Welcome to Santa Cruz County’s Bicycle Courier Blog

I thought it would be great to have a place where Bike Couriers and Bike Riders could meet and talk, share stories, trade advice, and build an online community. I look forward to reading and writing our Courier stories, news, and comments.

Rick Graves

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Slow Going at MerryXmas Charity Race After Party 2014

The narrator is a loud-ass goofball, but the rest is pretty good!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Messenger Profile #14 Casey Monahan!

Casey has recently left us for Seattle, but was a great addition to the crew while he was here. We're only dissapointed that he had to quote Jason Gordon Levitt at the end of his profile. Good luck Casey!!! Sad to see you go. -RG

Hey there. I’m Casey. I started riding the treacherous roads of Santa Cruz in 1998—at the tender age of three, on a red plastic heartbreaker—and I’ve been wrecking hills ever since. I started working with bikes in high school at the local non-profit Bike Santa Cruz County (formerly People Power) instructing kids on bike safety and maintenance, making smoothies and generally “taking care of business”. I got into the d.i.y. punk scene early, and have made being a musician a huge part of my life. I’ve played countless shows in the area, and everywhere up and down the west coast, in my own projects or in my friends’ bands. My band Pigeon Pit talks a lot about growing up in Santa Cruz being loud and queer and sad (you can check it out if you want but I didn’t tell you to) and has a lot of autobiographical narratives. My music for me is about storytelling, which is a huge passion of mine. The other thing I do, besides biking and sleeping, is write. I now study Creative Writing and Gender Studies in college, and plan on writing to be published in the relatively near future. I met the guys at Clutch playing bike polo while studying literature at Cabrillo College in Aptos and working at the Bagelry downtown. After a couple years working in food service jobs and pestering Brandon about letting me work at Clutch, an opportunity arose. Working at Clutch Courier has been completely liberating for me. It’s a paycheck, sure, but it’s also an honest day’s work where I get off with a thin coat of dirt and sweat and I feel fantastic. The progress I’ve made at Clutch with my riding, my outlook and my anxiety has accomplished a huge amount of positive change for me. I feel like I’m really working for myself here, waking up completely stoked to go to work, and going home feeling exhausted and accomplished and ready to eat anything that comes near me. I recently transplanted to Seattle, WA to study Creative Writing and to eventually teach high school, but I’m still wrecking hills and blowing through tires every day, hopefully returning to courier work once I’ve gotten to know the city. I ride a touring steel frame road bike for business and a steel frame fixed gear track bike for pleasure (no brakes no masters, all cars are bastards, can’t stop, don’t want to).

Messenger Profile #15 Kellie Su!

Kellie has been an awesome addition to the Clutch Crew .. ready to take on whatever we throw her way with professionalism and a positive attitude. Plus her gear and riding skills are always on point. Keep up the good work Kellie! -RG

Hello folx,

My name is Kellie and I’ve been with the Clutch Crew for almost a year.

I was born and raised in San Francisco, doing hoodrat things with my friends mostly around the Richmond and Mission districts. I owe most of my love for cycling to my beautiful hometown, and my dad who used to be one of those spandex wearing weirdos. And now I’m a spandex wearing weirdo, but only on the weekends.

I moved to Santa Cruz circa 4 years ago to attend UC Santa Cruz for school. After pestering Clutch off and on for a while, they finally had an opening for me and I was able to say I wasn’t a starving college student anymore. Clutch gave me the opportunity to do what I love while going to school, and a real work-life balance that worked perfectly for me. Now that I’ve graduated, I get to ride my bike everyday, and sometimes even get paid to do it-- and I love every minute!

I like riding my bike in San Francisco, but I absolutely love it here in Santa Cruz. The people are nicer, traffic is less terrifying, and the roads and scenery are breathtaking.

When I’m not riding my bike, I’m either holed up playing video games, eating way too much spicy food, bummin’ it at the beach, or riding my bike.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Messenger Profile - Cody Gin

Messenger Profile ~ Cody Gin.


I’m Cody, and I’ve been working for Clutch Couriers for a little over a year now.

Rick’s been hassling me to write this for months, but now feels like the right time.

I was born and raised in San Luis Obispo, California. There, I ran amok in the hills and woods with my friends, always riding our crappy mountain bikes or rollerblades to the next adventure and/or troublemaking opportunity. I started riding my bike to school in the 8th grade, and I’ve been hooked on cycling ever since.

