Trailnet Champions – Matt LaBerta and Sons
On many Saturday mornings, Matt LaBerta loads his bike trailer with tools, tubes, a pump and his two sons to provide support for Trailnet’s Community rides. Matt has been helping our riders for five years and looks forward to each new ride season.
“The community rides are just fun,” Matt said. “Some of the stops that we make are places that I would have never thought to explore on my own. I bring the kids partly out of necessity, but mostly to expose them to these neat things about St. Louis. It shows them a whole other world and culture. Plus, it’s cool for them to see what I do.”
Matt has used his bicycle for transportation all of his life, often in places where pedaling to get where you need to go is a real challenge. Before his sons were born, Matt spent eight months living in a tent located 14,000 feet above sea level in the mountains of Colorado. He worked as a mechanic at a bike shop 9,000 feet below his campsite. “It took me seven minutes to get to work and forty-five minutes to get home.”
Although Matt prefers using a bike to get around, he does own a car and has been driving for a few years now.
“I took driver’s ed when I was thirty,” he said. “I got engaged and got my driver’s license in the same week. None of my friends were surprised that I had popped the question, but they were really shocked that I had gotten a driver’s license.”
As a bike commuter, Matt feels one of the most important roles Trailnet plays in the community is “getting people together and providing opportunities for cyclists, walkers, and other outdoor enthusiasts.” He added, “The encouragement that Trailnet provides is really important for making St. Louis a safer environment for cyclists. Drivers in St. Louis are finally getting used to having bikes on the road – lots of people ride year-round now, and it makes it better for everyone.”
In spite of these improvements, he also believes Trailnet has a lot of work to do in educating drivers, bicyclists and law enforcement.
“All of the new bike lanes and signage in town are great, but if cyclists and drivers don’t know how to use them safely, it pushes us all farther apart instead of bringing us together,” Matt said. “Cyclists know the laws because a lot of them have learned them the hard way. How to deal with pedestrians and bicycles should be a part of driver’s education and the driving test.”
One specific risk that Matt feels needs urgent attention is the use of cell phones by drivers. “I’ve been in situations where a whole line of cars aren’t paying attention to a traffic signal because they are all texting on their phones,” he said. “It’s really scary. Like a lot of different problems that we face, education and looking out for each other are the keys.”
(Note: In an effort to better educate drivers about sharing the road with cyclists and pedestrians, Trailnet has produced a Driver’s Guide to Active Transportation. Read about its development here.)
Matt’s passion for bicycling and bike mechanics began when he was his son’s age. He had a series of bicycles growing up and routinely took the bikes apart, “spreading all of the parts across the driveway.” He got into welding 15 years ago and began creating sculptures, gates, fences, and interior metalwork for residential and commercial clients. His interest in welding meshed with his love of bicycles when he took a frame-building course in Oregon 10 years ago. At his bike shop in Soulard, Matt provides a range of services, including production of hand-built bike frames.
“I start by taking biometric measurements of my client, make a two-dimensional full-scale drawing of the frame, and then cut and file all of the tubing by hand.”
Visiting Laberta and Sons Cycles on a Saturday afternoon is a little like seeing all of those bike parts spread out on his family driveway – frames at various stages of completion, components, accessories, and tools. If visitors are lucky, they’ll also get a chance to talk with Mason and Mylo, the “Sons” of LaBerta and Sons. When asked about how they like working the community rides with their Dad, the boys had ready answers:
Mason “likes going down hills and having donut breaks.” Mylo likes “the Art Museum and helping Dad fix flat tires.” Matt reports that the boys often recognize people from past rides who they have helped and ask them if their bikes are ok.
Community riders will no longer be treated to the sight of the two young LaBertas sharing their Dad’s bike trailer. Now six years old, Mason will be riding his own bike, and Mylo, five, will be traveling solo in the trailer. Mason is looking forward to being on his own bike and “racing all of the people.” Mylo said he “won’t miss Mason because Dad puts toys in the trailer for me.”
Join Matt, Mason and Mylo for these upcoming Community Rides: Tour de Museum on Saturday, June 25th, the Jazz History Ride on July 16, the Prohibition Bike Ride on September 24, and the Open Studios Tour on October 8 and 9.
2014 I Love STL: Bicrobrews Microbrewery Bicycle Tour
Saturday morning, August 16, started off with a steady drizzle of rain and temperatures in the mid 70s. Checking radar, it appeared the skies would clear for our 11 a.m. start but the rain kept coming. Despite the weather, cyclists arrived ready to check out some awesome St. Louis breweries.
