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Seattle cargo bike legend Val Kleitz passes away

Video by Daniel Kopald, via Tubulocity.

When news that Val Kleitz passed away hit the city yesterday, reactions immediately began pouring in from all over Seattle. It seems just about everyone has a Val story. He rode his custom cargo bicycle everywhere to accomplish what he needed to get done, and in doing so he inspired a generation of Seattle’s utilitarian bike riders.

Here is a sample of Val memories from Seattle bicycling writers around the city. Feel free to share your own stories in the comments.

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Aaron’s Bicycle shop has a bio of Val on their website. Val’s bike shop was called Bikesmith. He also worked at Seattle Bicycle Supply. Aaron wrote about Val, and the Labor Day cargo bike ride will be dedicated in his honor:

It is with great sadness in my heart that I bring this news to you.

My dear, dear friend Val Kleitz died yesterday, August 10th, 2011.
He was 51 years young. He was born on June 8th, 1960. He worked for years on Sundays at my shop and turned one corner into The Bikesmith, his old shop in Wallingford.

Click here to read his bio.

He died of cancer. As many of you know, he was battling it. The end was peaceful for him. He was surrounded by his family.

There will be a wake soon and I will let ya’ll know time and place.

I am dedicating the next (and all following) Cargo Bike Ride(s) to Val. He and I started the first Seattle Cargo Bike ride during Bike Summer 2005. In that time Val only missed a couple of rides and most just recently. Val loved the utility aspect of bicycles.

The next Cargo Ride is this Labor Day, September 5th. Meet at 20/20 Cycles on Capitol Hill.

Car Free Days writes about the inspiration Val gave them, helping to start their family down the family biking road:

But that didn’t stop him from causing serious damage to pacelines full of those same Lycra-clad, one-day STP riders later that summer. I’m sure they (we!) wondered what the hell was going on when that same jeans/boot/hat-wearing, 3-speed-pedaling anomaly rode right up to us, said a cheerful hello, and kept motoring right on past the group. We didn’t see him again until a later pit stop. We were gulping Gatorload energy drink; he was coolly smoking a cigarette in the shade!

I’d totally forgotten (repressed) that for years until our first visit to the Holiday Cargo Bike rides — I believe it was the 2007 Buy Nothing Day Ride. We’d been blogging and riding our Xtracycle longtails for a few months; we felt like we had it all figured out. And then we showed up at the ride and were just blown away by the savant cargo collective. These were people doing stuff and carrying things in all weather and all conditions, and had been for years. Especially that guy over there in the jeans … and boots…. and cowboy hat.

Bike Hugger remembers Val. In fact, they have a whole tag for posts about him.

Kent’s Bike Blog wrote of a particularly wonderful interaction with Val at Bike Works a few years back.

Val was often seen with a camera. He documented his life on two wheels on Flickr. Here’s a slideshow of our city from Val’s point of view:

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9 responses to “Seattle cargo bike legend Val Kleitz passes away”

  1. bill

    Sad news indeed. Val you will be missed. I will see you on the 5th.

  2. Edward Sadzewicz

    Val is a great guy and would go out of his way to fix anything. I rode many days with him on horseback (yes, horses) at his fathers ranch. The memories of which will never be forgotten. And of course, the many Dragon Party’s he instigated and inspired along with his brother Ray. I’m proud to be a large part of both Val’s and Ray’s lives.
    Peace Fellow Bicycler

  3. Connie Kleitz

    It’s wonderful to read all these memories. He never got it through his thick skull how very special he was or how he touched so many people. He did what he loved without a thought for reward or recognition. The cards and visitors always surprised him.

    He often had a good laugh about the lycra brigades and a good swear when they did something stupid that pissed off drivers. Despite that he would stop in a heartbeat to help anyone.

    I sincerely hope to read more of people’s memories. It means a lot.

    Thank you,
    Connie Kleitz

    1. Val was from the day I met him an inspiration in my life. He helped this close minded flatland freestyle punk see the beauty in all cycling and the people on those bikes. Every day as a mechanic I strive to make everyone I meet have a better world through cycling….just as he always did. I read daily to learn more of my craft. I am accepting whether you have a Magna or a Cervelo thanks to Val. I understand and love the art of creation using your mind, some tools and a desire to ride thanks to Val. I see not just the paint on a frame but the flow of the metal, the process by which it was made the union between rider and machine thanks to Val. When I was at my lowest point…..when I was overweight, lost my will to ride and hated my life, a conversation with Val started a transformation in me. The penny farthing I have inked on my arm stemmed from that conversation and is a daily reminder to me. Ride! Love! Feel life for it is too short! Those are the lessons Val helped me find, helped me discover. I wish I had spent more time with you Val but you in many ways you saved me during that conversation so long ago. Good Bye from this earthbound realm. I will see you on the road beside me always.

  4. Val loved words and never let the opportunity for a good pun escape him. A couple years ago, on my 53rd birthday, I organized an alleycat race with a prime number theme (53 being prime.), called the “327 Words Prime Time Trial.” Val got wind of this somehow, and through his Seattle Bike Supply connections, contacted Pryme, the makers of helmets and protective gear; out of the blue, I got like half a dozen helmets and a bunch of gloves and stuff; after that, I called the race the “327 Words Pryme Time Trial.”

  5. […] A cargo bike is not required for this ride (or any of the regular cargo bike rides in the city). Though they happen most holidays, Monday’s ride will be special because it will celebrate the life of Val Kleitz, the Seattle bicycle legend and cargo bike enthusiast who passed away last month. […]

  6. Jon Bonicamp

    I met Val working for Velocipede on Capital Hill in the ’90s, and he was something to experience. A handlebar moustache, of course! An intrepid wide-brimmed hat, and a voice like a cranival barker, hypnotist, and a radio announcer all wrapped up in a master bicycle-mechanic’s body. We shared many a laugh and puns were flying in the shop every day. I’m so glad to see he had a hand in the cargo-bike phenom. His spirit lives on in all of us, and ours in him.
    Ride on, my brother.

  7. I just learned, through Twitter, that Val had passed away. He was one of the most loyal readers on my Copenhagen Cycle Chic and Copenhagenize blogs through five years. We often exchanged emails and had a good laugh. I never managed to meet him when in Seattle but always hoped to. I regret that it won’t now be possible.

    Across oceans and continents, through our online connections, I feel as though I made a good and decent friend. I, too, mourn his passing, however belated.

  8. Eric Magnuson

    I am grateful I still have the Raleigh bike Val sold me. I traded in a japanese mountain bike for the frame. Val modified the bike for me by adding braze-on cantelever brakes, new wheels, and lots of quality accesories. Its a great bike! At the time he began the work for me, I wasn’t quite sure what was going to happen, where I was going to end up. At the time money was precious to me and my family, but somehow I knew I could trust Val. I consider the bike custom-made for me now. Its worth a lot to me, and I could never replace it. Thanks Val!

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