Author Archive for Matthew Biers

Bar Mitzvah and The Beast at Sacramento REI

Hear Davis bike author Matt Biers-Ariel give his hilarious and poignant book reading/slide show at the Sacramento REI on Wednesday, August 29 at 7:00 PM. The Bar Mitzvah and The Beast: One Family’s Cross-Country Ride of Passage by Bike documents his family’s 3,804 mile ride from San Francisco to Washington DC that they undertook when his atheist son refused to have a traditional Jewish rite of passage. Matt’s insights into family dynamics, bicycling, and global climate change is continuing to entertain readers all over America.

What is the Woodland Bike Campaign?

During the five years that I worked as a classroom presenter in Yolo County, I noticed a long lines of cars in front of schools dropping off students in the morning and picking up students in the afternoon.  The bike racks were almost empty.

The topic of suicide prevention is so important that the state of California made it a part of required curriculum for all seventh- and 10th-graders. I loved my job as a classroom presenter on this sensitive topic that many teachers shy away from.

When my job terminated, I was a little depressed. What do you do with yourself at the age of 55? I thought about all the wonderful people I had met, teachers and administrators who genuinely care and work hard for their students and parents. I thought about all the wonderful relationships that had been built in the classroom, with school counselors and nurses, and I thought, “What can I do to help?”
About eight months ago, an idea was hatched. It was small at first and just kept growing. The positive response from school principals, community leaders, service clubs and administrators has been astounding. At its heart is the desire to share the joy of cycling with all the wonderful people that I’ve met in Woodland.
Bike riding brings  joy, freedom, independence and a sense of responsibility and pride, something you don’t get when someone else is driving you around. It occurred to me, after those years in the classroom of telling teens about the grim realities of life, that I could have a more positive impact by encouraging them to do something fun.

The Woodland Bike Campaign’s No. 1 objective is to get more people on bikes. Right now, fewer than 1 percent of teens ride their bikes to school. In fact, probably fewer than 1 percent of the population of Woodland rides bikes as a form of transportation.

It won’t take long for you to realize why your drive to anywhere in the morning or at 2 p.m. is so darn frustrating. Parents are shuttling their kids everywhere, to sports, to shop, to visit friends. How much time would you have if we were not taxiing our kids everywhere? How much money and CO2 would we save? What would you do with extra time and money you’d save?

I hope you’ll consider being a part of the solution, for far more reasons than can be counted in this column. People ride bikes because they care about the environment, to save money and because it’s healthy — lowering cholesterol, high blood pressure and stress.

You say your bike’s not working, or you don’t have a bike? The Woodland Bike Campaign is sponsoring its next free bike clinic in August at the County Fair Mall. Here, you will find helpful bike technicianss who are willing and able to do an overall safety review of your bike, fix some flats, show you how to pump up your tires, grease your chain and check your brakes. Come and learn how to get a bike and helmet if you can’t afford one.

With this campaign, you have the opportunity to get out there and be the change you wish to see in Woodland. Since you’ll have a little more time and money left over from not driving, please stop by Common Grounds at 729 Main St. and buy a $2 raffle ticket for the deluxe Electra Sugar Skulls Cruiser. Proceeds from the raffle support the free bike clinic and campaign.
For more information about the campaign and answers to your bike-related questions, email Maria Contreras at


Cycling fulfilled my desire for adventure

By Enrique Fernandes

Returning to Woodland unemployed, underwater in student debt and unaccomplished in almost every sense of the word, I didn’t imagine it would be so tough transitioning to the post-graduate life of leisure. Since no job offers with great pay, great benefits and minimal amounts of work required were presented to me after finishing school, I had planned on embarking on an extended break from pretty much everything.

Now, despite having longed for a reprieve from the stress and anxiety that accompanies the life of a student, I found it quite difficult acclimating to the aimless life of languid monotony. Though it was languid monotony I sought after four years of university work, having once achieved it, it wasn’t the panacea I had hoped it to be.

With the disappearance of all deadlines, projects and assignments, which had filled my daily schedule, I assumed all stress would fade along with it. Fade the stress did, but my mind remained unsettled. This relaxation thing didn’t sit as well as I thought it would sit with me.

After spending some time reflecting, I discovered it was recreation I wanted, not relaxation. It was adventure, I concluded, not inactivity that would provide me the tranquility and peace of mind I sought.

So, I decided to completely refigure the laidback plans I had devised for how I would spend my prolonged vacation, but I didn’t have much money to turn those plans into reality. With my ambitions soaring in a direction my savings balance was not, I didn’t have much to work with to obtain recreation or adventure. I was too broke to travel anywhere exotic and too unimaginative to devise some reasonably inexpensive local excursion.

