A Bike Friday Introduction: Trial By Travel
Hello, my name is Jac Thomas, and I am the new Bike Friday Community Manager! You may have interacted with me already and not even realize it, as I run all of the Bike Friday social media accounts, as well as helping with other kinds of tasks where Bike Friday communicates with our customers and fan base (such as writing the newsletter). I only began this position a little over a month ago, but I have really enjoyed becoming the part of the team. I’m a native Oregonian, lifelong cyclist and I joined Bike Friday because I share a lot of the same values as the company. I’m really excited about the prospect of using my skills in marketing to help get more people riding bikes!
For me, the whole month of October was a bit of a whirlwind. Starting a job is never ‘easy,’ even if I had found meshing with my new coworkers at Bike Friday to be one of the most seamless transitions I had experienced in my career. It almost felt like that familiar feeling of stepping onto a bike that fits you just right for the first time. Still, the process happened quickly. I started at Bike Friday just over a week after initially submitting my application. Both the Bike Friday management and myself wanted to have as much time to let me learn from my predecessor (Matthew) as I could. But before I knew it I was taking over as the Community Manager for Bike Friday and all of the responsibilities that came with it.
However, less than a week into my new role and I was getting ready to leave- I had been planning this trip to Costa Rica with my girlfriend since well before I had begun the position, and the Bike Friday team graciously allowed me to follow through with my planned trip despite the interruption to my training schedule. However, this new position provided me with an opportunity to add a new element (or two) to this adventure when Hanna Scholz agreed to let me take two pakiT’s along with us! To me, it was an amazing opportunity to experience what Bike Friday is all about by experiencing a folding bike in a real world scenario. I had ridden Bike Friday’s before, but I wanted to get the full experience of using them for their full purpose so that I could better relate with those of you who’ve taken these bikes half way around the world and back!
Having the pakiT’s added a lot to our trip, even though we never got the chance to go on any long rides, the pakiT’s were a perfect way to cruise around the areas we visited. Some of you may have seen some of the social media content that I took while I was down there, but I wanted to take a chance to share some of the cool moments from this trip with all of you! I’ve had a few weeks to readjust from my trip and go through some of the (many) photos I took while I was there, so I am finally ready to present them to you! I hope it will provide some of the high quality travel blogging content that the Bike Friday Blog is known for, but also give you a chance to get to know the new Bike Friday Community Manager!
Our trip began and ended in San Jose, the capital and largest city of Costa Rica. We actually stayed on the outskirts of a neighboring town, Alajuela, in a cozy bed and breakfast during this first stint, which allowed us to get acquainted with our surroundings. One of the first things we realized, was the state of the roads in our vicinity were not quite like those of our hometown in Eugene, Oregon. Most streets were much narrower than we were accustomed to and there wasn’t a single bike lane that we spotted during the course of our trip. However, we knew that we’d have more of an opportunity to use our bikes once we had ventured out of the cities and into the country. Our main goal during our time in the city was to catch a soccer (futbol) game, which was an amazing experience, but not the focus of this blog…
However, with our urban adventure in the rear view mirror, we headed out west towards the rainforests and volcanoes that lay ahead of us! It didn’t take long for the scenery to change dramatically. The buildings disappeared, replaced by thick foliage while the roads became windier and somehow even more narrow than they had already been. We truly felt like we had left the city behind once we were up in the hills and could see the vast plantations (the crops appeared to be mostly coffee, but there were also mangoes and some pineapples as well). We were hoping to catch some scenic views, but unfortunately low lying clouds disrupted some potentially awesome shots. That being said, we still took every opportunity to bring out our bikes and ride around that was presented to us. The first of these opportunities was in a small town on a hilltop, and while the views were obscured by the fog, it still felt great to pull the bikes out of the car and explore on two wheels!
However, most of our roadside riding opportunities did not provide much room to stretch our legs in the same way. Roadside attractions come and go without a lot of notice in Costa Rica, so you have to be ready to act fast when you think there’s something you’d like to see. Luckily, the places we did stop were pretty spectacular and so we got into the habit of being ready to pull off the road at a moment’s notice.
