2014 Annual Fiesta Cruiser Run

2014 Santa Barbara Fiesta Cruiser Run

Bicycles are family here in SB. A common thread.

The first Sunday of August is usually sort of a relief to locals. It marks the last day of Old Spanish Days Fiesta. A 90-year-old celebration of Spanish and Mexican tradition and culture here in Santa Barbara. It’s a great draw for tourists to spend their money and college kids to get drunk. Most of the locals tend to steer clear, only taking advantage of the food stalls and the barbecue opportunities. May of us Santa Barbarians like to call it Old Spanish Days Fiasco. Despite pretty notable things like featuring the largest equestrian parade in the United States, most locals are left wondering what the hell it is all for. Sure, we get to learn who Saint Barbara actually was and watch white people dress up like Mexicans for a day. It’s a big five-day city-wide party. But we are still left with millions of pieces of confetti lining the gutters and the subtle effluvia of horse shit.

It’s no wonder that many of the locals have created their own event to look forward to. The annual Fiesta Cruiser Run, now in its 32nd year, is an unsanctioned (illegal) ride that started out with a few cruiser/klunker riders riding north from Santa Barbara to Goleta on the beach. It soon evolved into a massive cluster of thousdands of riders taking over the streets, hitting liquor stores and beach parks along the way. Indeed, it has become so popular, that the police have shut down many of the rest-stop festivities. But that doesn’t stop the majority of Santa Barbara true bloods planning all year long and building bikes especially for the ride. The preferred conveyance is the straight-bar cruiser decked out in BMX/klunker livery. Chris King headsets and SE Racing Landing Gear forks are ever present. But the best ones are the restored original Mongooses, Gary Littlejohns and Cook Brothers bikes. It is a veritable history lesson in single-speed legacies.

Luis and the Mexican Connection

Luis and his Mexican Benotto.

Rides a Mexican Benotto.
Shot on Ortega Street in Santa Barbara, CA.

I have been highlighting Luis on here a lot lately because I just can’t help it. He always comes up with the coolest bikes. You can see his other posts here, here and another of his bikes here. Today he stopped by with an amazingly well-preserved Benotto double-top tube bicycle. I had never seen one of these in person before and I was so stoked I had the opportunity to take some pictures of this. Benotto bicycles started in Turin, Italy in the 1930s. In the 1950s, they expanded into Mexico, producing most of their bikes there. They kept the same old European styling well into the 1970s. Luis’s bike is a classic example of a late-model Benotto probably produced in the late 1960s or early 1970s. It has all the hallmarks of a pre-war european bicycle complete with triple-sprung leather saddle and rod-actuated brakes.

This particular bicycle has been in Luis’s family for a while now and he recently moved it here from Mexico. It is remarkably well preserved and has only a few scratches and a light patina of rust on the chrome parts. But looking at a bike like this, you’d expect some character to show its age and to me, that makes it all the more desirable. Amazingly, the rims have not a spot of rust on them and the spokes themselves are even clean. What strikes me is the unique lug setup on the frame. It’s almost as if it were built using steel sleeves attached to the horizontal tubes, slipped over the steer tube and down tube and welded into place. Though not traditional fillet-brazing, it gives the bike a unique look that a lot of the nicer European bikes just cannot meet.

For me, and definitely for my friend Luis here, this bike is perfect for getting around town and getting rad. Bring on the next tweed ride and we’re in business. Thanks, bro.


Luis and his 1950 Schwinn Cruiser.

Rides a 1950 Schwinn Cruiser (well-seasoned).
Shot on State Street in Downtown Santa Barbara, CA.

Some of the time, I like to see an old bike left as it is. A patina of rust and faded paint. A saddle that looks like it has seen many miles. These are the things that make bicycles unique among all other antique vehicles. But an old bicycle is far more precious than an old car. If you find an old car in this condition, it’s a safe bet you will have to get a tow truck to take it to your garage only to get it in running condition. There’s too many dollars attached to that…But a bicycle? The simplicity of a vehicle for which you are the engine is unmatched in this world. The average person with little or no mechanical knowledge can easily get a bike in rideable condition. Then, it becomes free transportation. Well, burritos and beer cost money, but they are cheaper than gas to the mile.