I reached the point of almost giving up on the hope of achieving the excitement and adventure I desired, but then taking up the sport of cycling crossed my mind. It seemed like the perfect activity to supply me with what I was after. The thought of pedaling along miles of country roads and examining territory unfamiliar to me seemed pretty adventurous. It would be a way to get outside the city limits — away from the daily clamor — and reconnect with the countryside I had missed so much.

Solidifying my desire to take up cycling was the relatively light financial burden required to begin. I was able to find a fairly inexpensive road bike at Foy’s Bike Shop, and staying away from any spandex gear helped me trim not only cost, but potential embarrassment.

Within a day of purchasing my road bike, I took my first journey. Heading south on County Road 102, I ended up making a nice 20-mile trip around Woodland. As I began to get more comfortable on the bike, I began myself using it more than just as a recreational toy. I found myself regularly riding my bike to the job I eventually found in Woodland. With the price of gas climbing and carbon emissions growing, it felt good commuting to work in a vehicle other than a car.

The investment I made in purchasing a road bike has paid more than the obvious financial dividends. Cycling has provided me with an avenue to not only escape the quotidian occurrences of daily life, but it has supplied me with an outlet for acquiring adventure and achieving mental clarity.

Having taken numerous rides around Woodland and the Capay Valley, I’ve come to realize that you really don’t need to travel outside of Woodland or Yolo County to experience excitement or thrills. We are surrounded by such incredible natural beauty that I am often reminded of how spoiled we are, as Woodlanders, to be entrenched in the heart of an agriculture epicenter.

By just venturing out around the landscape farmers are constantly cultivating, you’ll find so much uncultivated splendor.

To Drive or Not To Drive

Hamlet’s famous soliloquey deals with the ultimate question: should I stay or depart from this world. This isn’t a question I ever ponder because for all its problems, I love life. Yet I am assailed with environmental questions on a daily basis, the main one being: how do I shrink my ginormous Bigfoot carbon footprint into a petite Lotus Foot?

Hamlet pondered whether or not to plunge his bare bodkin into his gut. My existential question boils down to:  To drive or not to drive. Driving is fast, convenient, and relatively cheap when compared to public transportation. You don’t have to plan your trip with schedules, transfers, and correct change. You aren’t beholden to listening to the jerk behind you singing Van Morrison in the key of loud. You don’t stew at the station waiting for a delayed train. Rather, you simply jump in the car, put your favorite beverage in its holder, and accelerate. It is a no-brainer. A no-brainer but for the fact that every mile driven is a pound of carbon dioxide spewed into the atmosphere.

For an entire week, I went back and forth about whether I should drive my car to my friend Frank’s house in San Mateo or take public transportation. It is a relatively easy public transportation foray. Bike to Amtrak and train to Richmond, switch to BART, ride to Milpitas, and bike to Frank’s house. 3 hours, 30 minutes door to door. Roundtrip ticket, $50. Or I could drive. 1 hour, 30 minutes and $25 gas and tolls.

Extenuating circumstances included: Djina was on-call over the 24 hours I would be away, and I felt a bit guilty about leaving Solly on his own because that meant an awful lot of The Simpsons reruns. I could save both time and money if I drove, and I wouldn’t be chained to the train times. But the carbon footprint, Matt. What about that?

For five days I was on the fence, handcuffed by indecision. I started feeling the best way would be to stay home. Save money, save gas, play football with Solly. In the end, I rationalized that I’d make up the 200-mile round trip to San Mateo in eight days of bicycle commuting to work.

So I guiltily drove off.

30 miles into the trip, the engine made a new kind of sound. I pulled over and discovered a spark plug was not in its usual place. $270 and three hours later I was back on the road. Clearly, a lesson was to be learned. But what was it? It depends on whom you ask. If you ask me, the universe/God/karma/whatever was speaking slowly in simple sentences as if explaining to a small child: whenever you have a choice, don’t drive.  To Djina, the lesson was also abundantly clear: take the car in for routine maintenance, and spark plugs won’t fly out of engines. Solly’s take home was: you should have stayed home and watched The Simpsons. They had a new episode which was way better than going to San Mateo and there’s no carbon footprint.

If I am ever going to be serious about arresting global warming, I will need to learn this lesson. I suppose that goes for us all.

