Current King of the Hipsters, Gary Hurst, ponders the weight of his crown/bag. Photo: Max Lowe
Neglected in dark closets, rusting alongside chain link fences and perhaps even torn apart and piled into boxes, the bicycles in this city have suffered a long, lonely winter as their owners set them aside to don ski masks and snow boots.
As cuffs slowly rise with the temperature, so do thoughts of smooth saddles, glistening cranks and spinning spokes. Like lovers reunited, the fair-weather cyclists mount their steeds and hit the salty streets in droves.
Here to organize the enamored masses and spread the love is SaltCycle.
Founded in 2006 by Cory “Zed” Bailey as a means to promote cycling events and form a community, SaltCycle became an important resource for the growing cycling community in Salt Lake. “It started out as a personal blog,” says Bailey. “For the longest time, it was just me posting, and then people started gaining interest and it started blooming after that.” Blogging about midnight rides, freak-bike projects and experiences he had out on the road, Bailey’s desire to spread his love of bicycling to others and promote events led him to reach out to fellow cyclists to contribute, most of whom he met at events such as Critical Mass. “It was basically an impetus to say, ‘Let’s take this to the streets,’ so I think from the very beginning of it, I didn’t want it to be my own recollection, but to spread it further out,” he says.
Looking through the archives at SaltCycle.com, it’s amazing to see how eclectic and prolific the cycling community became through this venue of organization. During its peak in 2008, there were 299 posts about everything from alleycat races and group rides to film festivals, protests and product reviews.
Unfortunately, unlike the bicycle meccas of Portland and San Francisco, the “greatest snow on Earth” that brings so many to Salt Lake also drives the multitude of cyclists indoors. The strong and brave who ride through the ice and snow are few, and as the leaves fall from the trees, so does attendance. “The problem that exists in Salt Lake City is that every winter, the cycling scene dies. Essentially, you have to rebuild it from new, and that’s not an easy task. Not only are you rebuilding the cycling community from scratch, but you get on that bicycle in the spring and you don’t wanna ride,” says Bailey. Slightly burned out from the responsibility and eager to keep experimenting with SaltCycle’s format and potential, Bailey stripped down the site into a forum in 2009, which decreased traffic considerably. He says that any mistakes he made concerning the site were due to the fact that nothing as intimate as SaltCycle had been done before, and laying the groundwork for something new required experimentation. Bailey ended up passing along the project to Davey Davis, a longtime staple in the cycling community, who attempted to restore SaltCycle to its former glory and revitalize the scene by organizing as many events as possible.
Davis’ ceaseless dedication and genuine excitement over cycling and the arts led to another burst of enthusiasm from the community, perpetuated by his short film/bike opera, The Tale of Don Giovanni: That Indomitable Hipster. As part of the promotion for the film, Davis held an alleycat race before its premiere on April 24, 2010, garnering a ridiculously large, custom-made messenger bag from Jacksonville, Fla. based Burro Bags for the winner, the words “Look At That Fucking Hipster” printed boldly across the front. The winner of the alleycat and the bag was none other than Davis’ fellow film guru, Alex Haworth. Why anyone would willingly tote around such a large magnet for ridicule was considered by the two, and perhaps realizing that Davis would not be around forever to keep the cycling community afloat (he is currently teaching film in Pakistan), they established “The Mantle.” Starting with the first King of the Hipsters alleycat on Dec. 16, 2010, the winner shall be crowned “King/Queen of the Hipsters” and must wear the Fucking Hipster bag as much as possible during a three-month reign. After three months, the winner has to pass on the bag to a new king or queen by organizing a cycling event, alleycat or otherwise—rain or shine. “Hopefully it’ll live on forever,” says Joergen Trepp, the second to don the crown of “King of the Hipsters” and current co-administrator of SaltCycle. Trepp recently passed the crown to Gary Hurst, winner of the last and second King of the Hipsters alleycat.
Before leaving for Pakistan, Davis passed along his SaltCycle administrative duties to Trepp and Tom Millar, who was a fervent contributor a couple of years back. These two young cyclists have already made huge steps in putting SaltCycle back on its feet and have some ambitious plans for its future. Inspired in part by BikePortland.org, the site now has tabs for product reviews, cyclist bios and even bicycle-related city projects. Millar says, “SaltCycle for me, more than anything, has a lot of potential. It helped me to meet a lot of people,
to become more comfortable with the cycling community.” He believes SaltCycle helps many lone cyclists assimilate into the SLC cycling community. “[SaltCycle] is a vehicle … to make things bigger and better in Salt Lake, get more people out to events,” says Trepp. The two have completely revamped the website, adding a “personal touch” in an effort to reach out to the community and it has already seen an increase in posts and comments since last year. A Facebook group started by dedicated cyclist Ryan McCalmon has also helped with the promotion of events and organization of rides, and can be found by searching “SaltCycle” on Facebook, but Trepp and Millar hope to redirect some of that traffic to the website so that information is more easily accessible to the community as a whole. “Hopefully it gets to the point where it’s like, I’m unemployed, I want to save money, recently lost my license, just want to ride a bike to get in shape, whatever, SaltCycle, for those living in Salt Lake City, is their resource,” says Trepp. “They go to SaltCycle with this notion in mind, ‘I need to get on a bike, I want to become a biker.’ It may not give them enough info for what to do with the bike, but it’ll tell them where to go.”
Aside from the history-making Bike Prom 2011 on April 16, which brought together an unprecedented 100-plus cyclists to ride in costume as a benefit for the Salt Lake City Bicycle Collective, most of the recent events on SaltCycle have been lung-cranking races and alleycats organized by cyclists like Millar and Trepp who like a challenge. This, however, should not discourage cyclists of all levels. “I think people need to know that they can throw their own races, they don’t have to go through the bike czars of SaltCycle,” says Millar. “I think we could do better in fostering that by having more fun races, more laid back rides.”
Thus, the growth and success of Salt Lake’s cycling community is really up to you (yes, YOU!) and your bicycle. “The biggest thing that needs to be avoided is the figurehead mentality of just focusing on one person to bring things. You need to have multiple outlets, multiple people to bring things,” says Bailey. “So if you’re expecting one person to magnificently save you in the cycling scene of Salt Lake City, it’s just not going to happen.” SaltCycle belongs to all of us—all you have to do is get out there and ride a bike. “Doesn’t matter what you ride. We get so caught up in this fixed gear, single-speed, geared bike … Who gives a damn? As long as you’re out there bicycling, you are contributing,” says Bailey. “We need to have our numbers show that we are a group and we exist, and we deserve to be on the roads just as much as anyone else. I hope that’s what SaltCycle brings, just that single drive of bringing people out.”
Aside from riding your bike as much as possible in the upcoming months, you can help SaltCycle become all that it can be by attending a benefit alleycat on May 14 at 5:30 p.m. starting at Plum Alley (across from Gallivan about 50 E. 200 S.), organized to raise some funds to get the website up to speed and ready to service the community to its fullest extent.
Millar also encourages all cyclists to go to as many events as possible this month in celebration of Bike Month, all of which will be posted in the calendar on SaltCycle.com.