—Steve Isaacs, Sweet Ride USAThis story was originally published on GreenFriar.com.
A lot of my old music buddies have gone on to do some pretty interesting things with their lives, but only one of them recently traded his car for a bicycle to promote a more sustainable future for metropolitan cities like Los Angeles.
“I never expected to lean into the bicycle advocacy world as much as I have, but it really is a natural progression. It started out as a solo thing on the weekend, where I just waited for the work week to end so I could show up in Santa Monica, spend the whole day in the sun, see hundreds of people on the beach, and zip by listening to music. It became my happy place,” said Steve Isaacs.
I first saw Isaacs when he was performing the lead in a touring production of The Who’s Tommy in the mid-90s, and then got to know his band Skycycle through the Los Angeles music scene a few years later. He’s also a one-time MTV VJ and former lead singer for the alternative rock group The Panic Channel. But these days Isaacs is a Webby Award-winning digital marketer and co-founder of Sweet Ride USA, a web series and blog built around urban bicycle culture and fueling up on desserts along the way.
“I had just gone through a breakup and realized I needed something. Destiny just kind of led me into a bicycle shop,” Isaacs says. “I decided to buy a bike and just started riding up and down the coast on the beach path. That became my favorite thing to do. Every week I would ride more miles.”
The last few times I’ve seen Isaacs around town, we’ve talked less rock and more about his love for the bicycling scene. I ride my bike whenever I can, but listening to Isaacs talk about the “multi-modal” future he sees for our urban transportation infrastructure is enough to make me want sell my Subaru and pedal everywhere.
“Sweet Ride USA is a bike culture show, but I believe that it’s going to be a better world if more people start opening their minds to spending a little bit more time on their bikes. There’s got to be more people who will go through something similar to what I went through,” he said.
What he “went through” was a personal transmformation. Isaacs recently sold his car and is using his bike as his main source of transportation—along with busses, the metro and, when necessary, Uber.
“Once I became a bike commuter I realized that I did not want to use my car unless I really had to. I felt better and freer riding a bike, and when I was stuck behind thousands of cars in traffic it felt more frustrating than it ever had. I felt really trapped,” Isaacs said.
His newfound passion led him to the vibrant underground bike culture in Los Angeles, where it collided with his dessert habit. Connecting with other bike enthusiasts through online communities like Midnight Ridazz, Isaacs started doing themed group rides all over the city—including dessert rides.
Isaacs took his inspiration and teamed up with producer Debra Matlock to form Sweet Ride USA, launching their web series in June 2013. So far Isaacs has been footing the production costs for the web series (“I pay for donuts, microphones and gear”), but now that it’s gone pro, Isaacs and Matlock are looking to partner with production houses and cable channels.
Other bike-friendly destinations on his radar include Portland, New York, Amsterdam and Kyoto.
“I found myself thinking that just riding wasn’t enough. It’s really important to add my voice or effort to the bicycle advocacy movement because cities aren’t static. They don’t just sit there,” he said.
“I really believe that LA’s worth fighting for.”