Davis Bicycles!: Pushing the limits

By Pam Cordano
How does a non-athletic, mother-of-two who’s immersed in a very busy life decide to ride her bike 545 miles down the coast of California?
In my case, it started with the chance meeting with an AIDS doctor who sent me a link to the AIDS Ride, an annual event in which 2,500 cyclists ride their bikes from San Francisco to Los Angeles in seven days to raise millions of dollars to provide critical services to people living with HIV and AIDS.
When I registered for this daunting ride late in 2010, my sedentary life thankfully turned upside-down. The only athletic thing I had ever done had been at the age of 16, when I joined a YMCA camp and rode my bike from San Jose to Yosemite. I didn’t know a soul doing the AIDS ride, but somewhere in my bones I believed I could do it, so I got a thumbs up from my husband and kids, gathered my courage and dug my barely-used bike out of the garage.
Initially, I was most worried about the fundraising component (each cyclist must raise a minimum of $3,000), but that proved to be the easier part, thanks to the generosity of family and friends. Training was the larger challenge, and believe me, it took me physically and emotionally beyond where I thought I could go.
I started riding to Winters and around Pleasant Valley Road when I could, and I joined a Saturday training team in Orinda to start a new and exciting relationship with hills.  We started with gorgeous rides along The Three Bears, Grizzley Peak and Morgan Territory, and our grand finale was Mount Diablo. Is there any better way to spend a Saturday?  These rides left me exhausted, but exhilarated and inspired. Bit by bit, I was gaining strength and confidence.
When I started riding 60 to 70 miles at a time, I ran into a major problem. At about mile 60, I hit a wall.  I got unbearably uncomfortable and wanted nothing but to get off the bike. The fresh air and flowers meant nothing anymore … I couldn’t go on.
Realizing I needed some help with this, I went to my go-to-guy at Wheelworks, Adam Smith. He was excellent in helping me find ways to dig deeper when I hit that wall. I learned something about the satisfaction that comes from pushing through hard miles and finding unexpected energy and resilience when I thought I was at the end of my rope.
Then I started having problems with my left iliotibial band (outer thigh) and knee. Hideshi at Fitness Garage helped me with tape, massage and exercises to do at home. He also taught me to say “I will do it” instead of “I can do it” on the road. Through the help these guys gave me, I learned about the invaluable importance of a support team.
My months of training culminated on June 5, 2011, when 2,500 cyclists from 40 states and 11 countries left the Cow Palace, along with 600 roadies and 250 vehicles. We averaged 80 miles a day and camped in Santa Cruz, King City, Paso Robles, Santa Maria, Lompoc and Ventura before a triumphant arrival in L.A. From the first moment, there was a brilliant synergy of seriousness and playfulness along the way. We raised a record $13 million, made lifelong friendships and had an unforgettable time in the process.
In my heart, I wanted to do the ride again this year, but worried that my kids might be tired of my being gone on Saturdays. When I asked them about it, they said, “Mom, you’re a lot nicer when you’re riding your bike!” So I’ve committed to another ride down the coast this June.

— Matt Biers-Ariel and Mont Hubbard are co-editors of the Davis Bicycles! column, published every other week in The Davis Enterprise. To offer a Davis Bicycles! column, write to them at or log on to to see instructions for authors.

Why we participate in the May is Bike Month Challenge at North Davis Elementary by Kristen Muir

By Kristen Muir

1.  For the mother who has a limited income and has left an old bike in the garage for too long and won’t use it since it is so beat-up, who comes to the Davis Bicycles! Bike Rodeo with her bike, learns how to grease her chain and works with the mechanics on site to bring new life into her bike, who then rides her bike with her children after driving her car for so many years.

2.  For the kindergarten student who has been riding with training wheels and was too scared to work on taking them off, until May is Bike Month comes along and gives her the reason to do just that. After seeing all the kids on the blacktop, riding through a variety of bike courses, she goes home with her mom and asks her to take off the training wheels, spends several hours over the next few days and is now riding her two-wheel bike!

3.  For the third-grader who announced, “I don’t know how to ride my bike.” When given the challenge by me, and her classmates, to use this month to learn, goes straight home and works with her parents on learning to ride her bike. Who talks with me and works with her parents to estimate how many “miles” she is riding when she is practicing over and over again. And who, by the end of the month proudly announces, “I can ride my bike!”

4.  For the students who get excited about the UCD Cycling Team members coming to our blacktop to participate in a Criterium-like “race.” Who stay and listen to those same cyclists as they talk about bike safety, the importance of following the street signs and wearing helmets.