I moved to Santa Cruz to go to Cabrillo College to avoid the torrential rains of Humboldt, where I had previously been schooled. Here, I started playing bike polo, a weird mix of hockey and horse polo (which you all should totally play!), where I met Brandon and Andrew, who worked at Clutch Couriers at the time. It seemed like they had the dream job; getting paid to ride a bike all day. I made one attempt at that operating a pedicab, but it turns out that legal documents are way easier to carry than overweight tourists.

After graduating college, I managed to evade adult life for a couple of months by working at a camp near Yosemite. After the camp burned down in the 2014 Rim Fire, I was cast adrift into the real world. Direction was only restored when Brandon offered me a job at Clutch Couriers. After a month of couch surfing (thanks for the couch Brandon!) I regained my footing and am happily working here today.

Riding one’s bike in Santa Cruz is interesting to say the least. The dense traffic and non-intuitive street layout makes for some strange riding, unlike anywhere I’ve ridden before. However, it’s all worth it when I ride to the top of a hill and can turn around to see the entire coastline wrapping around the Monterey Bay, but on overcast days see nothing but an ocean of fog reaching all the way up to the redwoods. That shit never gets old.

In my spare time you can find me drinking beer and heckling at the polo court (search for Santa Cruz Bike Polo on Facebook for times), riding my weird cyclocross bike in the forest, or throwing my disc golf discs at trees.

Owners note- Cody is our latest messenger to cruise through his rookie year with flying colors, while always leveling up in the game. He is a dedicated and professional courier, and we are stoked to have him on crew. Great messengers like Cody don't come along every day, but they are starting to become more common due to the decent living and opportunities for advancement offered by Clutch Couriers.

Monday, August 18, 2014

A new way of doing business

I was in a business meeting with my right hand man at a local burger joint recently, and we were a few beers in when I threw out some home-spun cliche like, "every problem is an opportunity in disguise." and something changed in his face. "I never thought of it that way!" he said, and proceeded to thank me for being his mentor and tell me how much the knowledge and trust I've placed in him over the years has changed his life for the better.

It was quite a moment, and I guess I hadn't crystalized my role in the relationship in my mind until then, because it struck me what an honor and awesome responsibility this is. I mean, I was just trying to get him to change his attitude about the endless little challenges of running a small business, which is something I struggle with always. I never fully realized how valuable all my tips to success in business could be when applied to other people's lives. Many of these gems were passed down to me by my own mentors, and many were mined from decades of brutal trial and error.

This could be my ultimate contribution, I thought.. and such a scary prospect! What if I'm found out to be a hypocrite? Betraying my own lofty ideals of what I say should be done. The role of mentor can inspire me to always be a better example, to personify the vision I preach. And it can be a burden of guilt if I don't always live up to the high standards I hold others to.

The difference is in full disclosure. I am human, and I will fall short, but I know from experience what works and what doesn't, especially in my realm of expertise.

My long term crew has seen me at my worst, but they also know I have their backs, and that I've been where they are and want to make it work better for them. The knowledge I pass on to them is the best of what I can glean from everything I've collected over the years. I've been punched in the nose and gotten up - many times. Maybe I can help you to see it coming, and duck.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Ongoing discussion of bicycle entitlement vs empowerment and what that means to our real time relationships on the road...


Anonymous writes in response to my article:

"Entitlement means you should receive something by right. All people on bikes should be entitled to safe, comfortable passage.

When you say someone is 'taking up more room than they need' what you really mean is 'taking up more room than I think they need.' As a skilled, former bike messenger, you may not understand how much space someone who is a little wobbly or carrying children needs to be safe. Maybe to you 'cars that cut her off are simply obstacles that she has the deftness to go around' but to me they're physical threats that could leave my children without a father."

In reply:

Thank you 'Anonymous' for your well taken points and for pointing out a valid perspective differing from my own. I see this as an opportunity to foster mutual respect and forge positive discussion about common ground solutions.

I wholeheartedly feel the validity of being vulnerable as a cyclist on the road, but how do we get beyond that feeling of fear and get home safely on our bicycles? I think we can agree that all cyclists - no matter how wobbly - are entitled to safe passage. But feeling comfortable is an entirely different and subjective thing based on each individual's experiences and opinion, and it's much harder to write that into the law books.

