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Easy Riders

ClutchCouriers1Rick Graves and his Clutch Couriers

As a young boy growing up in New Zealand, Rick Graves used to ride to school on the back of his older brother’s bike, holding on for dear life as his brother would tear down gravelly roads in an attempt to knock off the pint-sized passenger. At the age of 10, his family moved to Santa Cruz and, now, with those early recreational bike days and a stint as a professional bike messenger in New York City under his belt, the 39-year-old is the one tearing down local roads on two wheels.

Transplanting the cut-throat tradition of the Big Apple’s urban bike messenger system to Santa Cruz since starting Clutch Couriers in 2006, Graves helms a model green business that’s seeing the rewards of putting the pedal to the pavement.
Initially a one-man operation founded with a $1,000 investment and operating out of Graves’ home, Clutch Couriers has grown into a six-person crew that can service businesses, personal deliveries and legal filing from Monterey to over the hill, and also provides in-house print jobs. Aside from the occasional use of his Honda Civic Hybrid (for access to the furthest spots), the company has built itself up by going back to the basics: high quality delivery at a low cost via bicycles. The ultimate low-emissions approach that also means less parking hassles, less mechanical maintenance and less insurance fees, the company’s overhead is also less so that the price for the consumer is cheaper. It’s not just a green alternative, Graves explains, it’s the best alternative.
“I don’t know how many times you’ve been sitting in traffic and watched a bicyclist pass you, but if you really want something across town quickly that’s the way to go,” he says, sitting in bike attire in his new but modest River Street office, band posters printed on 100 percent recycled paper laid out on the floor ready to be plastered around the county by his team, his phone ringing non-stop. “Whether it’s for increasing the efficiency of your business or for the environment, it’s the best option for social change and it’s also the best option for good business.”
Clutch Couriers caters to the flyering needs of the Museum of Art & History, the Watsonville Brown Berets, Santa Cruz’s Hell’s Angels, Moe’s Alley and Temple Beth El, to name a few. Major daily accounts include handling the full-service banking for a local raw-foods company, delivering the mail for the Nonprofit Insurance Alliance of California and the Santa Cruz Metro Transit District, along with constant court filings from top Bay Area law firms. Establishing a route between Santa Cruz and Watsonville since last April, Clutch Couriers has hooked up the two regions so that commerce can now go back and forth in a sustainable way. In addition, Graves is a certified process server and notary. Just because he’s on a bike doesn’t mean he can’t answer the call of the white-collared conservatives. 
“Ultimate change for the planet is going to come from the business community, because those are the people making what we consume and what we put out into the environment,” he says of his inclination to work for lawyers and corporate clients just as much as your local grandma sending cookies or your local rock band advertising a gig. “If you’re only promoting yourself to like-minded individuals, you’re not expanding your reach into conservative markets and you’re doing the environment a disservice.”
Covering important ground philosophically and physically, Graves rides up to 60 miles on his bike each day, and together his team racks up approximately 700 miles each week. His commitment to exceed customer expectations and prove that you can make a career out of something that’s a win-win situation for everyone and the environment, is what keeps his wheels turning.
The other reason he toils past you in traffic each day? Good old-fashioned fun.
“The personal aspect to it is, I won’t lie, it’s absolutely the most fun physical labor I’ve ever done and that’s why I’ve been addicted to it and worked so hard at it for over 15 years,” Graves explains matter-of-factly. He then muses in a softened tone, “At the end of the day, doing what you love just adds to your soul.” | Linda Koffman

Learn more  at clutchcouriers.com or 466-0560.

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