At Yuba Bicycles, our team knows exactly how cargo bikes can shape a more sustainable and equitable future. We love sharing stories about passionate individuals and businesses that think the same way. Let us show you how the cargo bike lifestyle can make anyone’s daily routine a little easier and a lot more fun!
For many of us, bike upkeep and repairs can be an unexciting and even daunting reality of owning a bike. For Leah and her mobile bike workshop, Upshift DC (run on a Yuba Spicy Curry cargo bike!), bike maintenance is much more than that. We sat down with Leah virtually to learn more about her inspiring journey with Upshift DC, the “pedal-powered, education focused, one-woman, mobile bike workshop in Washington DC”.
“Bikes As The Thing That’s Going To Change The World”
Leah has been a part of the Washington, D.C. bike community for more than seven years. After regularly commuting to work on her bike, she quickly joined a nonprofit bicycle network advocating for better bike infrastructure around the city. She started spending more time in the nonprofit’s bike shop, learning about maintenance and repair. These skills turned into a new passion, and as the education program coordinator for the shop, Leah went beyond simply repairing bikes. She dove headfirst into teaching, advocacy, and even leading bike rides across the DC community. Having learned, lived, and taught the varying aspects of bike riding, Leah appreciates that a bike is more than a frame with two wheels:
“I see bikes as the thing that’s going to change the world”.
More Than Just A Mobile Bike Workshop
Even the idea of launching her mobile bike workshop came while she was on her bike: “After a month-long bike tour, a former client reached out and asked if there was anywhere local where she could learn how to work on her bike”.
Leah couldn’t think of a single place to recommend to her client. She knew of group lessons that would work for a larger audience, but the idea that one-on-one training, an obvious void in the DC bike community, could be a real business sparked for the first time. After that trip, her mission was clear: offer at-home individual lessons to educate bike owners on how their bike works, and get them excited about the possibility of maintenance and upkeep on their own. The name Upshift DC is a result of bike pun brainstorming and wanting to include the word “upcycling” – the idea of making old bikes better.
Whether it is a simple lesson on how to ride a bike, a refresher course to ride with more confidence around town, or to work on your bike yourself, Upshift DC’s focus on education and empowerment leaves the customer with more than just a repaired bike. Even though a client might not be able to learn it all in one session, Leah helps everyone to diagnose their own bike and complete easy repairs.
“Some people just want to learn how their bike works, and for them, Upshift DC is a really cool experience they wouldn’t get anywhere else”
Less Car. More Yuba Cargo Bike.
One of the most impressive aspects of Leah’s mobile bike workshop is the way she arrives at a customer’s location – without a car. She does everything by bike. After a few test rides at her local Yuba retailer, Leah chose the Spicy Curry cargo bike, which sports a powerful Bosch motor and carries up to 440lbs.
“The Spicy Curry was definitely my favorite of the cargo bikes I test rode.”
Equipped with the Carry-On cargo extension and the running boards, Leah is able to adjust the bike’s setup to accommodate the cargo she carries.
“I often work on the sidewalk or in their yard, and mostly I can just park the bike and work off the bike basically”.
Having all the tools and equipment safely and securely aboard her makeshift minivan, she turns the Spicy Curry into her personal mobile work station. Customers often call the bike Leah’s “Mary Poppin’s bag”, as she pulls an entire workshop’s worth of tools and parts from both the front and rear racks of her bike.
“I think it definitely helps inspire them, more than anything else could, to try using their bikes for new activities. A visual embodiment of possibility”.
“Bikes can be used for nearly anything you can imagine”
Besides the versatile cargo capacity, Leah also enjoys the riding style of the famous long-tail cargo bike:
“Sometimes I’ll run into friends around the city and they join me on the ride. I usually turn down the motor if I’m riding with people and turn it up when going up a hill: it rides so nicely like you barely notice all the cargo.”
With customers and friends spread out across town and even in the suburbs, Leah covers approximately 20 to 25 miles per day on her bike. The 504Wh battery is always ready to power the ride, and there is even a second compatible battery in addition, making the Spicy Curry the perfect bike for (almost) every trip.
“I haven’t had to worry about battery range the whole time”.
When riding through the DC community, her cargo setup never goes unnoticed: “I get a lot of people shouting out: Wow – that’s a cool bike – you have a real pickup truck there!”.
The attention on the streets is not only a good thing for Upshift DC, but for the cycling industry as a whole:
“When I choose to run my mobile repair shop by pedal power instead of in a heavy cargo van, and when I ride through the streets of DC with a full bike shop loaded onto my rear rack, I am helping normalize this concept of – bikes can be used for nearly anything you can imagine”
Many Benefits Of Choosing The Bike
Being an active member of the community and inspiring one’s neighbors are what Leah notes as the most impactful reasons to live a car-free lifestyle – but not the only ones:
“Their ability to reduce your carbon footprint and pollution, the physical health but also the mental health. Getting out of the house, the childlike freeing feeling of the wind in your hair and being able to go anywhere you want with no limits. And they are good for society in general: if you’re locked in a car you can’t randomly run into a friend and stop on the side of the road and have a conversation – bikes just enable so many authentic, incredible community interactions”.
The (cargo) bike lifestyle also provides practical financial benefits. Besides car ownership, other options like ride shares and public transportation are becoming more and more expensive, making the bike an attractive alternative. Even eight years ago, Leah chose the bike over public transportation and saved $200 a month – enabling her to take a trip to Turkey.
“You have more money in your pocket!”
Upshift Clicks Into Higher Gear
Looking to the future, Leah is excited for the bike infrastructure to continue to improve and expand, allowing even more people to join the community. Off the bike, Leah looks forward to creating more autonomy for everyone:
“I have a big passion for and focus on helping empower women and other folks traditionally a bit left behind by the bike industry and mechanical education, to learn more about their bikes and feel confident riding in the city”
We are excited to be part of Leah’s two-wheeled journey, and to share a rider’s story that demonstrates just what a cargo bike is capable of!
Check out Leah’s website to learn more.