Q&A with SMBC’s New General Manager!
As of May 1st long time employee, Andrea Aponte, officially became Bike Center General Manager. Ron Durgin remains a Managing Partner and is now overseeing implementation of Santa Monica’s new Bike Share. Andrea has been with us since opening day in November of 2011, working her way from Rental Assistant at the front desk to Assistant Manager and now General Manager. She’s also a certified League Cycling Instructor (teaching Adult Learn to Ride classes and Confident City Cycling classes).
1.How did you first become interested in cycling?
When I moved up to Los Angeles and began attending USC in 2004 I got back to riding a bike. I still owned a car at the time and it soon broke down on me. It was beyond repair so I decided to donate it and became inspired to practice what I preached in regards to my passion for the environment. I did not buy another car and instead started commuting by bicycle to campus and to my tutoring job in South LA. The more I rode, the more my interest grew. I started to educate myself and adopted a cycling lifestyle.
- What’s the story on your sweet pink road bike?
I’m not too much of a girly-girl, but my coral-colored Centurion Ironman bike is definitely the prettiest thing I own! The bike is about as old as I am, built around 1985. It totally compliments my love for all things vintage. It was a gift from my father-in-law, who’s also a cyclist. Despite its steel frame, I’ve now done two Centuries on it. One of its more interesting features is the small 24” front wheel.
- What are your aspirations for the Bike Center?
The big goal is to double Bike Center commuter memberships with next year’s opening of the Expo line. We’re working on some tenant improvements to liven up the 4th and Broadway location so it’s more welcoming and usable for everyone. Part of that effort will be having an attendant on duty there.
I also want to increase member involvement. I’d like to get more group rides organized and other types of events that would interest our commuters. My door is always open for suggestions.
On the shop end, we’re eager to expand our tours department. We’re diversifying the products we offer and working closely with Santa Monica Travel and Tourism to sell our eco-tours abroad to Santa Monica visitors.
I’d also like to increase our reach in the community in order to be a better resource for people that are just getting into cycling. I’d like to launch Spanish language maintenance and riding skills classes. They would be a great addition to our current offerings.
- What do you see for the future of bicycle commuting in Santa Monica?
The future is in cargo bikes and electric! These markets are just beginning to take off in the U.S. and we’re excited to share our knowledge of these products. We recently participated in a cargo bike demo at the Santa Monica Festival. We were excited to show off our 2016 Xtracycle Edgerunner models as an alternative to getting around by car. Our mechanics are also certified to install electric kits on any bike. We’re currently working with Lectric Cycles, Falco E-motors and Bosch ebike Systems.
The future is also in multimodal transportation. Bike Share and the Expo line are going to be huge game changers for bicycle commuting into and around Santa Monica. Residents and visitors will have more options than ever before to get around.
- How far is your bike commute?
I ride 8.5 miles each way from the Culver City Metro. Look out for me flying down Venice Blvd. beating all the guys.
- What is your favorite and least favorite thing about commuting by bike?
My favorite part is the sense of accomplishment I feel after I reach my destination. I love getting my workout on my way to work and bragging to friends that I have no need for a gym membership! My least favorite part is when I end up behind a car that hasn’t gotten their smog check and I inhale a bunch of exhaust.
- What would you tell others who need encouragement tackling a longer commute?
There’s no need to ride the whole way, or everyday. Do what you can at first. Try a combination of bus/rail and cycling the rest of your commute. Start by riding one day a week and then you can build up the endurance to do it more often. Or, start a bike train along your route – riding with others is encouraging and makes the distance seem less long. Work on selecting the right route for you- this may not be the most direct way to get to your destination (but it might be the most enjoyable and least stressful). It’s also important to find the right equipment (my legs wouldn’t be too happy if I had to do my commute on a single-speed beach cruiser). Consider getting a rear rack to relieve your back- panniers can make a huge difference. By making the bike carry the load for you, you’ll have more energy to ride further. Finally, sign up for one o our Confident City Cycling classes– being aware of best practices, avoidance techniques and the law are all critical ways to ensure that your commute is as smooth as possible.