. Snyder’s figured out, like many of us, that bicycles are a tool for female empowerment, but unlike many of us, she’s made herself a leader in the community so that others can benefit from her knowledge and slowly change the world, one lady cyclist at a time.
BG: What inspired you to start Girl Bike Love?
Snyder: I ran a bike shop for about four years and I just kind of recognized that, not only did I want to share my knowledge with women all over the place, but also, I really wanted to help bike shops. I really wanted to be a resource to help them make that connection with female cyclists.
BG: Can you remember the “aha!” moment you had when you realized what cycling was doing for you?
Snyder: I think it was kind of a gradual process for me … I’d always been a really creative person—I went to art school, I have like, an idea a minute, which is really dangerous—but the thing that riding a bike did for me was that it helped me to focus, and all of a sudden, I was able to really hone in on what I wanted to do, how I wanted to communicate better. I started to notice how riding a bike affected my relationships positively, connecting with people in my community more. Having the passion changed my life.
BG: You talk a lot about how, historically, bicycles served as a gateway to the emancipation of women starting in the 1800s. A lot has changed since then—how do bicycles empower the modern woman?
Snyder: The application has changed a little bit, but it’s still the same principle. It’s still independence, access, connectivity, mobility … independence from relying on a car or public transportation or other people for transportation. If you think about how many women are unable, especially single mothers, to afford a car, but they still need to get to work—the bicycle provides that potential. In a lot of areas it provides access to healthcare, economic development and access to resources you might not have otherwise.
BG: What challenges have you come across as a leader in the cycling world?
Snyder: I never really intended to be a leader … My passion inspired me to be where I am and to say the things that I say and to do the things that I do, but it’s not that I have the skills to be a leader. While I’m trying to share this message and work with other people and build this community, at the same time I have to teach myself these leadership skills, like public speaking— it’s scary! But it’s just something you have to do once you get put in this place. For me, I’ve been empowered by the bicycle to be a leader, to develop those skills and to be a voice.
BG: As an event organizer myself, I find it really difficult to get women to show up. I’ve tried everything from announcing slow rides, changing the time to accommodate as many people as possible, and I even started bringing treats to every ride, but they would always die off—what advice can you give to those of us trying to get women to events?
Snyder: I think a lot of women don’t quite figure it out for a while. You can’t always be like, “Well, this is going to change your life.” It’s usually a gentle message, ‘cause people are afraid to change their lives—empowerment’s kind of scary because it means that you have to do something.
I believe that Cyclofemme has been successful in keeping everything simple and easy, and not having a lot of rules and expectations. In general, women tend to be a little busier than men, and it’s not always that they don’t want to come, but they feel more of a responsibility with families and stuff like that. The important thing to remember is, as women, our gender is a very small part of who we are, so trying to create an event for all women related to riding bicycles, that makes it really hard because we’re not all the same—some of us have different interests … Remember that we’re cyclists, too, and that there’s going to be different types of rides that bring women together. I think that promoting the community aspect of it is really important, and making sure you give women a chance to connect on the ride, or after the ride or before the ride. It takes time, too—you have to be committed to it. Once that community starts to develop, it’ll flourish on its own.
BG: One of my favorite parts of the Cyclofemme ride is the pledge everyone signs: “I swear to invest my energy, strength and passion to inspire one more woman to ride a bike…” What inspired you to create it, and why is the pledge important?
Snyder: The one thing that you can say, generally speaking, about women, is that we’re social creatures, and when we start getting involved in something that we’re passionate about, we tend to want to bring someone with us. I believe that female cyclists are generally created in groups of two or more—it’s kind of rare for a woman to decide that she wants to start something new and then go at it by herself—so I guess the pledge was encouraging that a little more, and using the social skills that we have and saying, “This really can make a difference. This isn’t just you wanting to bring your friend along, this is making a difference in the world.”
This year, what we’re working on right now, is having the pledge translated into as many languages as possible, so right now it’s in English, Spanish, French and Chinese.
BG: What’s the ride count up to?
Snyder: We’re about  rides right now in  countries. This year’s goal is 500 rides, all 50 states [and worldwide].
BG: What can we expect to hear from you at the Bike Summit?
Snyder: The title of the presentation is “The Power of the Pedal.” I feel like in advocacy a lot of times, we get so busy thinking about safety and infrastructure and funding and working with the government to get the resources that we need, but sometimes we forget that getting more people involved is one of the main things that’s going to help us in getting those things that we need, and the way we get more people involved is in telling better stories. So, I’m going to tell some stories and I hope that other people are going to tell me some stories.
