If you’re a devout follower of the Commute By Bike blog, you know that I typically write about exciting advocacy issues and helpful or controversial new products. Once in awhile, I engage in some hard-hitting investigative journalism. Today, however, I am inspired to write about a more personal experience with cycling – one that reminded me why I’ve been drawn to this crazy industry for the past decade.
Last month, I flew out to Omaha, Nebraska to spend some time getting to know the team at Harvest Retail Marketing, a marketing agency that serves independent bicycle retailers across the country. I’ve worked with Harvest for several years, both as a client and as a contractor. Many of the faces and voices at the company were familiar to me, and I had a wonderful albeit mostly virtual relationship with the owner of the agency, Ryan Atkinson. The purpose of this trip was to spend time with everyone, in the flesh, and to determine if joining the team in a full time capacity was a good fit for me and for them.
It was a business trip, so naturally, I spent time in meetings and I spent time in the office. It’s the bike industry, so naturally, I spent time with the owner in an independent coffee shop and I spent time with the team in a fantastic dive bar.
But, what sealed the deal for me was taking a bike ride with Ryan and his wife, Corey – the two of them, together atop a tandem, taking time out of their schedules as small business owners and busy, productive adults to go for a ride.
This wasn’t my first business meeting by bike (I’ve been incredibly fortunate to ride in some amazing places and for some amazing causes on work-related trips over the years). However, the ride was very informative about the kind of company that I was joining – it was casual; it was inclusive. It was fun, but it was also purposeful.
Leaving from Ryan and Corey’s home, we spent a couple of hours covering about 15 miles through residential neighborhoods and on the Keystone and Big Papio trails. We stopped for coffee and pastries (obviously), and chatted about my family, my values, and my goals. The ride loosened us all up, and I felt completely comfortable discussing topics in an open and honest way that would be nearly impossible to replicate in a stuffy, office interview situation.
There’s also a lot that you can learn about someone from the way they lead a ride. I was in an unfamiliar city, trusting Ryan to guide me through the ride. Fortunately, he proved to be an excellent ride leader, and I kept down the large chocolate croissant that I devoured halfway through the ride. Today, I’m a proud member of the Harvest team.
It’s easy to get caught up in the more practical reasons that we ride – to get from place to place, to stay in shape, and to save money on transportation. However, cycling is about so much more. Going for a ride with someone is a really powerful way to get to know him or her, whether it’s for business or for pleasure. And the shared experience of a ride, for me, is what makes the business of bicycles worth all of the time and effort that I, and many others, put into it.
*Important footnote: Omahans claim that the Reuben sandwich was invented at the Blackstone Hotel in Omaha during a poker game in the 1920s. I tried the Blackstone Reuben at the Crescent Moon Ale House, located across the street from the hotel and rumored to have the best Reuben in Omaha. It was a damn good sandwich, but (in case my mom reads this post), I can’t say that it was better than one from Katz’s or Zingerman’s.