Geeks unite: the bond between bicyclists and techies

May 09, 2013

Jayme Moye


A hackfest event at bike-crazy software company Quick Left. (Image: Quick Left)

“There’s a lot of tech geeks out there who are also bike geeks,” says Boulder-based Quick Left’s marketing manager Rachel Scott. She’s speaking from personal experience. The cycling culture at her software company is so ingrained that riding a bike is practically a job requirement.

Of Quick Left’s 22 employees, only three don’t bike. The staff runs the gamut from road bike racers to recreational mountain bikers to bicycle commuters. Co-Founder and CTO Sam Breed pedals to work every morning on either a fixie or a mountain bike.

Scott, an avid cyclist, fits right in. She founded a women’s bike racing team in Boulder three years ago. And she was recruited for her job by one of the team’s members—Quick Left’s Co-Founder and CEO Ingrid Alongi, who holds three national titles in bike racing.

“We believe that you have to deplete the physical batteries to recharge the mental ones,” Scott says.


Bike parking at Quick Left (an "empty" rack for them).

Quick Left is definitely onto something. Cities from Seattle to Chicago understand there is a strong correlation between luring top tech employees and having a state-of-the-art cycling infrastructure.

Minneapolis’s mayor has been quoted as saying that good biking attracts young talent, and the city is one of many scrambling to add more bike lanes in hopes of recruiting the best business minds (and bodies) in the nation. Quick Left’s hometown, Boulder, is one of the most bike-friendly towns in the U.S., with 300 miles of dedicated bikeways, and is second only to Silicon Valley for concentration of tech employees.

None of this is a coincidence, according to Scott, who feels that Quick Left is just one of many examples of the natural marriage between bikes and tech. “Cyclists love data and techies love gear, and those people are often one in the same,” she says. “Bikes and bytes, cogs and code, geeks and gear—it’s meant to be.”

Now Scott’s hoping to bridge the two worlds even more audience through the Bikes and Bytes Hackfest. This event will challenge developers from all over Colorado to come up with bike-themed mobile or web applications in three hours or less.

Hackfests—social gatherings where programmers crank out innovative code in an accelerated timeframe—are not new in the world of software development. But Quick Left may very well be the first tech company to host one devoted to cycling.


A hackfest in action. (Image: Quick Left)

The Bikes and Bytes Hackfest is sponsored by PeopleForBikes, along with Stages Cycles LLP and Training Peaks.

The festivities kick off at 6:00 p.m. on May 14th at Quick Left. Developers can scrape datapoints from Strava, use APIs from Training Peaks or MapMyFitness, use their own Garmin data, or access open datasets.

But you don’t have to be a developer to attend. The hackfest is free, and participants compete in teams (every team will most certainly need a cyclist). Or just come for the beer, and to watch some of Colorado’s brightest minds go head-to-head for the grand prize—a power meter from Stages Cycling valued at $800.

Read more about the Hackfest...

 

Jayme Moye is an award-winning, Boulder-based freelance writer and cyclist whose work has appeared in Bicycling, Men’s Journal, and others.

 

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