BG: Where do you think you’d be without the bicycle?
Snyder: I’d probably be an entrepreneur doing something else, I’ve always been an entrepreneur—I used to have my own business designing and making clothes, but I don’t think I’d be nearly as driven. The issue I always had with designing clothes and with drawing, which is what I went to school for, I just wanted to do something that had a positive impact on my community, and I never felt like those things in themselves were powerful. So, I don’t know where I would be without the bicycle—walking, probably.
You all know how I feel about walking … Register to attend the Utah Bike Summit and hear Sarai Snyder’s “The Power of the Pedal” in person by going to utahbikes.org. Salt Lake has its own Cyclofemme ride, organized by Christy Jensen, on May 10 at noon leaving from Saturday Cycles. It’s an all-inclusive ride, for all levels, and refreshments will be provided at the end. I would also like to invite all the ladies of the cycling community to a special “Bad Girls” ride on Saturday, April 26 at noon, meeting at Mestizo Coffeehouse. Details over at saltyspokes.wordpress.com—this is one you won’t wanna miss.
I don’t know what to write my column about anymore.
I haven’t been to a bike event since last summer, I haven’t ridden my bike in three months, and the only time I get on SaltCycle is to hound its brainstorming capabilities for what to write this goddamn column about. At first I felt guilty: God, what would people think if they knew “Beautiful Godzilla” was a phony? I’m living a lie! But after writing 600 words in defense of my pedaless lifestyle, my wise righthand man and Editorial Assistant Alexander Ortega told me to quit apologizing. So, I’ve opened a blank document and have decided to “get real.”
Bicycles became my “thing” quite by accident. Before bikes, I was into books and TV—and I was kind of blah. Not that I didn’t have a personality, but I wasn’t really doing much with it other than writing a lot of passive aggressive blog posts about ex-boyfriends and some terrifying poetry here and there. I’ve joked about it before, but honest to god, what attracted me to cycling was that it got me off the street as a pedestrian. I fucking hate pedestrians almost as much as I hated being one. The life that resulted, though, goes much deeper than my aversion to sneakers on the sidewalk (crossing the street when they’re not supposed to!), and it reaches further than even the bicycle itself.
I fit into the bike community in a way I’d never really fit in anywhere else because those people are all a bunch of freaks. Seriously, have you ever witnessed Critical Mass in Salt Lake? Sure, there were fixie cliques and roadie snobs, but as a whole, the bike community is the most welcoming group of people I’ve ever come across because it’s made up of the oddest assortment of human beings. But when you find someone who lets you be yourself in every way possible, who trusts you to be a leader without trying to micromanage your every move, who shows up for every party you throw and volunteers to help with every crazy idea you come up with—well, you don’t give that up ’cause not even your momma’s gonna be that person for you. So maybe they welcomed me in a little too enthusiastically because of my (then) single-lady status and my (still) voluptuous booty (if I’ve learned one thing from Goddess Beyoncé, it’s that butt equals power), but the love and support of the bike community has done more for me than I’ve ever really acknowledged, and certainly more than I feel like I deserve.
So, wrapped up in this little bubble of bike love, with a big push from SLUG, I’ve been incubating that personality and developing an identity and a voice, and the confidence to use that voice. I’ve kept my foot in the bike community through this column, my friendship with Debbie and Nate of Velo City Bags and my resulting friend obligations to help them with events (though they pulled off Velo Weekend last year without me doing anything remotely helpful), but the rest of me has slowly stepped outside into other things. I don’t do a double take when I see a boy on a fixie anymore, and I’ve lost track of what phase of life BikeSnobNYC is publishing books about these days—I imagine his next will feature the Lone Wolf in an Olympic-themed recumbent—but I think that’s OK. I wouldn’t be here in this moment, ready to make a big, risky jump into the future, without the bicycle.
Oh my god, what am I saying?! All I wanna do now is go ride my bike in this beautiful weather. Nevermind—just go home and hug your bicycle real tight. Oh yeah, and Friendship PSA: Velo City Bags just moved next door to SLUG on 341 W. Pierpont Ave. Come check out the new shop ’cause it’s rad—I’ll be there on my lunch breaks, talking about myself, in case you haven’t read enough here over the past three years.
Holy shit it’s cold! Of course, I’m still biking in this abomination—they’d probably take my column away if I didn’t show up to work with a scarf tied around my head, crying icy tears through the fabric—but what’s motivating me to keep pedaling is the thought of thawing out with a nice cup of tea and a bike movie! So, for those of you who have opted for rollers this winter, I’ve compiled a list of some entertainment options that don’t include frostbite or icy asphalt scrapes. We all know the classics—American Flyers, RAD, Breaking Away, Quicksilver, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure—but I reached out to the trusty ole SaltCycle community for some of their favorites, which turned up an eclectic list of titles I’d missed.
