The year was 1965. Up until then, my twin brother Andy and I only got to ride our older brother’s hand-me-down bikes. Then on our 8th birthday, our parents gave us each our very own bicycles, the first bicycles we could call our own. They were Schwinn Sting Rays – “Grape Krate” purple, with banana seats, sissy bars, ape-hanger handlebars – even “beehive” front wheel suspensions! We loved those bikes! We rode around on them everywhere , imagining we were Peter Fonda on his raked-out Easy Rider Harley chopper! We had so much fun riding our bikes with our friends, sitting back, popping wheelies, fishtailing our slick rear wheel tires on gravel roads, bouncing over rocks and stumps on the trails through the woods that surrounded our home in upstate New York, way before BMX and mountain biking was ever a “thing”.
Riding our "Grape Krates" made us feel like "Easy Riders" !
When I was 12, I graduated to riding a Schwinn 10-speed “Super Sport”. In my teens, I started riding a classic Bottecchia Italian road bike, which I still ride to this very day. This is my beloved "Bo", on the sundial at La Selva Beach, California.
In the ‘80’s, after college in Boulder, Colorado, I added mountain bikes to my growing stable of bikes. Over the past 40 years, I’ve gone on countless self-supported solo bike tours all around the world on my beloved “Bo” road bike and mountain bikes. I’ve biked through some of the most spectacular places in the world, around the fjords of Norway and New Zealand, the craggy coasts of Ireland and Scotland, over mountain passes in the Alps and Rocky Mountains, and along scenic bike paths throughout the US, Canada, and Europe.
Today, all the woods around our old home in upstate New York, including the trails we used to ride on, are cleared out, almost completely gone. Our old home is now completely surrounded by new home “subdivisions”, with very few trails left, or any roads safe to bike on.
Over the past 40 years, I’ve had many desk jobs in downtown office buildings in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. My longest commute to work was 1 ½ hours – one way! – in bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go traffic on 16-lane mega-highways from the suburbs to smoggy downtown L.A.
Then in 1987, tragedy struck my family when my 30 year-old twin brother Andy was killed by a truck while standing alongside a highway.
Cars are convenient, but they are also monstrous killers and horrible polluters! There are simply way too many people driving way too many miles in way too many cars now! They’ve overrun our cities and towns and ruined our once-peaceful neighborhoods. They are one of the largest sources of Earth-warming carbon emissions and unhealthy pollution in the world!
I keep thinking to myself, there’s got to be a better way to get around, to commute from our homes to work, and not waste countless hours putting up with daily, dreary, spirit-sapping, traffic jam gridlock, causing road rage, leaving road kill, and polluting the air we all breathe!
Once in a while, I still manage to escape from everyday city life by going on solo bike tours through some of the last few remaining, remote, untouched wilderness areas left. But how much longer will there be any pristine nature left to enjoy on Earth?
In 2014, I had the good fortune of a chance encounter with the friendly folks at Easy Racers, a recumbent bicycle manufacturer founded by Gardner Martin, a hippie-turned-bike visionary in the ‘70’s. As luck would have it, the Easy Racers factory just happened to be located right next door to my old office in Freedom, California. I’d seen a few of these strange, odd-looking, laid-back, ground-hugging contraptions called “‘bent” bikes (I hate the name – they’re not bent, they’re just different bikes) on several group rides, but I’d never ridden on one of them.
My first test ride spin around the block on an Easy Racers’ Tour Easy bike was an epiphany! I couldn’t believe how fast, how comfortable, and how much fun this new (to me) form of cycling was! I loved the safe, easy, relaxed, laid back ride!
Of course, I had to get one of these weird bikes for myself, so in 2016, I bought an Easy Racers’ Ti Rush, my new titanium-frame “Dream Bike”, a bike I could ride for days in comfort, without ever getting saddle sores, an aching back, or numb fingers. Super light (26 lbs.) and with a clear front fairing (windshield), my “Ti” bike is so smooth-riding, so aerodynamic and so fast, I once rode my speed demon down a steep hill in California going 80 mph, without even breaking a sweat! That’s incredibly fast for a bicycle, and I’m not even an elite-level bike racer!
That's me, riding on my new, beloved "Ti", outside the former Easy Racers Factory in Freedom, California.
Here I am riding "Ti" on the Monterey Bay Recreation Trail, one of the most scenic rail-trails along the California coast.
Right away, I realized these long wheelbase recumbent bikes could also be the perfect bike, not only for long-distance bike tours, but a shorter wheelbase version could be the perfect bike for commuting to and from work, riding to and from school, running shopping errands around-town, on roads, trails, and bike lanes everywhere.
Even though Easy Racers has gone out of business and no longer makes their low-rider bikes, the idea got stuck in my mind: could a shorter wheelbase, more nimble, tighter-turning version of the long wheelbase recumbent bike be the best bike for urban commuting? Could such a bike – known as semi-recumbent, or Compact Long Wheelbase (CLWB) bike – be the best bike to get people out of their cars and onto riding bikes? Could such a bike bring back the fun of the laid-back, Easy-Rider style bikes of our youth, like our very first Schwinn Sting-Rays did for me and Andy, for the little kid that still lives on in all of us?
I feel like I found my true calling in life, to bring back a fast, fun, easy-to-ride commuter bike for cyclists everywhere. So I founded our company, Bike Different in 2018, with the mission to design, develop and distribute the best recumbent bicycles, bike accessories and components in the world for urban-suburban bike riders.
In 2019, I moved from Freedom, California to Red Wing, Minnesota, less than an hour’s drive from Minneapolis-St. Paul, a metro area that, despite its frigid winters, has one of the best bike lane networks in the country. Shown below is a concept of what a dedicated, protected bike-pedestrian lane looks like.
I made the move from sunny California to frigid Minnesota so I could be one of the first, fortunate few dozen students to graduate in the inaugural Class of 2021 from Minnesota State College’s new Bicycle Design & Fabrication Program, the first collegiate program of its kind in the nation.
Our Bike Different business is based here in Red Wing, a small rural town with a vibrant entrepreneurial community, which we believe will develop into a new center for bicycle design and technology innovation.
I also enjoy riding around Red Wing's beautiful bike trails on my vintage Easy Racers' EZ-1 CLWB Bikes. Here's one of my EZ-1's, overlooking Red Wing and the Mississippi River Valley.
We envision Bike Different bikes will become part of the solution to the global climate crisis our world faces today, which is warming our planet and damaging our fragile ecosystem. I’ve asked myself this question many times: what am I doing to help solve this problem, this existential threat to all life on Earth? I can either be a part of the problem, or a part of the solution. If our bikes get more people to drive less and bike more, we will have made a small but significant contribution to solving this global problem, and we will have succeeded in accomplishing our company’s mission. And we’re only just now getting started – wait ‘til you see what we come out with next!
On a personal note, we feel like we're also creating a fitting tribute to honor my late twin brother, Andy, who would have loved riding our bikes, just like we loved riding our “Easy Rider" Sting Ray bikes back in the ‘60’s.
So, to all of you who have hung up your old clunkers, or just want to try something new, it’s time to think different about what a bicycle can be. Kick back, relax and enjoy the ride on a Bike Different bike. Bike more and drive less. You’ll feel good about your own health, the health of our planet, and you’ll havea whole lot o’ fun!