In 2006 Ramon Chavez moved to Bakersfield from San Bernardino and wasn’t quite sure what to make of the quiet, semi-rural town that was perennially sunny and hot.
So, he decided to explore it the way he knew best.
He went for a run.
Through his neighborhood, around the river, downtown and into the many parks and trails Bakersfield has to offer, Officer Chavez first got to know his new town by foot.
Amidst the runners, hikers and walkers, Bakersfield’s most popular regional sport is biking. Road bikes, mountain bikes, hybrid bikes, tour bikes, fixed gear bikes – they are everywhere.
Riders can often be seen filling the streets, trails and bike paths on the weekends wearing their helmets and small backpacks as they head out for an adventure on two wheels.
Officer Chavez took to biking after a running injury made him have to change his practice years ago, he discovered a newfound appreciation for the sport, and it also became an important part of his life in Kern County.
In the last 15 years, Officer Chavez has brought his passion for bicycling and running into the community of Bakersfield. He is a member of the End of Watch (EOW) Cycling Team, who ride in honor of all of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
He also started the Kern Track Club, the regions first and only youth running club, with members as young as three-years-old and all the way up to 18. It’s Chavez’s way to give back to the sport of running which has given him so many opportunities.
“Bakersfield has really grown up since I first moved here,” Officer Chavez said. “My family and I do a lot of outdoor stuff – running, hiking and biking. I’m always looking for the bigger and better trail. Kern County has given me a lot of interesting places to explore since I’ve moved here.”
We had a chance to sit down with Officer Chavez to talk about Bakersfield’s active outdoor scene, Kern County’s accessibility to bike and running trails and how it is an intrinsic part of his life as a police officer, a resident and also a dad.
What’s the bike culture like in Bakersfield?
Biking in Bakersfield has a lot of positives. The bike path is very well maintained and there’s a lot of it. You can get from one side of town to the other. From Lake Ming to Enos Lane and down to the Riverwalk. They are expanding it to Buena Vista Lake soon and that means we will have 60 miles of bike path and that’s a big thing … as bikers, we are always looking for places that are safe to ride, with very little debris and Bakersfield has that. There are always people on the bike path, so if you get a flat, there’s always someone around to help, since this is a clean bike path that bikers are always traveling up and down on.
How does the bike community grow as Bakersfield grows?
It has been nice to watch the Riverwalk Park become a main hub in the west side of Bakersfield. It’s a park along the riverbed and it parallels the bike path. There’s a brewery there now, and I see people ride their bikes and then park them to go to the brewery. It’s nice to see that part of the town grow and to see the bikers gather and runners meet here too. They don’t have bike racks yet, but hopefully the city will put one in soon.
How does biking and being a Bakersfield Police Officer come together?
I’m the Department’s “Bike” guy.
We don’t have a bike team at BPD, but there is a summer bike patrol which takes police officers into the City’s trail system, and we make sure people are safely enjoying the trails. We ride and up and down the bike path and make sure everything is OK during the busy summer months. We don’t normally do the entire 50 miles of bike trail; we pick a section and ride out. We just want the citizens to feel safe and let them know we are here for them even on the bike path. I used to also do bike rodeos, bike safety classes at the PD. I got promoted so I haven’t been able to do it as much, but it was a great experience.
It’s like with anything else. If you love something and are passionate about something, then it’s not work.
How did you get into cycling?
I was running a lot. About 90 miles a week and I ended up getting a stress fracture. So a friend introduced me to cycling and I grew to love it. You can go further and see different things than when you’re running.
What made you decide to start the Kern Track Club?
I started running in high school and it turned out to be really good for me. It kept me out of trouble and gave me a lot of success. Once I started running that was it, it was what I wanted to do. I got to go to a lot of different places with my running and it was a nice thing. I’ve been a coach and I like to be able to help kids, if I can be an ambassador of the sport, running or cycling, I am more than happy to do it. I started the running club to give back to the sport that has brought me so much joy and opportunities in life.
Was it difficult to start the Kern Track Club?
Starting the club did not take very long however making and designing uniforms and learning how to fundraise for the club has been the most challenging part. My club is open to all runners High School and below year-round. The youngest member is my 3-year-old daughter.
How can youth join?
To join runners, need to show up to practice times Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday 5:30 Riverwalk Park. There is an AAU ($30) and USATF ($40) fee that needs to be paid however if the fees are an issue, I will make arrangement to cover the fees.