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In With California’s Cargo Bike Crowd

Before you get used to following different news organizations, local bike bloggers and other new people on Twitter, you get your information the old fashioned way: a woman on a bike handing you a flier while both of you are in motion after a fifteen-second conversation.

That’s how I learned of the San Jose Cargo Bike Festival. It’s also known by an alternative name – usually said back to people when you tell them what you’re doing this weekend: “There’s a San Jose Cargo Bike Festival?”

Yes.

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I never got too far into the backstory, but for whatever reason cargo bike enthusiasts – both builders and users – enjoy getting together to show off their bikes, allow test rides, and have cargo-carrying contests and the like.

My experience at the San Jose Cargo Bike Festival made me almost want to amend my story on the six places to ride when moving to a new city. Your city may not have an organized group of cargo bike enthusiasts but if they do you should seek these people out. They are an interesting, easygoing lot who believe cargo bikes carry out an important role in cities… yet paradoxically they don’t take themselves too seriously.

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The bike with the surfboard on the side is from Box Bike Collective. It was the first bike that caught my eye when I walked in and the guy who made it was happy to tell me all about his creation while cargo bikes – which could be test ridden by any attendee- zipped in and out of the parking lot.

Just about every bike at the show had a kind of utilitarian funkiness that aimed to convince people to cross ‘lack of cargo space’ off their list of reasons why the use a car instead of a bike. The best ones, however, were just over the top for the sake of being over the top.

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As it turned out, there were several bicycles at the show that boasted sound systems that could create earthquakes. But there was only one bike that was serving coffee.

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After mingling for a while I needed to leave, but just a few paces away from the coffee bike was another bike that had been slightly modified so that it could make a smoothie. A little-known rule of cycling etiquette is if anyone offers you a smoothie from a bike/blender hybrid, you do not turn them down.

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As I sipped my smoothie, I talked with the creator of this bike as well as the maker of the surfboard-carrying bike. That conversation led to him wanting me to borrow one of his cargo bikes so I could write a review – which I did.

As cyclists, we often ask ourselves what we can do with a bike. The participants of the San Jose Cargo Bike Festival take it further by asking what else we can do with a bike. It’s good to be with people like that often. I was thankful for the woman who gave me the flier for bringing me to this quirky, fun event – and thankful for the chance to review a bike that would take me on another adventure.

About the author:

Michael K. Norris is the founding editor of DIYBIKING.COM, a site focused on bike builds, travel and activism. In addition to being a freelance writer and researcher, he is a regular volunteer at Good Karma Bikes, a San Jose-based organization that helps the less fortunate acquire and repair bikes. He can be followed on Twitter at @michaelknorris Michael lives and works in San Jose, California.

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