Patrick Stephenson (Photo: Colin Michael Simmons)
Surly proudly sponsors 30 Days of Biking, wherein bicycling enthusiasts/novices/folks like you pledge to ride their bike every day for the month of April. (April has 30 days, hence the name. Did we just blow your mind?) Riding to work and back, tooling around the neighborhood with your kids, spin class, it doesn’t matter: Ride every day, then tag your adventures with #30daysofbiking on social media. That’s it!
The force behind this is Patrick Stephenson, a mild-mannered public media professional by day who also happens to be Minnesota’s bike messiah. We asked him about the origin of the concept, his first bike, the Joyful Riders Club, and more.
What was the first bike you owned? The first bike I ever bought myself was a dark blue Raleigh Mountain Bike. I used my high school graduation money. The very same day I bought it, I went over the handlebars when the sweater I had tied around my waist got caught in the back wheel. I broke my arms. The first bike I ever owned, though, was a Huffy. I rode my Huffy everywhere, man, often barefoot and never with a helmet on. Helmets were for dorks. (P.S. I love my helmet now.) You know how people talk about roaming their neighborhood in a pack of kids on bikes? That was me, and my childhood!
When did you get “serious” about biking? When I became a bike commuter, riding from my apartment in the Macalester neighborhood of Saint Paul to the ad agency I worked at in Loring Park, downtown Minneapolis. Summer and fall biking were fine, but biking through the winter really made me fall in love. I rode on a black Surly Steamroller, single speed — with studded tires on that first winter. The minimalist nature of the single-speed was amazing. No shifting, just pedaling, and maintaining a single-speed is easy. I’m not mechanically inclined at all, so that was appealing.
Where did the 30 Days of Biking idea come from? Someone on Twitter (Liz Bastian) tweeted about doing #30daysofyoga. I wasn’t into yoga, but this was the spring after my first winter of biking, and I was REALLY into bike commuting. I proposed #30daysofbiking, and the very next month coming up was April. People jumped all over it.
(Surly spoke card, which you’ll get if you ride on April 1)
Why April? Spring fever? Well, April started a week after I first used that hashtag. It was natural to start in April — and this was a REALLY nice April, back in 2010. The weather was really warm and pleasant, and we were riding in short-sleeves by the time it started. Why do we STILL do it in April? Because April is the confluence of all seasons. You could get a shock snowstorm. It could rain. It could be a perfect beautiful spring day with the birds chirping and the green leaves and the flowers blooming. It’s when everybody’s finding their spring energy again, but typically, it’s not when the “bike season” begins. We’re changing that.
When did you realize that this thing was a lot bigger than just some Twin Cities riders navigating Minneapolis and St. Paul for 30 days in the spring? Last year, I saw a movie of the kickoff ride in Minsk, Belarus — it was really beautifully filmed video of 300 people biking in the dark in a rainstorm, with the spoke card we’d created here in Minneapolis lodged firmly in their spokes. There’ve been a few moments like that since the beginning of 30 Days of Biking, but that was mind-blowing.
How many people pledged in 2010 versus 2016? 300 to just under 9,000. I expect about 10,000 to sign up this year!
How many states/countries do you have a presence in? We estimate 100+ countries. Some locations this year include Johannesburg, South Africa; Sevastopol, Russia; and São Paulo, Brasil
(The Joyful Riders Club at Surly)
What is the relationship between 30 Days of Biking and Joyful Riders? So, Mario Macaruso — my partner in joyfulness — joined 30 Days of Biking in 2011 as our Ride Director. He was like, “30 Days of Biking needs to continue. How can I help?” This guy is a natural genius at leading rides, from routing, to being at the front and interacting with everybody, to creating a joyful and welcoming spirit. So every year since 2011, we’ve staged weekly Thursday rides during 30 Days of Biking, and at the end of April, the community that formed around those rides would disperse. Purely from an audience retention standpoint, we were like, “How do we keep our crew together?!” A weekly ride was too much of a commitment, obviously, but both of us could handle a monthly ride. So in the summer of 2016, the Joyful Riders Club was born, and a very tight-knit community of people has formed around it! Mario’s the ride leader, and I ride at the back to ensure we don’t lose anyone. We have a pretty perfect partnership. The Joyful Riders Club also has a Facebook group that’s become a focal point of our actions. We can use it to point people toward events we like, and people can promote their own rides. It’s great! Oh yeah, and everyone who attends the ride gets a free beer thanks to Surly Brewing! We’re also supported by Farmstead Bike Shop in case of small mechanical failures. It’s a good thing!
Make the pledge at http://30daysofbiking.com #30daysofbiking. Find them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.
Join the World Bicycle Relief fundraising effort at http://30daysofbiking.worldbicyclerelief.org. Up to $3,500 will be matched dollar-for-dollar by Surly!