Luis showed up with this awesome piece of 1950 Chicago steel the other day. His gal, Serena has also made an appearance. Bicycles create a circle of people with the same interests. Just like old cars, stamps and blenders. Our antiques are precious. They are products of the past and have been through it all. You may know who rode your old bike before you, but chances are, you don’t. That’s the beauty of the mystery of old bikes. Provenance is for valuables. Cycling is forever. See more of Luis’s 1950 Schwinn below.

Serena (and Wednesday Bike Pron Vol. 9)

Serena and her 1961 Schwinn 24" bike.

Rides a 1961 Schwinn Typhoon 24″ bicycle.
Shot on State and Ortega Streets in Santa Barbara, CA.

Cruisers used t o be the big thing in Santa Barbara. Indeed, there was a time when everyone had one and they were all trying to emulate the Cook Brothers or Gary Littlejohn style. Today, everyone is gravitating towards fixies leaving the cruiser market to the true enthusiasts. What goes around comes around. At first, the cruiser set was unique. Then they weren’t so. Now they are again.

There’s lots of reasons: trends change, fixies are cheaper and faster, Santa Barbara is the bike theft capital of California so having a really nice bike can be risky. In fact, the guys who are true to their cruiser roots are riding either authentic Gary Littlejohns and Cook Brothers, or they are having frames custom made by Rex at Santa Barbara Cruisers. Santa Barbara is a beach town and cruisers are here to stay.

Please see below for some more pics of Serena’s Typhoon.

Daniel “DQ” Quinones

Daniel Quinones and his custom-built Schwinn Cruiser.

Rides a custom Schwinn Cruiser.
Shot on State Street in Santa Barbara, CA.
Getting rad all day.

Doing custom builds on Schwinn Cruisers is sort of a thing here in Santa Barbara. I used to do it. It’s a lot of fun and you end up with a pretty sick ride after you finally decide you’re done. There seems to be an obsession with Chris King headsets and SE Landing Gear forks on older cruiser frames. It’s pretty awesome.  Daniel Quinones, (DQ) is one of those guys who I am extremely lucky to call my friend. He and I mix it up at the bike shop while quoting Nacho Libre on weekends and I can’t say that there is another person who laughs at my jokes more than he does.

When DQ’s not putting some sweet cruisers together or killing awesome trails, he studies photography at Brooks Institute here in SB. I have to say, that he and our buddy Max Frank (also a Brookie) have given me endless advice on how to manage a camera…and a bike. He’s also taken a few good pics of my ugly mug. I must admit I look pretty hard. Straight from the hardcore ghetto of Santa Barbara. I look like I just rode a mountain bike while running hooch across the border from Whistler, BC in 1930. AD. Prohibition and all that. What I am trying to say is that even though I am 20 years older than him, I wish I had his skills.


The best thing about cycling is the people you meet. I took these shots of James and his awesome Free Spirit bicycle a few weeks ago. I promised him that I would post them immediately. Well, life got in the way. That’s why I haven’t really been posting so much. Sorry, dude. But more about this bike:

I have always been a fan of the Schwinn/Free Spirit/AMF/Huffy lightweight steel road bikes of this period. They all shared a similar design: a simple USA bottom bracket and one-piece crank (though I have been known to upgrade a few to piece versions), swept-back handlebars and sometimes fenders. The best thing about these bikes is that there are companies out there like Linus, Civia and Public that are remaking these classic designs and passing them off as the new retro trend. I really don’t mind. Schwinn and Free Spirit co-opted these designs from European models back in the 40s and 50s and did a pretty good job of introducing them to the American cyclist. The new retro cyclist seems to be overtaking the beach cruising college girl and I think it is awesome. Better-looking and more maneuverable bikes on the road.

James found this bike at Play It Again Sports here in Santa Barbara and bought it for a song. He found the bags on Etsy and made the cargo box himself. I think he did a fantastic job.


Roy and his Schwinn RS 5.0 bicycle

Rides a Schwinn RS 5.0
Shot on State Street in Downtown Santa Barbara, CA.
Going to the Farmer’s Market.