For me personally, pushing myself beyond the bounds of comfort - getting out there every day and conquering my fears - has led to the kind of empowered cycling I'm talking about. It allows us the ability to assert our rights on the road while remaining above all - aware, cautious, and conscientious of the other travelers around us. While it's true that cyclists are relatively more vulnerable, we also have more freedom of movement, and the convergence of these two realizations should lead to a heightened awareness of our spatial relation to other people and things on the physical plane, as well as our options for avoiding collision - an increasingly crucial skill for survival in today's distracted and hurried world.

Safety on the road is all about your awareness and expectation of the objects around you on a very concrete level. If you expect a motorist to cut you off - regardless of how you feel about it - you are better prepared for how to deal with it. If you can let it slide off your 'duck's back' and keep going without becoming fearful or indignant, you stand a better chance of staying on the road and becoming a more experienced and stronger (less wobbly) cyclist. Alternatively, if all day long you see every car as a life-threat, you may conclude that bicycling is dangerous and give it up entirely until society creates an infrastructure built just for you and your comfort level.

I submit that a certain amount of faith and responsibility in becoming competent and comfortable is required in stepping outside every day. I know that when I was first starting out as an urban cyclist, if I felt particularly nervous on a certain busy thoroughfare, I would seek alternative routes until my skill level and confidence matched the flow of traffic on those streets.

To me empowerment is the act of carving out your niche in the ecosystem we all intend to share in a way that takes into consideration all the players involved. After all we are all just people trying to get somewhere alive and continuing the 'us vs them' narrative leads nowhere fast.

I do see a middle ground that provides for everyone's safety while keeping in mind the need for the efficient flow of all traffic. (see positive examples of dedicated NYC/Portland bike lanes) The vehicle code, although not set up originally for the rights of all, is a means of correcting the equation between motorists and cyclists. Dedicated and painted bike lanes that are routed 3 feet out of the path of opening car doors and jay-walking pedestrians are one example. Another is the recently passed law in California requiring cars to 'safely' pass cyclists by giving them at least 3 feet of leeway.

One proactive step we could all personally take would be to lobby our state politicians for stricter penalties on motorists who kill and maim cyclists with reckless or negligent driving.

Bill Monning State Senator


Mark Stone State Assembly


Finally, while I appreciate the input, I do have to correct you on calling me a 'former bike messenger'. I'm not just writing about this stuff, I've been a working messenger for over 20 years and I still regularly ride 50 mile days on my bike to Watsonville and back for Clutch Couriers. Also as a worker/owner I'm proud to say I don't take any accounts or jobs that I wouldn't be happy to do myself for the price offered; An important distinction and another building block of empowerment for my crew.

"Rather than pave the whole world in leather.. put on a pair of shoes." - Unknown

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Bicycle Empowerment vs. Bicycle Entitlement - an opinion piece

When I was a kid growing up in rural New Zealand our family farm was in the Waitakere mountain ranges, perched a couple of miles up a gravel road and then up a steep driveway winding through overhanging rainforest ferns dripping their big dew drops down the back of your jacket.

I thought of a bike as a tool and a toy; it was for getting around and play. Racing down that country road with the wind at my back I felt as if I was flying. It didn't matter that I was precariously balanced on the back of my older brother's bike rack on the way to school, or that he often tried to bump me off by hitting the biggest rocks as a joke. The danger only added to my exhilaration. I was always disappointed when we got to the asphalt and he would let me off like so much dead weight. As he disappeared over the next hill, his strong legs barely showing the effort of his acceleration, I marveled at the speed and grace the bicycle gave my sometimes dorky brother. It seemed to transform him with the power of movement.

When I got my own bike I was more cautious, but I was always thrilled at how far I could go up our little road without much effort, and I never tired of letting the miles of greenery just flow past as my little legs found their first tenuous cadence.

In my 'urban twenties', living in the lower east side of Manhattan, my bicycle opened up a whole new world to me. First of all, it's the only practical way to get around. If you own a car in New York you are a fool or must love paying tickets and gridlock, because that's all you get. The subway is ok, but it takes forever and is extremely claustrophobic. The bike is the complete opposite and it's a perfect tool for inner city transport; also your bike lock can serve as a handy form of self defense in a pinch. Most often my bike offered me freedom and empowerment. The freedom to leave my neighborhood and explore the madness that was New York City. Boundaries meant nothing to me, and if someone tried to corner me I could easily get away .. "Gotta go, yo!"

