The wheelman: Dave is a shuttle driver on the weekends, but this isn’t his only gig. He doesn’t do this for
the money; he does this because he’s passionate
about this sport and wants to provide this service to
the riders. He’s up at 5 a.m., and every single
Saturday and Sunday he drives the shuttle.
Load ’em up: For a mere $15, riders
get 10–15 miles of singletrack with over
4000 vertical feet of descending. Just a
stone’s throw from the megatropolis of
L.A., riders have access to trails that
are far different than their typical fare.
When we first heard about a guy
who was taking cash from riders
to shuttle them in his van to the
top of a very remote mountain above
Pasadena, California, we joked that it
wouldn’t last long before the operator got fined, arrested or both. Our sport has
seen countless user conflicts and even
trail closures due to individuals recklessly
abandoning the rules in the name of an
adrenaline rush. We assumed that this was
just another example.
That was until we met “Shuttle Dave.”
Dave is a driver for the United Parcel
Service during the week, a heck of a rider
on the weekend, and passionate about
the sport we all love. In 2011, he jumped
headfirst into the sea of red tape that is
the County of Los Angeles to help feed
the habits of gravity riders who, let’s face
it, aren’t on the friends list of many other
trail-user groups. Dave formed Shuttle
While Shuttle Run’s history is more
rocky than the trails it descends, the
future looks smooth, because Dave
jumped through the right hoops to get
where he is today, giving gravity riders a
legal way to the top of the mountain. We
sat down with the man in the shuttle van
to see how he got Shuttle Run off the
ground and how he plans to keep it going.
MBA: When did the idea for
Shuttle Run come about?
Shuttle Dave: The idea for running a shuttle business just came to
me on the way back from a road trip
to Chicago. There’s a lot of time to
think about random things on the
open road, and it was becoming such
a hassle to do the Mount Lowe ride.
Since I drive for UPS as a day job, I
already had a commercial license and
24 years of driving experience. I figured there was a need for such a service, and I had the passion and credentials to provide it. The name for
the company comes from the expression we would use among fellow riders. The question would always be
whether to pedal it or do a “shuttle
run,” so that’s what I named it.
Shuttle Run was born.
MBA: What were the early days of
Shuttle Run like?
Shuttle Dave: In the beginning, it
was underground. It was just word of
mouth, and people would call or text
me. I did have a schedule and business
cards, but no website then. The van was
an auction find; the trailer frame I
bought from a junkyard and attached
some cheap bike-rack kits. It wasn’t
very solid, and the bikes would wobble
against each other and sometimes get
scuffed up. The revised trailer we have
now is a hanging system capable of
holding up to 20 bikes. It’s very secure,
efficient and user-friendly.
Getting stupid texts and calls at all
hours of the day and night got old
quickly. It was also very unorganized,
with occasional overcrowding and riders fighting for a spot on the van. So, I finally launched the website in 2011,
which now allows members to RSVP
for any event.
MBA: What were the steps you had
to take to make Shuttle Run a legitimate
Shuttle Dave: Initially I got a business permit and a DBA, thinking that
was all I needed. So just as I was becoming more established, the La Canada
Station Fires hit in August 2009. For
two years the forest was closed, and
there was no trail accessibility. Not
much happened. In 2011, Highway 2
was again opened but with limited
access. I started up again, but now
sported the Shuttle Run logo on the
sides of the van. Well, that got me
noticed! The Forest Service charged that
I was operating without a permit and sent a cease-and-desist letter. I
always assumed that since I was
using the highway, and not the forest per se, a permit wasn’t required.
Man, was I wrong.
After almost a year of plan revisions, finalizing requirements and
several meetings with the ranger, he
agreed on a one-year provisional
outriggers permit. Shuttle Run
became the first USFS-recognized
and approved shuttle company in
the Los Angeles district in 2011. I
am proud to say that due to a
tremendous positive response from
the county, the U.S. Forest Service
and fellow trail users, Shuttle Run
has now earned a five-year extension on our permit.
MBA: Now that you’ve gotten
Shuttle Run off the ground, what advice
would you give to another rider trying
to make this business model work in his
Shuttle Dave: My advice is don’t do
it for the money. I do it because I love to
ride. Do your homework; know what
you’re getting yourself into. I work
every weekend and get up at 5 a.m. to
run the shuttle. I try to run the business
as if I were the customer by providing
on-time, reliable service at a fair price.
MBA: You’re shuttling riders to the
top of multi-use trails, yet you seem to
have very few user conflicts between
your riders and other trail users. How
do you pull this off?