With film festival season just around the corner, I decided to prep by watching the trailer and/or bike scene for each of the following, and am providing you with a short review and my very own version of a Tomatometer: The Crankometer. Personally, I don’t watch anything under 70 percent, so you can definitely trust my opinion, at least as much as that of renowned film critic Jebidiah Atkinson.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (suggested by Joshua W McCarrel—who is apparently the leader of “Team Clammy Chamois,” so you know this guy enjoys the small things in life): This movie’s been in my Netflix queue for, literally, years. I don’t think you can call yourself a Utahn until you’ve seen it, but I finally got around to watching the bike scene. First thoughts: Oh my god, someone put shoes on that girl! Riding a bike, whether you’re pedaling or not, without something covering your fragile little toes, is absolute insanity—I’m talking to all of you Twilight cyclists wearing flip flops in the summer. Once I got past that, and the fact that she looked way too comfortable sitting on the handlebars for such a long and bumpy ride, I was faced with another moral dilemma: the show-off trope. There’s one in Quicksilver, too, but that includes some dancing, and it’s indoors, so I give it a pass. Guys doing dumb tricks to prove their machismo in front of girls is getting old, and it hits too close to home in a male-dominated bike scene. I give this one a 20 percent on the Crankometer.
The Stars and The Water Carriers: The 1973 Giro d’Italia (suggested by Ryan Wade McCalmon): OK, I totally understand why Ryan genuinely digs this movie—available in its entire 1.5 hours on YouTube—because he’s the most hardcore, die-hard cyclist I know. I’m sure a bunch of other people would raise their hands and tell me they liked this film, too, if I asked. However, unlike Ryan, it would only be for hipster points, and guaranteed, if given the chance to watch it, they’d talk through the whole thing as they sipped PBR. I got through a few clips, and woke up half an hour later, only to be lulled to sleep again. If watching a bike race isn’t already a total snoozefest for you, by all means, try it out. For the rest of us, it’s a great cure for insomnia! I’ll give this one a 50 percent on the Crankometer, purely for vintage charm.
Rising From Ashes (suggested by Davey Davis): I cannot believe I missed the Salt Lake screening of this documentary. It’s about the first Rwandan National Cycling Team, and not only does it look like a beautifully shot, tear-jerking doc, it’s narrated by Forest Whitaker, who’s the next Morgan Freeman, in my humble opinion. The only thing that bugs me is the whole “white man saves Africa” motif, but someone’s gotta pay for all those expensive bikes. There’s no release date on this yet, so we’ll all just have to watch the trailer over and over again. This one gets an anticipated 90 percent on the Crankometer.
The Triplets of Belleville (suggested by Shanna Ford): Who doesn’t like an animated film with a killer soundtrack? This one’s a far cry from Frozen—though the latter seems more fitting for the weather. The Triplets has been on my watch list for some time now, but it keeps getting passed up ‘cause it seems like the kind of artsy film you’ve gotta be in the right mood for, especially since the animation looks a little vintage (which isn’t a bad thing, but I’ve been spoiled by CGI). Still, it’s a fun concept and I’ve been conditioned to love musicals—thanks, Disney—so it gets a 75 percent on the Crankometer.
There were a number of other films suggested to me, if none of these strike your fancy: With My Own Two Wheels, Bicycle Thieves, Return of the Scorcher, Still We Ride, The Road From Karakol, Dead Fucking Last, Ride The Divide, Jour de Fête, A Sunday in Hell, Le Vélo de Ghislain Lambert, The Paper Brigade. Sounds like someone needs to host a few movie nights this winter! I’ll bring the popcorn and my Crankometer.
Over 100 years after Cinématographe was invented and used by the Lumiére brothers in France to show the first paying audience a projected film, Edward Norton looks directly into the camera as he explains the job of a projectionist in a scene from Fight Club. “Why would anyone want this shit job?” he asks as his alter-ego Tyler Durden splices pornography into family cartoons. “Because it affords them other interesting opportunities.”
