Next weekend the city will be taken over by cyclists of every ilk as Velo Weekend returns to form. --- The two-day celebration of all things cycling will kick off on Friday, June 13, presenting a series of competitions and fun activities for you to take part in. Aside the cool music on Friday night and the raffle on Saturday, events include a group ride, a FOAD video premier, a trick competition, the Salt City Sprints crew and of course the massive alleycat which will encompass a lot of downtown SLC.
Today we chat with one of the founders of the event, our old friend and founder of Velo City Bags, Nathan Larsen, to talk about the event and what you can expect this year. (All photos courtesy of Velo Weekend, most by Jake Vivori.)
Gavin: Hey Nathan, first off, how have you been since we last chatted?
Nathan: Hello, Gavin. I've been pretty good and busy. Running a small business takes a lot of time, but I've managed to fit in time for skateboarding and band practice to keep me sane.
Gavin: A lot of changes happened since then, first that you got a physical location in downtown. What was it like setting up the first shop and having a formal place to work?
Nathan: It was exciting to open a retail space and have my work area there, too. I had a workspace before, but it was freezing cold and I could not have customers there. The new shop gave me the chance to interact with customers and I think it made it fun for the them to see the whole production process of a bag.
Gavin: Most recently you moved over to Pierpont Avenue. What prompted the move and how has it been working in your new space?
Nathan: I moved into the new retail space on Pierpont Avenue in February of this year. The building owner at my old location had the buildings up for sale and I did not want to be stuck with no place to go, so I thought it best to find a new location before that happened. Pierpont turned out to be the perfect location. The new space has much more character and is inviting. I leaned a lot from my first storefront. This is a much better location because it's a really cool area and I get a lot more foot traffic.
Gavin: Getting right to it, when did the idea first come around to do a set of weekend events for cyclists?
Nathan: My wife, Debbie Larsen, and I used to attend scooter rallys and helped organize our very own Last Days of Summer Scooter Rally here in Salt Lake. We thought it would be fun to bring this idea of a multiple day scooter event to the biking community in SLC. Myself, Debbie, and Esther Meroño adapted the idea to cycling and started the first annual Velo Weekend in 2011.
Gavin: What was the process like in setting everything up and launching that first Velo Weekend?
Nathan: It was a lot of work and continues to be. There's so much work that goes into an event like this, including getting sponsors, finding locations for all the events, coordinating with others, putting together all the swag bags, transporting gear back and forth, setting up the alleycat race, finding volunteers, making breakfast for everyone, and much more.
Gavin: What was the public reaction to it, both from cyclists and those who just came for fun?
Nathan: The participants seemed to love it. This event's really unique to Salt Lake and I think they enjoy all the different aspects of Velo Weekend. Everyone tries hard to do well in each of the individual events because they earn points, and the top earners win prizes, like a Velo City bag, at the end.
Gavin: Did you know immediately you'd be back another year or did you need to figure out how to pull it off again?
Nathan: The first couple of years we knew we would continue the event because it was so much fun for the bike community. We were unsure if we would do Velo Weekend this year because we were overwhelmed last year, but we were persuaded by so many people asking us to do to it again, so it continues.
Gavin: How is it approaching all these different organizations and groups to take part and provide activities?
Nathan: We have been incredibly lucky in having great sponsors and volunteers! This is largely due to Esther Meroño using her persuasion skills. It's hard asking people for help and sponsorship. It doesn't always work out because these businesses and people have to focus on what is best for them, which is understandable. Now that this is our fourth year putting on this event, we're getting much better at asking for help. Many companies who have sponsored previous years are sponsoring again after seeing what a success Velo Weekend is. We've always had people who are happy and willing to help us out in any way they can.
Gavin: How much of a challenge is it setting up events like the alleycat race, tall bike joust and Salt City Sprints?
Nathan: Oh man, these events are tough to set up. You have to coordinate with so many people and hope that everything works smoothly. The alleycat is always hard because it takes a lot of time to prepare for and then we have to get volunteers to man the stops. Talk bike joust is always scary and people have gotten hurt. We decided to opt out of doing the tall bike joust this year because it's too dangerous. We have other people that run the Goldsprints and fixed gear competition, it's just a matter of coordinating, finding a location to hold the events, getting the gear to the location, and setting it up.
Gavin: This year you're incorporating live music, what made you decide to have a live show and who do you have on tap to perform this year?
Nathan: We've actually incorporated live music before. It's a fun way to wind down after riding bikes and we like to promote our local music scene. Beachmen played last year and we're happy to say, they're returning this year. We also have Koala Temple playing. They played at our grand opening recently and put on a great show.
Gavin: What part of the event are you most looking forward to this year?
Nathan: That's hard to say. The FOAD Fixed Crew is premiering their new film on Friday night, which promises to be awesome. We love watching these young guys do their crazy Shit, which we will get to see live at the Fixed gear freestyle competition on Saturday. The gymkhana, an obstacle course on mini bikes, is always fun to watch. Goldsprints is always a good way to finish.
Gavin: For those who wish to take part in the events, what do they need to do?
Nathan: Go to our website to register. Register by Sunday, June 8, if you want to be guaranteed a t-shirt. $20 gets you a swag bag with goodies from our sponsors, a Velo Weekend patch, admission to the events and ability to be included in the points competition, and a t-shirt. Its $15 for everything but the shirt. All participants will need to sign a waiver taking responsibility for yourself. Be safe, have fun, bring water, and please bring your ID to registration.
Gavin: What can we expect from both you and the shop over the rest of the year?
Nathan: New bag coming soon! Velo City Bags will be at Craft Lake City this summer making custom pedal straps and wallets in location. What?! That's right - I will have my industrial sewing machine there and everyone can see how it's done!
Gavin: Aside from the obvious, is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?
Nathan: We are excited to announce that Vertical Diner will be hosting most of Saturday's events. City Dogs food cart and Blue Copper Roasters will be at Brian's warehouse on Friday night. We have so many awesome sponsors that work with us every year. Thanks to other sponsors as well: Specialized cycles, Zuriick shoes, FOAD, Led by Lite, The Stockest (Fresh clothing), Saturday Cycles, SLC Bike Co., SLUG Mag, Nantucket Baskets, Chicago Vegan Foods, Eighth Inch, Planet Bike, The Wood Shop, Fyxation, Concept Bikes, Swrve, Ficks Reflective, Salt City Sprints, Bike Beatz, Urban Velo, Ass Savers, Mamachari, City Dogs, Blue Copper Roasters, Heart Of Gold Tattoo and Destroy Bikes. Whew, that's a lot of sponsors! Thank you so much to all our volunteers and everyone who helps us out!
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