Ann Mack’s “Growler” group was the first to start. Behind them was George Nelson’s “blue circles” and then Hawkie Moore’s “let’s party.” As groups departed, more cyclists arrived excited for the tour.
The next groups to depart were Dave Beattie’s “Oranges” and Ian Hackett’s “purple shooters.” Groups were initially divided with 20 riders in each but approaching the end of registration, groups included close to 40 cyclists. Barrett Schmidt’s “blue balls,” Brian Hanke’s “black beards” and Steve’s “Crazy Train” began the ride at around 11:30 a.m.
Even with the rainy start, 250 cyclists participated in the I Love STL: Bicrobrews Microbrewery Bicycle Tour. Luckily, the rain cleared by the second stop and cyclists enjoyed pleasant weather for the remainder of the day. With eight breweries (4 Hands Brewing Co., Alpha Brewing Company, The Civil Life Brewing Company, Morgan Street Brewery, Schlafly Beer, Six Row Brewing Company, Square One Brewery and Distillery, and Urban Chestnut Brewing Company) there were a lot of stops to make and beer to sample. All cyclists had a fantastic time and some die-hard groups did not finish until after 7:00 p.m. This bike tour was sponsored by Mike’s Bikes.
North of Old North Bicycle Tour
Fifty cyclists congregated on Saturday at the Old North St.
Harold describing one of the carefully restored houses in Old North St. Louis
Louis Restoration Group
in Crown Square (formerly the 14th Street pedestrian mall) to take part in Trailnet’s North of Old North Bicycle Tour. The area was bustling with activity as local shops and cafes opened, a Girl Scout troop gathered for their meeting, and vendors set up for the North City Farmer’s Market.
The ten-mile bicycle tour was lead by local treasure Harold Karabell, who wound his way through the neighborhoods of Old North St. Louis, Hyde Park, and College Hill. At regular stops, Harold shared his wealth of knowledge about the rich historical heritage of the area and the many architectural gems that grace the neighborhoods. A number of the riders had grown up or had family connections in the area and added their own remembrances and stories.
One of Old North’s earliest homes
Some of the highlights of the tour included visits to the Bissell Mansion (St. Louis’ oldest house), Hyde Park, the interior of Holy Trinity Catholic Church, and one of the iconic North Grand Water Towers. The tour also featured visits to some of St. Louis’ important commercial enterprises – the site of the Hyde Park Brewery and the old Krey meatpacking plant.
Matt LaBerta and sons to the rescue
Special thanks to Cornerstone Café and Sun Café and Market, who provided cold water to riders as the temperatures rose into the 90s, and to LaBerta and Sons Cycles for providing super sag support.
Harold will be leading Trailnet’s Old Frenchtown Bicycle Tour on August 23 that will ride through the Soulard and LaSalle Park neighborhoods – also sponsored by Great Rivers Greenway District. Don’t miss the chance to visit these lovely areas and learn about their fascinating histories and architecture.
Our first Bakeries on the Rise bicycle tour–a sweet success
On June 21, Trailnet hosted our first ever bicycle-powered bakery tour, “Bakeries on the Rise.” The day was slightly overcast, offering a reprieve from the hot summer sun, with a slight breeze all morning. Conditions were prime for a ride– and 94 people (!) of all ages came out for this 8-mile South City ride.
We began our quest for pastries at Whisk: A Sustainable Bake Shop. Owner and baker extraordinaire Kaylen Wissinger offered up some cookie samples, as well as a little history on her Cherokee Street storefront. We then made our way through Dutchtown, across Grand, and into the South Town neighborhood to visit the Companion Earlybird Outlet. Only open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, this hidden gem is a great place for anyone on a budget who wants top-notch breads and pastries. From here we crested a great BIG hill (whew!) into the Tower Grove South neighborhood and then turned into Tower Grove East, where we visited the brand new Grove East Provisions and Red Fox Baking and Catering. Proprietor Barry Kinder told us all about the process behind building a wood-fired brick oven, and how Red Fox and Grove East Provisions came to enter a neighborhood cornershop partnership. Our final stop took us back to Cherokee Street, where we paid a visit to Black Bear Bakery, which is operated as a cooperative establishment.
Many riders said that we visited places they had either never heard of, or had been meaning to try for some time. We saw bike baskets and panniers filled with loaves of bread, bagels, and sweets to take home, and heard plenty of riders saying they will be back to visit these local businesses again soon!
Thank you to Great Rivers Greenway District and Enterprise Holdings Foundation who provided funding for this ride, and to everyone who came out, supported local business, and learned some new bicycling routes through the city. Special thanks also to the participating bakeries who welcomed our riders with great service and plenty of delicious treats to choose from. Life is sweet when you’re two-wheeled in St. Louis!