After Ryan [’11] and Suzy Weeks [MAT ’14] were married on Fuller’s campus, they rode away together on a Chauffeur bicycle—a bike Ryan had built years before, unaware how it would become an integral part of their story.
“We both came from work in international development and had a passion for the poor,” Suzy said. “Ryan was a missionary for three years in Sudan, and I was doing development work in upstate New York. We met at our very first class at Fuller in 2011.” Soon after meeting, Ryan pedaled uphill to Suzy’s apartment on that chauffeur, helped her on, and took her on the first of many dates: a bike tour of Pasadena. A triathlon enthusiast, Ryan was passionate about biking as an outlet for exercise and exploration, a natural and sustainable form of transportation, and a choice that allows for connection with neighbors and community. Why did Suzy love bikes? For a simpler reason: “To be close to Ryan!” The question “can we ride there?” determined how they spent their time for the duration of their dating relationship. If the answer was “yes,” they pulled out the chauffeur and enjoyed the Southern California night air on their way to a coffee shop or an outdoor concert.
One day while studying in the Hubbard Library, a friend showed Ryan a craigslist ad for a used triathlon bike. “The frame alone was worth close to what he was asking for the whole bike,” Ryan remembers. “If we opened up the parts to the world, we could probably make some decent money off it.” A few days later, he was taking that bike apart in his living room in order to sell the parts for a profit.
Within a few months, Ryan was finding and dismantling bikes, with Suzy cleaning and shipping the parts. It was an organic process, and as they looked around at the bike parts stacked in the room, they knew that their business, Around the Cycle, was born. When they were married soon after, they looked for a getaway vehicle and that chauffeur bike was an obvious choice. “Our relationship, our studies, our wedding—even our business started in that Fuller library,” says Ryan, looking back.
The success of their business led to opening a bike shop in the same neighborhood where they attend church—an area that sees extreme wealth and poverty in close contact with each other. Around the Cycle was perfectly situated to bridge both neighborhoods. Wealthy neighbors would regularly buy and sell gear they no longer wanted, leaving the Weeks with good deals on well-made bicycles. “Bikes are crucial in low-income areas,” says Ryan. “We see part of our work as sourcing from the rich to give to the poor.” It’s a way for them to share the gospel with their actions: “We both have a heart for holistic development and ministry, and we see that example in Jesus. It’s not only about getting people saved,” Ryan says. Suzy adds, “It’s about renewing neighborhoods, too.”
When they have a customer with very little to spare, they’re generous with payment plans: “One time it took a guy three months to pay us $20,” Suzy remembers. Still, Around the Cycle is a business, and Ryan wants to honor God in sustainable ways. “You have all these ideas and aspirations, but starting a business takes time. I decided to give myself grace. I felt like God was telling me, ‘just run a good business.’” The Weeks have worked hard to let kingdom values permeate their business practices: they’re careful to offer honest prices on bikes, and “we’ve tried to provide value on both ends and stay others-focused,” Ryan stresses. “We want to honor the city, the government, and our customers. We’re for our customers before ourselves.”
Ryan and Suzy Weeks intend to move back to Africa to return to international development work, and they’ll take what they learn in Pasadena—plus their love for bikes—with them to the mission field. “The financial model of missionaries relying on the full support of churches is unstable,” says Ryan. “We are really informed by what Dr. Bryant Myers taught us to ask: ‘How do we walk with the poor without hurting them?’ We are interested in creating wealth and value in a community.” As Suzy says, “Bikes are translatable across any culture or language. Every socioeconomic class likes biking—the poor African taxi driver and the millionaires biking around the Rose Bowl. They all enjoy it the same.”
When they have a day off, you’ll still see them riding. Suzy says, “It’s an important part of our lifestyle, and even though it’s our business, we still love it.” Now the chauffeur bike leans against a light post in front of the shop to attract attention and bring in street traffic. They’ve ridden that bike through each stage of their life—a bike repurposed and well-loved, transporting them together in their work for the kingdom of God.
+ Suzy and Ryan Weeks were married in spring of 2013 on the Fuller lawn with a reception in the Garth. Their “getaway” vehicle was a classic chauffeur bicycle.
Photo is used with the generous permission of Erich Chen. Video titles by Ben Brandt. Music courtesy of Julia Stewart.