Why hasn’t there been any updates about people and their bicycles lately? Well, I have been really sick. Sick people tend to stay inside and think about riding bicycles. Sick photographers like myself tend to stay in and watch DigitalRev TV and laugh at all of Kai’s antics as he tries to burn cameras and levitate himself in Hong Kong. Wait. Am I the only one who does that? Seriously, the guy is funny and he does love photography (although he’s got to get rid of that overpriced Leica M9 and stick with the Fuji X series).

Speaking of sick, I think I need to start eating more organic food and double down on the kale. I haven’t been down to the Farmer’s Market quite enough already. With all the supplements, protein bars, recovery fluids and other seepages that cyclists seem to live on, really it isn’t food. All of us, photogs and cyclists alike should be eating real food and getting healthy. On a photography note, you can meet the most interesting people at your local Farmer’s Market. You can throw an organic loquat and hit like, 70 people with a bicycle. It’s a green paradise and a great place to take pictures.


Greg and hi Pre-war Schwinn Cadillac

Rides a Pre-war Schwinn Cadillac (1930s).
Shot on Ortega Street in Santa Barbara, CA.

If you haven’t guessed by now, I love vintage bicycles. I find it truly amazing that there are so many still on the road. Yes, I know that a bicycle is a machine much simpler than a car. But sometimes it’s the stories that surprise you the most.

Greg told me that he pulled this bicycle out of his father’s garage many years ago. It was completely rusted and many of the parts were not working. He repainted the frame and greased up all the right parts and got the bike running. The coolest part about this bike is how he cleaned it, yet left the patina of age on the metal pats so as to convey that this bike is old but still kicking. It features a skiptooth drivetrain, and a well-broken-in French Idealle saddle. It’s bikes like these that make me really happy. I feel even better when I see a guy who is really connected to it. I am positive that if I asked him to sell it he would refuse.


Dylan and his Surly Karate Monkey bicycle

Rides a 2013 Surly Karate Monkey.
Shot in an alley off Ortega Street in Santa Barbara, CA.
Going to work.

I first met Dylan about two years ago. He’s from the midwest. Iowa (I never see him eating corn, tho. Weird). He never wears socks. However, he’s the coolest guy with a beard you’ll ever meet. He is one of our bicycle mechanics at Velo Pro. He first got his 2013 Surly Karate Monkey about 6 months ago. About the same time I go my We the People 26″ BMX bike. When I saw that he shod his rims with Schwalbe Fat Franks, I immediately wish I had gotten a 29er for a single speed cruiser/mountain bike.

In any case, it’s because of hime that I cannot just own my Surly Crosscheck. I have to have a Karate Monkey as well. These bikes are just too cool. With all the cruiser culture we have here in Santa Barbara, I think a single-speed 29er is still the way to go. After all, I can’t afford a vintage Cook Brothers and restored Schwinns just do do it for me any more. I can only take so many Chris King headsets and SE Racing Landing Gear forks before I feel like it becomes a uniform for the Cruiser Army. I want to join Dylan’s Army.



Rides a 70s Schwinn Fastback.
Shot on Ortega Street in Santa Barbara, CA.
Looking for a new 3-speed shifter.

There’s something to be said about the bikes we had as kids in the 1970s. I still remember my 1970s Schwinn Stingray. It had a black banana seat and a silver metallic paint job. I did lots of things on that bike when I was a kid. I even tried BMX racing at Stow Park in Goleta on it. I didn’t do very well. But I remember that my number plate was 999 which I thought was pretty cool. Sometimes it’s not enough for us to own these bikes. It can be just as satisfying to get them for our kids so they can see what it was like to ride a bike back in the day.

Nolan’s father acquired this beautifully preserved Schwinn Fastback 5-speed bike. Like the Stingray, the Fastbacks had the banana seat and the ape-hanger bars. But they were slightly different: they came with the smooth racing slick tire on the back and had a slightly different frame. Sunset orange, pictured above, was also a desirable color. Some of hem even came with 5-speed “stick shift” levers that were mounted to the top tube.


Nolan and his 70s Schwinn Fastback.

In any case, Nolan’s a pretty lucky kid. When he and his father brought it into the shop, almost immediately, he was getting offers to buy it. He would not sell. This bike was way too awesome. It had a little bit of rust around the rear seat posts, but all in all, it was really nice. The gearing and derailleur was in great condition and the only wear on the frame was in the decals. I was jealous. I miss my old bike, now.