Send It Safely: Bikes With Buds
In this interview, we chat with Nick Vacca, the man behind Send It Safely, a brand that has become ubiquitous in the alt-cycling scene. We spoke about how he got started, the challenges that face smaller makers, what it means to 'necatarize', and Def Leppard.
A couple of years ago, as I delved deeper into the biking Instagram vortex, I started noticing water bottles and other items with the phrase "Send It Safely" emblazoned on them. Initially, I mistook it for a common declaration within the alternative biking scene. It took me some time to realize that it was actually a brand. It wasn't until I stumbled upon their Instagram account that everything fell into place. Send It Safely represented a new type of brand that I hadn't encountered before. They offered bike accessories that were collaboratively designed between manufacturers, makers, and Send It Safely themselves.
It soon became apparent that Send It Safely was more than just a brand offering 'biking goodies for bike nerds'. It was a celebration of the thrill of cycling. Naturally, I was drawn to the brand and found myself thoroughly enjoying its social content. Moreover, their content piqued my curiosity about biking in the desert, motivating me to learn more about it. When I had the opportunity to chat with Nick Vacca, the man behind Send It Safely, I was chuffed. Nick immediately became a bud and offered his assistance in any way possible. Thus, this interview. So, let's dive right in.
Is there really such a thing as 'sending it safely'?
I could only hope there is really such a thing as sending it safely. I hope for some it is as much a spiritual thing, as it is physically. I am not a doctor, but I know it's good for the soul, like chicken soup.
What does Send It Safely do exactly?
I come up with ideas and products that make people have more fun on bicycles. Cycling culture, for most, is a very serious thing. It's race-focused. It’s all about the lightest and the newest. I like to create products that keep the mood light. It’s just bikes. Sure you can send that jump on a squishy wonder bike, but you can also send it safely, and walk yer sweet-ass rigid bike around the jump, so you can ride again tomorrow.
What’s the Send It Safely origin story?
I always loved pedaling bikes. I moved to Albuquerque from Chicago in the fall of 2018. The bicycle scene here is incredible. I quickly got flat tires because everything here eats your bicycle. I became good pals with the fine folk over at Two Wheel Drive Bicycles. I had never properly mountain biked before, so I started to tag along with them on my Karate Monkey. That’s also where I met Keaton who makes DOOM bars (interview here) who was always out there shredding on his rigid single speed and I thought that was rad—as the kids say.
“After riding more and more trails, I quickly realized a lot of bicycle riders are dicks. They all look like cops.”
After riding more and more trails, I quickly realized a lot of bicycle riders are dicks. They all look like cops. They don’t say hi or smile and look miserable out there. Not yielding to horses, hikers, runners, and uphill cyclists. They weren’t sharing the trail. Really just being meanie heads. Trails are not your gym and nobody cares how fast you are on your 12k mountain bike. Basically, they were ruining it for the rest of us on bikes, and making people hate bikes on trails more than they already did. That's kind of how Send It Safely came about. Today I like to think of it as a way of riding maybe. Don’t act like a dick on a bike. You don’t get hurt so you can ride again tomorrow. You wear whatever ya want while riding. You say “hello” out on there on the trail. If yer going to send it, do so safely. Stop for a snack or three. Walk your bike if it gets scary. Find a good safety meeting spot and adjust your headset. Ride steel single speeds with hilariously wide handlebars. You get it.
How do you find your product ideas?
Mostly being silly willy’s with my pals on the trails. I am not an artist and don’t know how to make anything. Every idea I get goes into a note. I let it marinate for a bit, and then I hit up one of my very talented artist friends and let them go wild. My best pal Sonny is my first go-to for art. Fans may know him from bicidelacruz fame. He likes to ride dirt on his brakeless bicycle very fast, not a very 'send it safely' type of move.
What’s the one product you have always wanted to make?
I’ve always wanted to make riding gloves. Come on Hand Up Gloves ,Send it Safely would look so good on the palms. There has been an email sent and that’s all I can say. They are not cheap and I would have to make a whole lot of them.
What is Send It Safely’s biggest challenge at the moment?
My biggest challenge is having people actually see my posts and products—a challenge I assume every creator/maker is having right now. Somehow I convinced 11 thousand people to follow me, and sometimes only 30 people see my post. The algo knows when you post something that you are trying to sell. They want you to pay for sponsored ads to sell your products because they are cops.
It’s a bummer and I know I'm whining about it, wah wah wah, but unless you have 20k plus followers, Instagram isn't a useful tool for smaller makers anymore. There is a lot of bad content out there, and I try really hard to put out good shit that resonates with people, but in order for people to actually see it, I need to post three times a day and shove it in people’s faces. They also wanted us to push reels so hard that they were giving a laughable amount of money to creators. I was making a hundred bucks a month and I thought it was hilarious. Honestly, I’ve come to like making videos because they make me laugh, and I have a terrible memory, so it's nice being able to go back and watch a 90-second clip of a 7-hour ride with my buds. That's why I started an email newsletter, which ya can subscribe to over on my website.
What does 'Nectarize' mean?
It means to sweeten. To add juice, give it some extra pulp. Whatever yer doing, you can always sweeten it. It is the third step in S.E.N.D. First, you must survey, ya know get a good look at everything. Enhance is next, and that can mean however you want. Only after you NECTARIZE, are you ready to Deploy, the final step is to send it safely.
You’re from Chicago. How did you end up in ABQ?
I spent my first 29 years in Chicago and moved here right before my 30th birthday in the fall of 2018. I took an IT gig here in Boulderquerque, which ended up being a clown show. I quit the clown show to help a friend at the time start a very successful pizza shop. Got weeded out of that after a year or two because I wanted to ride more bikes. I have been full-time Sendy McSaferson since October of 2021. Without Steve Bags and Will from Farther Bag Co, this thing would have definitely lost steam a long while ago. There are over 500 Farther Trail Purses in the wild right now. They are the ones that you don’t hide your weed in while doing bikes and outdoorsing. Big hugs to Farther Bag Co.
For those of us living in the mountains and forest, biking in New Mexico looks so good.
New Mexico is pretty amazing, but it ain’t shit without the pals I’ve made along the ride. I am not a very good bike rider, and the trails out here are tough, but I love it. My favorite route would have to be anything in the Flatirons. There is single-track and dirt roads everywhere, it's all a favorite for me. Don’t come here though, the chili ain’t even spicy. You can follow me on Strava. No joke lol. Search Sendy McSaferson. Not ZWIFT though, because #zwiftisforcops. I don’t bikepack. I like to ride bikes and come home and shower because I’m soft. Also, it takes too long. I gotta eat.
Check out one of my favorite rides ever here. It's not easy and you will walk your bike at some point.
Def Leppard or 2 Live Crew?
Def Leppard! Because a one-armed drummer! That’s wild. I’m a lefty, and can’t do shit with my right hand.
What will Send It Safely be in 5 years from now?
Probably Zwifting in Boulder after I get bought out by REI :) Hopefully, it will still be me in 5 years riding single speeds with my friends on dirt. I would like to host more group rides, but it's tough making plans in this town. I like to build bikes at Two Wheel Drive when they have a free stand because they are my pals and I always bother them with my lack of mechanical knowledge.
This summer look for cool new digs, like fenders, other not-weed paraphernalia, cycling caps, socks, and water bottles! Coming soon to a Send It Safely website near you. As far as the future of this “company”, I hope I can keep doing this without getting an actual job. All while still being able to ride bikes with my buds.
📸: Corndog Corey 🌽🐶