Marin Biketoberfest Biketacular!

You'd think a couple of  bike industry veterans from Portland, Oregon, had seen it all and done it all; it would take a lot to be wowed or surprised by a bike event. But, thanks to the creative and dedicated bike enthusiasts of the Marin County Bike Coalition we were indeed treated to an inspiring day of bikes, bike love, and beers. To start the story properly, we'll begin a few months back when Liz Canning brought the event to our attention. Liz puts the capital "C" in creative AND she's passionate about cargo bikes too. Combining her talents and passion she's working on a documentary about cargo bikes (but that's a  blog topic for another day). She'd been in contact with us during the Pedalpalooza Cargo Bike Roll Call, where she followed the gathering of many of the other cargo bike aficionados in town via internet and video. Not long after that she told us about Biketoberfest and the Cargo Bike Jubilee occuring in Marin in late September.

We decided we had to go. Our problem: how does a small business haul enough bikes to such an event to make a difference? Thanks to Joel's brilliant thinking and some research our solution presented itself in the form of a Yakima Rack and Roll Trailer. Equipped with Rocky Mt Tandem Mounts we'd have capacity for 4 on the trailer (2 Bullitts, 1 Winther Wallaroo , and a Metrofiets) and two on our roof (2 Bullitts with BionX). Problem solved.

So, the Friday before the event we loaded up the car, trailer, and our suitcases and headed south. There's no easy or short way to Fairfax from Portland; at some point you have to leave I-5 and weave your way west. Choosing to do that sooner than later, we dropped off of I-5 at Grants Pass and headed into the Redwoods, down Hwy 101 to Petaluma, and over the windy hills on the winding road towards Fairfax.

We rose early the day of the event. Fog had settled in, or so we thought. The locals actually called it rain but it was really heavy mist or light drizzle to two Oregonians.  We soon realized that Bay Area bike lovers are NOT easily "rained" out. As we arrived to set up a couple of hours before the event, two large groups assembled (one of roadies, the other mountain bikers) for group rides organized as part of the fest.  Seeing those large groups we knew it was going to be a good day.

As we settled into our allotted booth space other vendors arrived and like us hurried to get everything ready. We soon were meeting in person other cargo folk we'd only met on the phone or followed via internet. The Cargo Bike Jubilee was indeed taking shape as more cargo bikes collected in one place than ever before in Marin County history.

The event didn't disappoint in attendance either. As the day wore on, the sun broke out, and the crowds swelled. The aisles between booths were shoulder to shoulder attendees. And the beer garden...let's just say, about as popular as the bikes. Clearly, an event that was as well-attended as it was well-organized.  A big tip of our Little Package cycling caps to the organizers for making this a worthwhile and enjoyable event for a small business like Splendid Cycles.

We talked and talked cargo bikes for hours, enough to be hoarse and tired at the end of the day. But enough too to be energized by all of the interesting people we met, by  all of the interest in our bikes, and by all of the interest in cargo bikes in general. We were also invigorated by being surrounded by cargo bike vendors and builders and enthusiasts all day.

We'd sacrificed being able to attend the Oregon Manifest in order to participate in this event.  It was a tough decision since this year's challenge was to create the Ultimate Utility Bike.  But getting out of Oregon and seeing first-hand that the cargo bike revolution is spreading was more uplifting for us than the most beautiful or functional design challenge creation - and we both love hand-built bikes. The revolution is about more than the prototype designs of the Manifest. It's about the families, the businesses, and individuals who are seeking to change their lives by using bikes instead of automobiles. It's about all of the already in existence cargo bike companies that are working to spread the word and fit the needs of bike-preferring travelers.

Being from bike-friendly Portland, with its amazing bike infrastructure, 60+ bike shops, and 6% bike mode split, we sometimes forget how hard it is to move away from autocentric living.  Don't get me wrong, many other communities are doing great things to adapt for bicycle users. However, in many communities it's not so easy. The political will or the dollars are lacking. Expert shops are hundreds of miles away. Few cities for example, have the cornucopia of bike shops offering the cargo expertise and selection of transportation bikes that Portland has with Splendid Cycles, Joe Bike, or Clever Cycles. Yet, we met many (and I mean many) folks from all over the SF Bay Area who are committed to making the shift to cargo bikes and are figuring it out on their own or with help from the small shops starting to emerge in their market.The Cargo Bike Jubilee at Biketoberfest gave those folks a chance to see the broad array of cargo bike variety in one place. It gave them the opportunity to see the bikes they'd only read about and to ride the bikes they'd only seen in pictures. For us that was most gratifying and we're most proud to have been a part of that.

Being around the cargo curious and cargo hungry people of the Bay Area proved to us that we'd made the right choice in heading south to California instead of staying in town for the Manifest. Thanks to everyone at Biketoberfest who uplifted our spirits with their vision of a future with more bikes and fewer cars. A big THANK YOU for a biketacular! day to:

  • the Biketoberfest and the Cargo Bike Jubilee organizers who pulled together an amazingly well-attended and well-organized event;
  • the other cargo bike vendors who helped show the public that this category of bike is FOR REAL and who welcomed us so graciously to their home turf (Bay Area Cargo Bikes, The Bicycle Works, My Dutch Bike); and
  • most of all the attendees who traveled from far and near to learn more about cargo bikes and for inspiring us with the dedication you show to your dream of a car-light life.
Cargo on People!
PS- thanks to Nick from Shimano for loaning us the pop-up tent to shed the Marin County rain.