Kangaroo bikes and Bambi killers: Meet the cyclists of ‘Outdoorsia’
by Elly Blue.
Elly Blue is on a monthlong
Dinner & Bikes tour around the
western U.S., along with Portland bike filmmaker Joe Biel and
traveling vegan chef Joshua
Ploeg. This is one of her thrice-weekly dispatches from the road about
bicycle culture and economy. Read them all here.
Spearfish, S.D.: Last year, on the intergalactic Bikestravaganza tour, Joe and I were
flabbergasted to discover a mutant bike culture thriving in this tiny city in
the heart of the region a friend calls Outdoorsia. This year we couldn’t wait to
The day before we were to arrive, driving into the sprawling
motordom of nearby Rapid City, we spotted a guy on a tallbike merging with
traffic on a major arterial street. We asked about it at our event that night and
were met with shrugs. “It’s a frat thing,” speculated a buff young
pedicab operator. “They make some of the guys ride them.”
But minutes later, the tallbiker showed up. It was Mark Smith,
one of the founders of the Spearfish bicycle collective we’d met last year. He
had moved to Rapid City for college and brought his own piece of mutant bike
culture with him.
The next day, back at the collective in Spearfish, we reminisced about the year
before, when our event was preceded by handmade ice cream sodas and what was
billed as a cruiser ride, but was in fact a parade through town featuring nearly
a dozen mutant bikes: tall bikes, swing bikes. There was even a kangaroo
bike—a Mad Max contraption on which the pedals were set adjacent to one
another, rather than opposite, requiring the rider to pedal with both legs
moving in parallel rotation, necessitating a hopping motion.
This year, the mutant bikes were mostly hibernating for the winter, as was the
new bike-powered ice cream churn (sigh). But local ingenuity was apparent at every
turn. A young farmer showed up with a juicer and a box of vegetables and
produced pitchers full of frothy, blood-red juice. John Williams, our host at
the collective this year, rode up on his tallbike and told us that the town is now
rolling with retrodirect bikes—bikes with drive trains engineered to move
forward while you pedal either forward or backward.
Cappy, a jovial homesteader whose school bus we’d slept in the year before,
updated us on his weird and wonderful projects: the waterwheel, which runs off of an irrigation
ditch, now connects to a water tower; he’s also putting a green roof on the bike
I’ve been struggling all month to articulate the connection
between bikes and food—the two key ingredients of this great West-wide tour.
Cappy unwittingly made the connection for me in the most unexpected way.
“I hope this doesn’t offend you,” he said, jerking
his thumb back towards our vegan feast. Then he told us that he and another member
of the collective plan to go deer hunting this winter—by bike.
“We’ll bring a trailer,” he said, rubbing his
hands together and grinning.
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