Last week, I witnessed hundreds of festive riders meeting for Bike Moves, the monthly bike ride happening the same night as 1st Thursdays. We once again gathered in the parking lot of WheelHouse Bikes, dressed this time to the theme of “Heart Moves.” The poster inviting us told us to come out to say our goodbyes to WheelHouse Bikes.
We are bikers from all different walks of life — students, families with children, working professionals. We ride tandems, cruisers, town bikes, tall bikes, fixed gears, tricycles, and more.
And WheelHouse, you did truly win our hearts.
The vast crowd of diverse riders last week led me to reflect, once again, on a seemingly simple question. What is it that builds culture, more specifically, bike culture? What factors have helped bike culture grow so rapidly in Santa Barbara? There are so many heroes and groups that deserve credit for building bike culture in Santa Barbara. I’ll surely find opportunities to profile many of them in future articles.
This time I want to honor two special fellows, Erik Wright and Evan Minogue, who opened WheelHouse Bikes in May 2009. These gents love bikes, have a collaborative and generous spirit, and know how to have fun both on and off bikes. They put energy into our cycling community with creative publicity, fun events, and lots of corporate giving. As most of you know, WheelHouse closed its doors for business last month in anticipation of a big rent hike. But the contribution WheelHouse Bikes made to Santa Barbara’s bike culture continues to grow and flourish.
Santa Barbara has long been a wonderful place to ride because of its mild weather and varied terrain. And over the past 30 years, bike paths and lanes have been built that create more space on the road for us two-wheelers. But when I returned home from the Bay Area in 2001, I have to confess, I asked, “Where is the bike culture?” I joined a crew of dedicated folks working for government and nonprofits, and we did our best to promote bicycling, but the message seemed more like a mandate (“Eat your spinach!”) than an invitation. Let’s celebrate!
So how is culture created? My housemate, Lynnette, who is a linguistic anthropologist, suggests that culture, at its most basic, is made up of the things that we do together. We share activities and practices that are important to us as a community, and we create a common language for talking about these values and goals. Because we actively create it, culture can generate pride, and pride becomes a part of our identity.
And charismatic, fun people help catalyze the growth of culture. Evan, Erik, and the whole WheelHouse Crew are icons of dynamic, wacky people doing fun things, with bikes as a common language. Bikes are at the center of what we do, but they are also our chosen mode of transportation. As a friend chimed in about bike culture, “People are starting to understand that biking is about more than just moving; it’s about happiness!”
And so our bike culture grows.
As my friend Kent put it, “WheelHouse had so many great characteristics all in one spot. It was located next to the Farmers Market, so bike valet became a way of exposing many more people to bicycling. WheelHouse had a big parking lot, so it was a great place to meet for Bike Moves. It also had a completely new orientation on transportation and bike culture. Most importantly, it was run by Evan and Erik, two open and non-assuming guys who could appeal to a younger, vibrant, and more edgy bicycling community.”
WheelHouse, thank you for the three years of bike love. You brought excitement, new energy, and beautiful bikes into our Santa Barbara bike scene. Our bike culture is forever changed by your vision and passion. For those of you who don’t know the WheelHouse boys, as we lovingly call them, check out these videos to understand the fun and the style they brought us.