Love on wheels

In honor of our annual bike issue, we wanted to highlight a few of the free-wheeling people that polished our spokes this year. Keep on pumpin’!

KAREN WEINER AND BRETT THURBER, NEW WHEEL

On a family-oriented strip of Cortland Avenue perched halfway up the precipitous heights of Bernal Hill, husband-wife team Karen Weiner and Brett Thurber have invested their all in an enterprise some would deem experimental: the first electric bike shop in San Francisco.

Photo by Mirissa Neff

“San Francisco is really the perfect place for these bikes,” said Thurber when we went on a test ride with him and Weiner around the city. Iron-thighed fixie fans notwithstanding, he’s right — there are some neighborhoods in this city where the average bear will only be able to bring a bike if he or she pushes it up the final blocks of incline. For older bikers, the e-bikes (as they are lovingly dubbed by their adherents) make it possible to zip around town, car and fancy-free. Plus, they are disturbingly fun — when else can you cruise up Twin Peaks and still be breathing easy when you reach that panoramic view?

Other stores around town do sell certain models of e-bikes, but Thurber and Weiner’s new New Wheel is the first place to specialize in them. It stocks European and Canadian-made models in addition to retrofitting kits so that normie bikes can be tricked out with motors capable of doubling one’s pedaling power.

Thurber says business has been steadily growing, and that he’s noticed that the electric bike is not a purchase taken lightly by consumers — often times a customer will come by the store six or seven times before taking that heady ride into pedal power (perhaps indicative of the bikes’ spendy pricetags.)

“People are really making this mindful shift instead of listening to us be like ‘just do it,'” says the man who hopes to be SF’s e-bike proselytizer. (Caitlin Donohue)

New Wheel, 420 Cortland, SF. (415) 524-7362, www.newwheel.net

 

PAUL JORDAN’S BIKE CAVALRY

Twenty years ago, Critical Mass began demonstrating the power and potential of mass bike rides to make a political statement by seizing space from cars and confounding the authorities. Almost 10 years ago, anti-war cyclists in San Francisco borrowed Critical Mass tactics to interfere with business as usual on daily Bikes Not Bombs rides that also proved effective and hard to police. Today, as the tides of protest again rise with the Occupy Wall Street and related movements, Paul Jordan and other founders of the new collective SF Bike Cavalry ( sfbikecavalry.org) are reviving and expanding the concept.

Photo by Tim Daw

“It’s all kinda new, definitely more of a buzzword at this point,” Jordan, a 38-year-old painting contractor, said when we caught up with him and his cycling comrades during last week’s May Day marches. “But the idea is to use bicycles for activism.”

As they demonstrated on May Day, even a dozen or so cyclists can send loud messages to passersby or nimbly create opportunities for marchers to safely seize the streets, all while riding more-or-less legally. And they can use whimsy — silly costumes, funny signs, big smiles, blowing bubbles — to defuse any tensions.

“It’s hard to be mad when you’re stuck in traffic if you see bubbles,” Jordan said as he reloaded the bubble machine on the back of his bike. “I see bubbles as a very good activist tool.”

The Cavalry is a fairly new venture, which Jordan first displayed for big Jan. 20 protests, but he sees it as something with enormous potential: “We want to figure out how to grow this bigger.” (Steven T. Jones)

SAM KROYER AND RENITA TAYLOR, ROLL SF

Sometimes it seems like the Mission has as many bike shops as taquerias, but the neighborhoods east of Potrero lacks the same double-wheelin’ bounty. Sam Kroyer and Renita Taylor met in their Bernal Heights neighborhood, where Kroyer used to run a repair shop out of his garage. Taylor is an avid biker, and the two decided to meld their respective strengths — Kroyer’s mechanical prowess and Taylor’s business know-how — and create a service-oriented shop near Potrero Hill for every type of rider.

Photo by Mirissa Neff

“We’re really trying to make it for everybody, from entry-level commuter bikers to bikers with really crazy exotic $20,000+ bikes,” Kroyer says. Kroyer has 25 year of experience as a bike mechanic, and Taylor is a sharp businesswoman who spent several years working in the entertainment industry.

Roll SF seems like an outpost in an area not known, for now, as a cycling nexus, but its atmosphere is friendly and accessible. A long wooden table runs through the center of the shop, welcoming guests to sit down and stay awhile — to use the shop’s free wi-fi while they wait, watch and ask questions, or eat dinner. Kroyer provides you with his utmost attention and quickly diagnoses your bike. If it’s a fast fix, he’ll handle it promptly with the grace cultivated by years spent engaging with a multifaceted machine. “We’re trying to make sure you come away with a great experience — that you feel like you’ve really gotten something taken care of properly,” Kroyer says. (Mia Sullivan)

275 Rhode Island, SF. (415) 701-ROLL, www.rollsanfrancisco.com

 

SONS OF SCIENCE

Are you on a motherfucking bike? Tell me you’re reading this on a motherfucking bike, doing the Tour de Fuck You. Sing with me, “No greenhouse gas! A tiny carbon footprint up your ass!” Then launch into the wickedest bike horn solo ever.

You know what I’m talking about. “Motherfucking Bike” by Sons of Science (sonsofscience.bandcamp.com), the profane viral hymn to SF peddlin’ that’s closing in on a million YouTube views and has been Tweeted liberally by the likes of Russell Crowe and Juliette Lewis. Sure it plays on every fixie hipster stereotype you can image — it’s the “Shit San Franciscans Say” for mutton-chopped, skinny-pantsed, non-fat latte-quaffing riders — but it’s pretty damn funny. (And catchy. It is maniacally catchy. So be warned.)

Sons of Science are a freewheeling trio: Ward Evans and John Benson, who direct for Sausage Films (www.sausagefilms.com), and Hector Perez, a.k.a. Horn Solo. “We’ve known each other for years and just recently decided to collaborate for fun, and it clicked. It was a great excuse to do a video. For this track we were also very lucky to feature Tim Brooks, formerly of the Young Offenders, who plays the ‘Angry Commuter’. He brought a pantsload of energy and genuine cyclist cred,” Evan told me. Also featured: the guys from that delicious new MASH shop (www.mashsf.com) near Duboce Park.

When asked about his own motherfucking bike heroes, Evans replied, “A guy named Joff Summerfield rode a penny farthing around the globe. He’d be right up there.” (Marke B.)