5.  To hear students tell me that their parents are letting them ride to school with a group of friends for the first time, now that they see that they can ride safely. To hear parents tell me that their children are asking to ride their bikes to school instead of being driven.

6.   To see the amazement on students’ (and parents’) faces when we create a cool drink with a bike blender.

7.  When several students share their unicycling abilities and teachers and staff share their unique bikes (quad cycle, tandem, recumbent bike, etc.).

8.  So that Peter Wagner can come talk with students about his innovative bicycles, to discuss how he began creating his unique bikes as a sixth-grader. To see that glimmer in a few students’ eyes when they think to themselves, “I could do that!”

9.  To empower our students to make a difference in their daily life.

10. To meet a new family from Roseville who came to Bike Loopalooza to ride our Davis 12-mile bike loop, to see the elementary schools and homes in the area as they look at moving here.

For the children of Davis, the bicycle may be their first taste of freedom. They can go where and when they want without the help of their parents. What a great blessing to bequeath our children.

May is Bike Month, which is a great time to get more students on bicycles. But why stop at students? May is Bike Month is a great time for adults to reaquaint themselves with the beauty of biking. There are many activities to do: log your miles and help Davis reach a million bicycle miles, and go on the Tour de Cluck and the Bike Loopalooza, to name just some of the highlights.

And don’t forget, Wednesday, May 9, is Bike to School Day.

— Kristen Muir runs a PTA-funded physical fitness program at North Davis Elementary School and coordinates the school’s May is Bike Month activities.


The Busycle: Part 2

By Paul Guttenberg

The desperate call from the airport was a last-minute plea for help. Broken-down at the side of the road, the Busycle sat in a parking lot in the East Bay. The support vehicle was out of commission. A storm was coming. It was getting dark. Most likely, locusts would gather next.

There is nothing quite like a disaster in the making to attract the weak of mind. Calls were made, a rental trailer obtained, and yours truly was off to the East Bay in an attempt to rescue the Busycle. Helping hands were promised and all equipment needed would be waiting.

Arriving at the yard, it turned out that the proprietor now demanded compensation for storing the Busycle, or he would sell it. The bill, not surprisingly, was outrageous. All those high hopes were to end with the Busycle held hostage and threatened with an ignominious final journey to the scrap heap.

Many calls ensued, a variety of cycling enthusiasts, human-powered artists and other assorted ne’er-do-wells lent their voices. Soon, a local television station became interested. Busycle held hostage, film at 11. The corporate district office for the franchisee holding the Busycle did not welcome this prospect. They would provide a trailer, but the Busycle had to be gone that afternoon.

Alone in the pouring rain, this reporter rushed to the storage yard, equipped with an underpowered truck, a come-along and a complete lack of judgment. Hooking up the auto transport trailer in the rain was enjoyable enough, crawling underneath to attach wiring and ensuring all the chains were in place. Then it was off to load the Busycle, alone.

It was analogous to watching your crazy uncle at the family picnic starting the barbecue. First he piles on a huge mountain of charcoal until it is spilling off the sides of the barbecue. Then he grabs a 5-gallon can of gasoline and begins emptying it as a starter.

He puts the can down, pulls out a paper matchbook, and starts reaching into the coals. No matter how hard you try, you cannot stop yourself from watching. You also do not want get anywhere close to the impending conflagration.

That’s what it was like in the yard. Alone in a thunderstorm, armed with a come-along and a wooden block, I was attempting to raise a 1,500-pound human-powered behemoth onto a flatbed trailer behind a small truck. Everyone watched and no one came forward.

Luckily, intimate knowledge of a few magical phrases that cannot be repeated in a family-oriented publication such as this provided just the edge needed to get the job done. After some time, the Busycle was on Interstate 80 headed toward Davis.

The uncontrollable fishtailing didn’t begin in earnest until 45 mph, so it wasn’t really a problem until the downhill runs. Climbing a hill, school buses would roar past, young faces pressed to the windows in awe. Descending, large semis would put on their emergency flashers and remain hundreds of yards behind as we gracefully remained within two lanes or so, mostly.

Shaken, stirred and pulverized, we finally reached Davis and, with the help of friends, offloaded the Busycle. There is no telling how long it will remain in our community, but when it leaves it will be pulled by another.

Until it leaves our community, it needs care and attention. At this point, it is still parked outside, exposed to the elements. While all the parts are recycled and relatively hardy, the winter rains still take their toll. A local business owner has been kind enough to allow me to store it in his parking area, but something covered would be much more suitable. I remain hopeful that I will discover a spot to help preserve this unique treasure out of the elements.

