Bicycle Trip: Fifty and fabulous

Fifty years ago, Pat Heitkam and wife Nancy opened the first bicycle shop in Santa Cruz. They named it Bicycle Trip and besides selling bikes, they also sold goat cheese and eggs from their farm just up the road. The year was 1973 and the hippie vibe was in full swing.

The bike industry was seeing a surge in popularity as more people saw bikes as beneficial to healthy lifestyles and a path towards energy independence. It was also the beginning of mountain biking in Santa Cruz and Bicycle Trip was there through it all.

Fast forward to 2023 and things on Soquel Avenue in Santa Cruz have seen a lot of change. Only a cherished few businesses remain the same: the Rio Theater, The Crepe Place, Shopper’s Corner and Bicycle Trip. To endure for 50 years in anything — a marriage, a job, a business — means you’ve gotten the recipe right. Now, co-owned since 2014 by Aaron & Rachel Jacobs (Bicycle Trip 25-year employees), along with Berri Michel (owner since 1987), Bicycle Trip has remained a community staple because they got the bicycle recipe right. They have a passion for all things bikes.

I dare you to walk into Bicycle Trip and not feel it. The passion oozes from the walls here. Perhaps, it’s the undeniable history of Bicycle Trip, which has seen its share of bike innovators within its walls over the past 50 years, including Ross Shafer, John Caletti, Paul Sadoff, and Rick Hunter, to name a few. Perhaps, it’s the history of bikes that have made their way through the showroom. From the very first Stumpjumper, to the latest lightweight Cannondale eMTB, Bicycle Trip has supported it all.

“We love bikes, all bikes. My goal in life is to get as many butts on bikes as possible,” says Jacobs. Which means whether you’re a roadie, gravel, dirt, downhill, jump, electric, cruiser, or first-time youth rider, Bicycle Trip has got you covered.

Michel’s 35-year belief in “bikes as part of the solution,” has led to various bicycle safety and educational programs. Her efforts include physical bike lanes in Santa  Cruz (it took her 10 years), and Project Bike Tech, a nonprofit whose programs offer a Bike Tech CTE (Career and Technical Education) high school class that prepares students for job opportunities in the bike industry, or any industry. “When kids take the class they become advocates for bikes, bike safety and see bikes as transportation. It can be a life changing class,” says Michel. Project Bike Tech is now in 31 high schools nationwide and growing.

Michel also started the Bike Safety Rodeo, which evolved into Bike Safe, a youth bike safety program by Ecology Action that partners with schools across Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties. Since 2004, a total of 23,462 kids have participated in Bike Safe.

Michel credits the shop to “giving her a meaningful life,” and refers to Aaron as her adopted son, and his wife Rachel as her best friend. Jacobs believes that the shop’s essence of passion keeps it alive, inspiring future sparks. He smiles as he says “change or die” is the motto for a bike shop, as all things will evolve.

This thinking spurred their 2021 remodel that showcases the shop’s passion for bicycles and the undeniable pride of ownership. There is ample parking, and a space for women’s specific bikes and apparel. In addition, they will service all your mechanical needs in-house, regardless of bike make or where you bought it. Now, that is service with a smile, earning them the title “friendliest bike shop in town.”

“It’s not all about your education, or how much money you make,” says Jacobs “it’s about how you carry yourself, and how you honor your relationships. We are a family here; I love coming to work.”

Come celebrate Bicycle Trip’s 50th anniversary on May 20th with live music, food, kids’ activities, a scavenger hunt, and raffle giveaways.

MAIN PHOTO: Bicycle Trip has been co-owned since 2014 by Berri Michel (middle — owner since 1987), together with Aaron (left) & Rachel Jacobs (right), Bicycle Trip 25-year employees.  Photo by Krista Houghton