Shuttlesmith Adventures and Dave Smith

Delivering the dream in Nisene Marks and Soquel Demonstration Forest

Groggy eyes and steaming cups of coffee dot the parking lot in front of Epicenter Cycling in Aptos. The vacant pump track will be teeming with scoot bikes and giggles later in the day. For now, only early morning groans rise from the dirt lot.

Out of the muffled grunts emerges a deep voice chirping enthusiastic, highly caffeinated phrases. Dave Smith of Shuttle Smith Adventures comments on each bike he loads onto his van. “Holy smokes, the trees will jump out of the way for this big fella! Ohhhh, lean and built for speed, watch out for this one. Metallic blue, coming through!”

After a 25-year career with Granite Construction, Smith now spends his workdays shuttling mountain bikers. Each morning the 56 year old fires up his tricked out Ford Econoline at the base of Nisene Marks State Park in Aptos, California, and heads from this spot near the coast to the Soquel Demonstration Forest at the summit of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Check out a cool video of Shuttle Dave in action at the bottom of this page.

His daily presence at one of Northern California’s premiere mountain biking destinations results in widespread recognition amongst Bay Area mountain bikers. “Everyone knows Shuttle Dave,” exclaims three time Central Coast Cyclocross Series Champion Scott Chapin. Ibis Bicycles employee and bike-handeling wizard Jeff Kendall-Weed says “I see that guy all the time.” Smith’s reputation for cheerful honks and animated gestures garner near-fame throughout the Santa Cruz cycling community.

Smith welcomes riders at the 9:30am shuttle with a handshake and enthusiastic greeting before firing up the van and beginning the 40-minute drive to the Demo Forest. Though rolling farmland to the Corralitos Market, the van turns onto Eureka Canyon Road and climbs deep into the Santa Cruz Mountains.

As the trees grow in stature, the road shrinks, winding through the tunnel of giant redwoods and Doug firs. Doubling as shuttle driver and tour guide, Dave stops the van and motions toward a rare Albino redwood tree. Onward and upward, he points out a dilapidated bicycle engulfed by a tree and lifted 25 feet off the ground. Dave beams, exclaiming, “The riding is so good in Santa Cruz that the bikes grow on trees!”

A left at the top of Eureka Canyon takes the tour up the bumpy dirt incline towards Demo. Five minutes later the van stops, and Smith unstrapps the bikes and once again delivers a laugh line for each rig.

He then gathers the group at the front of the van, pointing out routes through the mountains on a hood mounted map—more than 30 miles of trails and 2,300 feet descending back to Aptos.

Your Guide to a Santa Cruz Mountains Ride

In addition to his shuttle gig, Dave Smith guides private tours of the completely legal trail network in Soquel Demonstration Forest. He points his tire down a stretch of single track known as Ridge Trail, and disappears into the riperian tunnel as a string of riders follow one by one. Smith brings experienced riders looking for steep rocky chutes and jumps to the Braille Trail. For beginners, the Sawpit Trail features sweeping grin-inducing flow. Dave coaches along the way, pointing out jumps and drops before sending his two wheeled steed off a rocky outcrop, and gliding into the swooping turns below.

Throughout the ride Dave recounts stories from five decades of motorcycle and bicycle riding. Dating his first pedal bike trophy from 1969, he tells tales ranging from the early days of off- road cycling to the backcountry adventures of hare scramble motorcycle racing to his current gig.

“I get to ride two to three times a week, help people enjoy Santa Cruz and make enough money for sushi and beer,” he exclaims. “I’m living the dream!”

Video courtesy of Bike Intelligencer.

Check out the Shuttlesmith Adventures website here.
Phone: (831) 234-3383

Suggested donations:
$15/person Group of 10 or more
Call or email to find out about Shuttlesmith's custom shuttle/party bus.