The ongoing mechanical needs are something I deal with as my schedule allows, and so far I have been able to keep it in running order. Volunteers are always appreciated to assist with upkeep. I hope it will be preserved and cared for sufficiently to allow the Davis community to enjoy it this coming Picnic Day.

Please feel free to contact me at if you care to help.



The Busycle Comes to Davis, Part 1

There are many cycling machines wandering our fair burg. We’ve all seen tandems on our roads, and even the occasional triplet. Those interested in historical cycling machines have seen bicycles that even seat up to six or eight people in a line.

Now, a human powered vehicle that seats 15 has been plying the streets of Davis on occasion. The Busycle has come toDavis.

Constructed on the chassis of a 1989 Dodge 15-passenger bus, the Busycle is no lightweight. It was brought to life by a consortium of MIT engineers, students, fabricators and artists. Using recycled, donated and scavenged parts, they created a vehicle to move by human power alone, despite a weight of just over 1,500 pounds. The good news is that the Mack Truck transmission is unlikely to fail, though difficult to operate. There is also no fear of rolling over.

Technically, only 14people can actually pedal. The 15th steers, brakes and shifts after a fashion. Considering the nature of the transmission, this is not a plum job aboard the Busycle. All those pedaling the Busycle face outward, making for a very naturally friendly mode of transport. The low speeds at which it travels allows people to engage in conversation and wonderment.

How it came to Davis is a matter of serendipity. It was one of those bizarre cycling-related stories that can only happen in a tight, off-kilter community of both like-minded and apparently weak-minded aficionados of human-powered vehicles. The plan was to return it to Boston after its five-year stint in the Bay Area. Yours truly had ridden it several times in Palo Alto to various gatherings, celebrations and music venues. It had served a valuable purpose, and was a hit for young and old alike.

Now, it was time for it to return to the place where it was created. A bus to tow the Busycle was procured, along with a trailer upon which to transport the Busycle. Goodbyes were said, preparations completed and a commercial driver for the bus recruited. The Busycle was off across the country once again.

But a desperate call came late one fall week. On Day 1 of the trans-American journey, the bus had overheated severely. The hitch had failed. The trailer had disappeared. The Busycle was left at the side of the road in the EastBay. A journey of nearly 3,000 miles had ended in disaster 43 miles from the start.

At least a rental yard pulled the Buscyle into its fenced in area to keep it from being vandalized. The organizer of the whole affair was headed to the airport to fly back to Ireland. The one remaining originator of the Busycle was in India. Was there anything the Davis cycling community could do to help?

Don’t Call It Cheating by Diane Swann

Diane Swann raves about the electric bike she and her husband bought in 2008, on which they have logged more than 11,000 miles. The Swanns use the e-bike for errands, commuting and recreation. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise photo

In 2008, my husband, John, and I bought an electric bicycle, a BionX-equipped pedal-assist bike. Before I go further, let me disclose that we are now e-bike dealers. After riding it, we thought, “This is something people should know about!”

An e-bike is to our transportation what a cell phone is to most people’s communication system.  Together we have logged more than 11,000 miles on this bike alone.

We use our e-bike for errands, commuting and recreation. Thanks to our e-bike, we are consistently logging more bicycle miles each month than automobile miles. Our auto insurance company recently sent us a check for reduced mileage.

I have been pleasantly surprised by the social implications of riding the e-bike. Instead of constantly bringing up the rear when riding with others, my bike catapulted me to the front of the group.  I can now chat with people who previously would have blown by me.  I have no fear of getting dropped or slowing people down. Instead of “Wait for me!”; it’s “Go ahead; I’ll catch up.”

Continue reading ‘Don’t Call It Cheating by Diane Swann’

New Year’s Bicycle Resolutions

By Matt Biers-Ariel and Mont Hubbard

This week we asked for people to send in their bicycling New Year’s resolutions. So here they are. The first one is a resolution that we hope many of you strive for because whether you are an 8-year-old who is riding to school for the first time or the octogenarian who has ridden two-dozen Foxy’s Fall Centuries, Davis Bicycles! wants your story in The Enterprise.

Here’s to a safe and awesome year of biking!

I resolve to write a Davis Bicycles! column. — Leo Rainer

As a household, log more bicycle miles every month than car miles. — John Swann

I resolve to explore Yolo County more by bike. — Christal Waters

I resolve to ride my bike more for errands (offsetting car use), in addition to recreation. — Steve Macaulay

In 2012, I resolve to wear my bicycle helmet while commuting. — Mike Hill Continue reading ‘New Year’s Bicycle Resolutions’