With a focus on eco-friendly travel, Bootleg Courier Company delivers the goods
Pedaling west in the brisk, flurry-filled morning air, Chad Strand’s eyes begin to water, leaving salty streaks on his cheeks. He holds a huge stuffed Tweety Bird and a handful of balloons blowing everywhere in the wind; he is making a delivery to someone’s sweetheart at Reno High School.
Meanwhile, Doug E. Moore coasts back downtown from the northwest with documents for a new client.
Strand chirps in on the radio: “Almost done at Reno High, meet me at 50 West Liberty.”
By the end of the day, the two couriers who recently founded Bootleg Courier Company will travel more than 50 miles, covering Reno north to south and going into Sparks, all via bicycle. They will go through metal detectors at two different court houses, transport blueprints between offices for an engineer, pass through a half-dozen law offices charming secretaries for their signatures and conducting cold calls to the recipients who aren’t yet clients. It’s a demanding job, but these guys are right at home in the saddle.Easy as 1, 2, 3
In preparation for starting Bootleg, Strand worked as a bicycle courier for ABC Couriers in Seattle for a year. ABC is one of Seattle’s largest courier companies, serving more than 300 clients.
“Riding for ABC was nothing but a learning experience,” says Strand. “It made me realize that while having the ability to handle any amount of work, I wanted to keep [Bootleg] small enough to maintain a family feeling.”
“Chad’s experience in Seattle was invaluable to Bootleg,” says Moore. “It really gave us a jump on the learning curve of what we wanted to focus on.” Strand and Moore hold that family feeling central to their company and customer relations.
“Word of mouth is how this town works,” Strand said. Bootleg has done next to no advertising, yet has picked up a new client almost every week since its inception.
Bootleg’s motto is “Fast eco-delivery.” In the current economic climate, communities are taking on new values surrounding sustainable practices. Businesses are revamping these values.
“We started up with [Bootleg] mainly because they are more eco-friendly than our previous messengers,” Molly Gittens of Marilyn York’s law office said. Tosca Keppler of Lumos and Associates agreed that wanting to be “greener” was a big part of deciding to use Bootleg.
One of Bootleg’s primary goals is to raise awareness of cycling as a lifestyle that is progressive for the environment, health and the community. They have attended city meetings as a voice for bicycles. Moore has recently organized traditional messenger-bike races, called “alleycats,” in Reno and San Francisco. Bootleg sponsors its own race team and plans to attend the Westside Invite in Seattle, as well as the Single-Speed Mountain Bike Championships. Moore also plans to start a youth development cycling project within the next two years.
Angie Sliva of Watson Rounds firm has been impressed with what Bootleg has been able to handle on their bicycles.
“The other day I warned him that I had two office boxes full of pamphlets. Together they must have weighed over 50 pounds,” says Sliva. It wasn’t a problem for the Bootleggers, and they claim they could each take up to four boxes of that size.Steeds of steel
The Bootleggers contend that all of Reno is manageable by bicycle. These men of perpetual motion are mounted on machines that are simpler than one might expect. Moore and Strand race through town on single-speed bicycles. This might seem like an unlikely preference knowing that bikes today commonly come with up to 30 variable speeds. However, the simplicity is the supreme attribute. Single-speed bikes—and fixed-gear bikes, especially—have long been considered cycling couriers’ stallion of choice. This is primarily because of their low-maintenance needs.
“In Seattle, at ABC, fixed-gear bikes were not allowed because of insurance policies, so I rode a 21-speed road bike,” says Strand. “The derailleur was always fucking up and constantly needed to be adjusted. My chain would pop off weekly and I felt like every month I was replacing brake cables.” This is an unnecessary frustration, especially in Reno where the terrain, for the most part, is much less strenuous. Strand now rides his custom-built DeSalvo fixed-gear bicycle. Moore prefers a free-wheel single-speed bike and rolls around town on a Cannondale Capo that’s tricked out with a Campagnolo drive train with a 53-to-18 ratio.
“It’s exactly what I need all the time,” says Moore. “I scream up hills. I scream down hills. The flats are my playground, and I rarely ever have problems with my ride.”
In the event that they must travel to Carson City, Minden or Lake Tahoe, the Bootleggers will drive motorized vehicles. However, once they get to their destination city, they will park and pedal if there is more than one stop. Bootleg is purchasing a diesel car that they will modify to run on vegetable oil. They have already established a relationship with a local restaurant, Silver Peak Restaurant and Brewery, to recycle used oil.
This sort of cooperative foresight alludes to a community that’s grown more self-sustaining, where more local resources are available, a community that recognizes the principle of one man’s trash being another man’s treasure and acting on it.
“It’s awesome. Something that costs money to dispose of one way, I can just give away to these guys,” says Trent Schmidt, co-owner of Silver Peak. “They can put it in their car and turn it into energy. Soon, you will see businesses selling their leftover oil, but at a fraction of the cost of traditional gasoline. Think of the potential impact.”