(Another in our ongoing series on biking in Oakland)
“I’d really like to get the Obama family on an Xtracycle,” says Ross Evans, CEO and founder of Oakland-based Xtracycles. The bicycle designer goes on to describe his vision of the First Family doing a lap in front of the White House on his longtail cargo bikes.
Evans realizes that, to make this vision a reality, he needs to build bicycles that anybody and everybody would feel comfortable riding, and that means electric-assist bicycles. “I really believe electric and cargo are like chocolate and peanut butter. The two are better together,” he says. Since he gave his wife a bicycle with battery power, he says, “It’s made a huge difference in how much she rides, which makes me happy.”
“My bones are ringing,” says Evans, who feels he is part of a looming seismic shift in bicycling as everyday transportation in North America.
“Companies that do what we do – meaning helping people carrying passengers and stuff around – measure their sales with a B for Billions.”
Evans got his start designing medical devices as a student at Stanford. Building bicycles was “like the dog that followed me home and was outside the door every day,” he says. “In the end, I feel like I’ve discovered this thing which is the best preventative medicine device on the planet.”
The original design extra long bicycle with room for cargo and passengers at the back came to him during a 1995 stint in Nicaragua with Bikes Not Bombs. Bike trailers were too wide to navigate the single track walking paths the locals used to get around, so Evans built a longtail bicycle to solve the problem. His initial vision was to use grant funding to bring the bicycles to other third world countries. By 1999, he had realized that he could have more impact by changing travel habits back home. That’s when the really hard work began.
“We were introducing a new flavor to the bike world that didn’t exist,” Evans says. “That was really the challenge: building a movement.”
“My vision is that these bikes are not on the radar for people but they could so readily be,” says Evans, who notes that he is feeling “an uptick of energy” around the idea that everybody would like to ride a cargo bike, as Xtracycle sales continue to double each year.
It’s hard not to be infected by Evans’ enthusiasm. “I love people. I love service,” he says. “I have more in common with Tony Robbins than with John Burke who runs Trek.” He adds, “Why I’ve stayed with this is that I believe in it.”
Evans has made a home for Xtracycles in North Oakland, where he was able to buy the house next to his own to use for a company headquarters. “I love Oakland. I feel a real affinity for this place,” he says. “The people and the energy and the possibilities are enormous.”
He adds, “This is a place of edge runners, of people who don’t demand comfort and certainty. The people who don’t need to be highly comfortable and highly certain are the ones who make the change.”
ABOUT THE SERIES
Live Work Oakland’s bike series is brought to you by Hot Italian, the first LEED Certified pizza & panini bar and the first bicycle friendly restaurant in California, open daily 11:30 a until late night with weekend brunch, cocktails, wi-fi, curbside pick-up, and delivery by bike from Emeryville’s Public Market. HOT ITALIAN is a design-driven brand where modern Italy meets urban California and a 2014 East Bay Bike Bike-Friendly business winner.
VISIT HOT ITALIAN AT THE PUBLIC MARKET Open daily 11:30 am & weekend brunch 10:30 am-3:30 pm 5959 Shellmound Street, Emeryville, CA 94608 (510) 922-1369