Our next stop was completely unplanned but may have been one of the highlights of the trip. We stumbled upon an incredible butterfly and hummingbird conservatory about halfway between San Jose and Lake Arenal (our destination for the night), where we were able to get up close and personal with some of Costa Rica’s most fragile, yet beautiful and colorful animals. There wasn’t much room to bike around, but we still got the bikes out anyway, if just to ride around for a few minutes in the otherwise empty parking lot. This stop kind of set the tone for us, and is when we realized that the coolest things we could see were often just sitting on the side of the road, waiting to be discovered!
The rest of the trip to Arenal was much of the same (in the best way): look for great places to take the bikes out for a few minutes and break up the monotony of the drive (though I would not generally describe the winding roads of Costa Rica as monotonous, it still felt good to get out of the car). It provided some good photo taking opportunities, but we knew we had to make it to our AirBnB before dark so it didn’t leave us much time to lollygag around.
Our destination turned out to be a real hidden gem, we really lucked out with where we were staying, which was on a peninsula overlooking the amazing lake. We spent most of our time exploring the volcano, national parks and rainforests that surround the lake, but we also had a great time just enjoying the lakeside from our pakiTs! Those of you who were tuned into our social media accounts at that time may have seen a live video I took of our short ride from where we were staying down to the shores of Lake Arenal (unfortunately, all footage of this was lost into the ether of the internet, or I would gladly share it here).
Lake Arenal is such a beautiful lake, full of wildlife and completely separated from any kind of typical tourist destinations, giving it a very authentic feeling. If you ever make it to the area, biking a lap around Lake Arenal would be a great way to spend a day. Though we didn’t do it (never enough time!), it was proposed to us by more than one of the locals.
The trip continued west, and along the roads there were more reasons to stop and enjoy the scenery. As we left Lake Arenal, we pulled over at a clearing that overlooked the lake so we could have one last look. There were a couple of vendors there who took interest in our bikes, and after a conversation about where we were from and what we were doing there, they asked if they could take the pakiT’s for a quick spin. Their smiles immediately erupted and they seemed to be in love with the bikes. I gave them a demonstration of how the bikes could fold up, and the audible gasp they gave in return was one of the funniest moments from the trip. Most (younger) people in Costa Rica can speak at least limited English, though I was glad that my partner spoke enough Spanish to help with translations (I had taken Japanese in high school, not very helpful in Central America…).
We attempted some more detours as we moved towards the coast, but unfortunately they were less successful. We tried to go to another National Park, but unfortunately our car got stuck on the hilly roads made of clay that led us there…We eventually got unstuck and turned around, but it made us ready to hit the beaches of Guanacaste, so we made a beeline for the beach!
Our place in Tamarindo was less luxurious than our lakeside bed and breakfast, but it made up for it by being a very short walk away from the beach. Our pakiT’s were unfortunately not set up for beach cruising, so they only made it to the beach one time (again, some of you may have caught this adventure on our social media, but alas if you missed out it is lost forever). However, the town of Tamarindo was perfect for short bike rides, and we took them out a few times to cruise through the city. We even found a cool little skate park where I zipped around while my partner took pictures! All in all, Tamarindo (in stark contrast with Lake Arenal) is a tourist haven, which was alright with us, mostly because we were ready to simply relax on the beach for a couple of days.
Unfortunately, that was essentially the end of our adventure, we drove back to San Jose and had one last meal in Alajuela before getting our things all packed and ready to go. Costa Rica is such a magical place filled with incredibly friendly people. If you’re looking for the next place to bring your Bike Friday, I would highly recommend looking in this direction! I’m not sure if it would be much more difficult to tour the country by bike rather than by car, but I also have to say I really enjoyed having the pakiT’s available to us. It made us far less reliant on our rental car than I think we would have been otherwise, and it added a new element to our trip that I had never experienced before. That may be one of my favorite things about that pakiT, is that it is capable of adding so much to your adventure while still being able to fold to where it’s small enough not to add any kind of hassle. I look forward to bringing Bike Friday’s on all of my future adventures, and I look forward to writing about them here!