GRAND RAPIDS — The dreary drizzle on Saturday didn’t keep bike enthusiasts away from CRANK, The Spoke Folks annual fundraiser and bike celebration. The bicycle co-op took over Logan Street SW to take part in bike-related activities and socialize with fellow members of the biking community. Ultimately, the goal was to celebrate the fun in biking.
“There are very real reasons why people should be on a bike, but at the same time I don’t want it to become this whole serious thing where it’s just boring,” said The Spoke Folks Executive Director Jay Niewiek. “That’s why this is a celebration, not a vendor fair or anything like that.”
Entry to the event was free, and attendees could register to participate in a slow bike race, bike decorating contest, fix-a-flat challenge and more. People at the festival could also ride a number of unique bikes, including a swing bike and a tall bike. Niewiek designed a “toilet trike” and Motorless City Bicycle Company of Detroit furnished a three-way bicycle with a functioning tap handle in the middle for the event.
Biking and beer just seem to go together, so it’s no surprise that the event featured brews from New Belgium and Brewery Vivant, two breweries which are outspoken about supporting the biking community.
Brewery Vivant’s philosophy revolves around sustainability, and supporting sustainable modes of transportation factors into that. So they look for ways to foster the biking community.
“[Brewery Vivant is] a sustainably inclined business, so they want to be socially proactive in that sense,” said Mariah Kennedy, The Spoke Folks Director of Operations.
Brewery Vivant has a silver “Bike Friendly Business” certification from The League of American Bicyclists. One way the brewery they shows its support for the biking community is by teaming up with Rockford Brewing Company once each year to host a group bike ride between their two brewpubs.
But events aren’t the only way to foster biking in Grand Rapids. Accessibility to hardware and maintenance are of utmost importance as well. Kennedy, a former employee of Brewery Vivant, said the brewery also provides its employees with a 50-dollar helmet reimbursement, which she took advantage of to get a 10-dollar helmet.
“The owners just have an intuition that this is something that people they care about care about, so they want to make it more accessible to their employees,” said Kennedy.
Kennedy is also partially responsible for planting the seed that got the bicycle pump and repair station installed outside the Brewery Vivant brewpub. She said that repair station helped inspire Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc.’s initiative to have five more installed around the city.
It isn’t shocking that Brewery Vivant would stand behind a local business that seeks to make bike education, maintenance and materials accessible to everyone.
“I think they already wanted to be part of something like [The Spoke Folks], and I just happened to be a link,” said Kennedy.
The Spoke Folks aims to give anyone who is interested a space without barriers to learn and engage in biking.
“Spoke Folks started with just local cyclists who wanted a place where they could wrench on their bikes and have all the tools,” said Kennedy. “If you look at how much tools are, especially particular tools you only have to use once, it’s very expensive.”
“What I love about this space is that people come in from a wide variety of backgrounds,” said Niewiek, “and at least while they’re in my space, I get to control the fact that they’re all treated like human beings.”