When I became a bike messenger in '94 it gave me an escape out of my dead end retail job where I was treated less than human. In courier work I found a merit-based career where I could move up in value and commission based on my willingness and ability to grow stronger and learn new skills.

People who rode bikes in New York came from every socio-economic background. If you looked at all the snarling and immobilized motor traffic, it just seemed that we were the locals with the most common sense and moxie. Everyone else was trapped in the grid, but not necessarily inferior or worthy of derision beyond a chuckle as you flew past.

It wasn't until I moved back to the west coast in the 2000's that I met the 'Entitled Cyclist'. You know the type.. They sit up real straight in the saddle, snoot aloft, taking up more room than they need on the road to feel comfortable - because godammit they are saving the planet with every pedal turn - and you are just going to have to wait with your carbon-spewing monstrosity. The cyclists who call themselves 'car-free' and look down on you if you drive. Ask them to say 'SUV' without making the letters drip with judgement and contempt. Also included in this category are the inconsiderate cyclists who incite road rage and confuse the flow by blowing through intersections and tearing down one-way streets the wrong way because they feel they deserve to and everyone else should be looking out for them.

I was visibly annoyed with this crowd, and still am for the most part, but I was recently illuminated by a different perspective from a friend who told me that when she first started to ride regularly, she cultivated and used that sense of entitlement to propel her up hills in the rain when really, she would have rather been in a warm, cozy car. "I'd look at these 'car-people' knowing they were fat and lazy and would never get off their asses to do what I was doing, and that made me feel great about myself, even if I was physically miserable." she admitted, adding- "As I got stronger from riding every day, I didn't need that feeling as much." In this instance she used her entitlement to empower herself, although I doubt the smug look on her face inspired many drivers to get out of their cars and into the rain.

I realize that at least half of all human endeavor is motivated by ego, and if you can feel superior to someone else, it's a great motivator. While I see the powerful drive behind such thinking in the bicycling community - and even it's positive outcome - I feel it's a double-edged sword that can create a martyr complex from a sense of sacrifice - i.e. "I'm better and give more because I'm biking versus driving."

An Entitled Cyclist lives in a world relative to the motorist. She feels good because he is lazy and polluting in comparison. In contrast, an Empowered Cyclist lives in a world relative to her better self. She feels good because with every crank she gets closer to her literal and figurative destination; as well as her goal of good health and a sense of joy through movement. The cars that cut her off are simply obstacles that she has the deftness to go around .. like water in a mountain stream flowing around rocks on it's way to the ocean.

As bicycling gains popularity you might think that more cyclists on the road is a good thing overall, but I would argue that we need all the entitled cyclists to eventually grow into a more responsible and empowered style of riding. Empowered cyclists are more desirable because they understand that survival on the road is a matter of respect. They know sharing the road means being aware of everyone's trajectory, and act as part of a system with common sense rules that apply to all. Like waiting to take your turn. Personally, I'm tired of motorists - conditioned by rude cyclists - expecting me to ignore four way stop signs, or worse, trying to wave me into situations where their well meaning but misplaced politeness would put me in danger. I'd rather give the right of way and live another day. Plus, it's less confusing for everyone involved.

I'm not advocating stupidity .. there are obviously some scenarios where it's appropriate for cyclists to bend the rules that are designed for cars. Common sense tells us though, that if you don't want to die or hurt someone (let's hope we all agree on that at least) you should be visible, slow down and look at every intersection, give the right of way, and not whip around blind corners that might have pedestrians crossing.

Empowerment is agency. It's the feeling of self-worth that comes from making yourself valuable to society and leveraging your skills towards a goal, whether it be personal or community minded. Entitlement is when you expect special treatment because of the sacrifices you have made for society, or because of your position at birth in the social strata - be it high or low.

Bicycling has brought me so much growth and empowerment in my life and career, and sometimes admittedly a sense of superiority. But I have to say that it came only after bicycling itself took over my life and made me stronger. It was something I had to do by necessity and for that I'm grateful. Perhaps if I had been given the choice I would have needed a sense of entitlement and specialness to get over those hills in the rain.


editors note: [pic is former Clutch Courier and Competitive Cyclist Nate King]