Shuttle Dave: It’s always been a goal
to peacefully coexist with other trail
users. The website promotes trail etiquette and responsible riding. It
reminds riders to share the trail and be courteous to hikers and others. The
use of cowbells is an example of our
efforts to avoid confrontation. We sell
them at the van and strongly encourage
riders to wear one to alert others ahead.
Get away from it all: Shuttle Run is designed to give gravity riders a better way to shuttle, which minimizes their impact on other trail
users. By going through the right channels, working closely with the U.S. Forest Service and taking riders to less-busy trails, Shuttle
Run has found the right way for gravity riders to get their fix.
MBA: How do you and your shuttlers work to keep trails open?
Shuttle Dave: Trail use is a privilege,
and I remind my members often to consider this. Misusing a trail puts it at risk
of being closed to mountain bikes.
Luckily, our close partnership with the
ranger has created awareness and communication between groups who may
otherwise oppose the sport. Gravity riding is often misunderstood and sometimes comes with a negative connotation—not that these trails are downhill-specific; they’re actually perfect for all
types of riding. It just so happens that
these trails have minimal climbing,
which is conducive to gravity bikes.
I am always open to address any
issues or concerns the rangers or other
trail-user groups may have. The Shuttle
Run organization gives other trail users
a place to voice concerns first, rather
than closing the trail system down for
all mountain bikers. Having the relationship with the rangers makes it easier to communicate to my members to
help resolve any negative situations.
Shuttle Run also supports the efforts
of organizations such as IMBA, CORBA
and the MWBA. These groups routinely
do trail maintenance and hold awareness meetings. I, and many other members, “give back” and participate in
these events. That alliance is imperative
to keeping our trails and my service
open for many years to come.
Choices abound: The shuttle offers everything from
flowy singletrack to technical downhill trails for riders
to choose from. Dave is adamant about keeping riders on the legal singletrack only and refuses to shuttle riders to illegal spots.
MBA: How do you deal with the
Shuttle Dave: Many of our members
are on Strava for training purposes. It’s
one of many cool apps that inspire the
competitive nature of the sport. These
riders prefer the earliest shuttle at 6
a.m., because there is a much lower
chance of confrontation with other trail users—although that certainly
doesn’t mean riders can disregard
trail regulations or proper riding
etiquette. Shuttle Run takes riders to
a safer area than the busy multi-use
trail areas, where they can ride
gravity bikes safely and legally.
But common sense plays a big role
here. When used responsibly, apps like Strava can be a good too
for measuring your progress and
improvements. I personally use it.
MBA: What are the risks and liabilities of operating this shuttle service?
Shuttle Dave: We all know mountain biking inherently has risks. Therefore, a liability release
agreement is required for every participant to read, sign and
agree to. Getting to the trailhead
itself is a safety issue as well. Since
Angeles Crest is notorious for vehicle
accidents, we take driving conditions very seriously. Although the trail may
be open, we will not run when it’s not
safe to be driving a van full of riders
and a trailer full of bikes 20 miles up a
Shuttle Run is a self-guided ride, so
we encourage everyone to come prepared. This includes tools, tubes and a
pump; H2O in a hydration pack; protective gear; and preferably a full-face
lid. It should also be mentioned, this is
not a trail for beginners. Unless you
ride the fire roads down, there are
some steep, exposed areas on the singletrack that require experienced-to-intermediate skill.
MBA: What are your thoughts
about rogue trails?
Shuttle Dave: We discourage members from riding down closed or prohibited trails for obvious reasons.
Shuttle Run does not provide transportation to areas that access illegal
Evident passion: Dave is the perfect guide for these
trails, because he knows them like the back of his
hand. He’s been riding here for about 20 years and
only started the shuttle service because shuttling with
his riding buddies had become too much of a hassle.
MBA: What’s your favorite route
Shuttle Dave: My preferred way
down is what we call the “front side.”
You start on Mount Lowe to Sam
Merril, pedal to Upper Sunset then
Lower Sunset, through the Mallard
Campground, and finally El Prieto. It’s
just over 13 miles of sweet singletrack
with a 4642-foot elevation drop and
several historic points of interest.
Other times, I’ll skip the Lower Sunset
Trail and hit Channey instead. It’s a
short, exhilarating trail
with challenging ruts and berms.
Taking that route cuts down the ride to
just under 10 miles.
MBA: How do new riders find you?
Shuttle Dave: When Shuttle Run
first started, it was strictly word of
mouth. Now, though, it’s usually from
our website or Facebook page.