“I love getting lost in a place I don’t really know—it’s something very freeing. Instead of anxiety, like some people have, I feel so free to be lost,” says Jim Jarmusch. “I like to follow instincts, and oddly enough, it’s a kind of discipline. My little game of ‘get lost and don’t know where you are’ is a process for me that is very helpful for my imagination.” Most know Jarmusch as an influential writer-director of American independent cinema, boasting an interlacing filmography of artistic, counter-culture films like Dead Man, Ghost Dog and The Limits of Control since the release of his debut full-length, Permanent Vacation, in 1980 as a 27-year-old grad student at NYU. The man is a sub-cultural icon, eschewing the mainstream to create rewarding works of art that long to be close read. Raised on Jean-Luc Godard and New Wave cinema, nurtured through adolescence by Kenneth Koch and the New York School poets, and slow diving into the future with the support of ATP Recordings and a handful of relevant musicians, Jarmusch’s intellectual repertoire is expansive and continuing. Much like his films, the man has the ability to lose himself in the present details, while retaining an impressive understanding of the past. Perhaps it was subconscious self-reflection that materialized the filmmaker’s latest character creations: a couple of incisive, decades-old vampires in his upcoming release, Only Lovers Left Alive.
Before SLUG copy editing meetings swallowed up my Wednesday nights, I was a dedicated attendee of the Salt Lake Bicycle Collective’s Women’s Open Shop Nights. I even have a collection of digital posters I made—with very rudimentary Photoshop skills—to advertise the bi-monthly event. The Collective has always been a welcoming place—it’s where I got my (already 90-percent assembled) little green Kilo up and running, and she hasn’t needed much maintenance since—but walking into a room full of guys rubbing greasy elbows and talking shop can be intimidating. So, I was thrilled when I heard that the Collective had decided to make Women’s Night a weekly event and hired Meara McClenahan to head it.
Meara and I were actually roomies at one point, and she took me on my first (and last) mountain bike ride. She’s the most experienced lady mechanic I know—she’s friendly and patient, and my quick interview with her revealed what I already knew: She fits this job like greased handlebars into that post thing on the front … Obviously I’m in need of some Women’s Night.
BG: Tell me about Women’s Night, and what your role is going to be.
Meara: It’s like the do-it-yourself night on Tuesday and Thursday, but it’s Wednesday and women only, and that’s all it really is … My role is to follow the mission of the Collective. I’m taking cues from what Luke [MacFarlane] does in the open shop to see what to do, too. Currently, I’m asking everyone who shows up what they want to get out of it and hopefully, out of that, I can see what direction I want things to go in and try to find a balance. Every week I’m going to do a demo—some skill that I know how to do that I can show people how to do in 5–15 minutes. Davey [Davis] made me a Facebook admin so I can go on there ahead of time and say, “This is gonna be my demo this week.” It gives something for me to put out there, to be an invite for people to come out.
BG: What makes you qualified to head Women’s Night?
Meara: I’ve been working at bike shops for about seven years: a month at Guthrie, a year at Contender, three years at Wild Rose and one summer at Saturday Cycles … I have a lot of skills and knowledge … I find out what I know just from being around bikes and people talking about bikes and listening to other mechanics whine about their problems and different parts and what they do. I like teaching. I like showing other people what I know. My dad was a really cool dad in the way that he showed me things, and I like doing that also. I think it’s a good fit, because I don’t know the answer to every bike mechanic problem, but I have enough basic knowledge to know where to look for it, and I think that can make me a pretty good helper as far as helping other people with projects they might want to do.
BG: Why is Women’s Night important?
Meara: That’s another thing I’d like to ask the other women—why it’s important to them. I wanna keep an open mind about it … [Joining women’s groups] hasn’t been an experience that I’ve really sought out in my life, but I think everyone’s had the experience where you’re trying to do something by yourself, but you can’t do it by yourself, you need help, and when you ask for help, someone takes it out of your hands and does it for you. When I’ve worked in a bike shop, there will be a problem with a bike and someone will be like, “I can’t figure this out,” and everyone will crowd around and start jockeying for who’s going to figure it out first—I always stayed out of that fray. I always felt like it was hard to talk if I was the only woman at a shop. I think they could tell I wanted to do it by myself, but I couldn’t find that easy point where I could get the help I wanted, but not the help I didn’t want.
BG: What’s your goal for Women’s Night?
Meara: I’d like people to come and enjoy it, and get what they want out of it—where it goes will be determined by the women that come. Another goal would be to have it be a more comfortable, welcoming place on all do-it-yourself nights, which I think makes more sense. Both women and men have a responsibility to make that happen.
Ladies, join Meara at the Collective’s Women’s Night every Wednesday from 5:30–9 p.m. and find them on Facebook for updates. Ladies AND gents, don’t miss the Collective’s Valentine’s Dance Party on Feb. 14 for a screening of Lifecycles and some socializing: 1135 S. West Temple at 10 p.m. Who knows—you might meet your next tandem partner!