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Love Cycle

Around this time last year my friend Stephen and I were celebrating a successful and challenging bike ride over a couple of (well deserved) beers and examining our progress on a ride tracker app called Strava. As we poured over the map I thought of Clare, who has always had an endearing love for maps and cityscapes. With our first ‘long distance Valentine’s Day’ fast approaching I came up with an idea to make her smile: I would complete a ride around San Francisco in the shape of a heart and track it using the app!

I used Google Maps and painstakingly mapped out my route. On my ride, I found myself in completely unfamiliar parts of the city, going up and down steep hills and at times confusing traffic in order to stay on track.
After biking 27 miles I made it back to the intersection of Haight St & Central Ave, the cleavage of the heart, where I initially started. I hit stop, uploaded the ride and was ecstatic when I saw that it had actually worked!

On my way back home, I ran into Jefferson McCarley, GM of the Mission Bicycle Company, where I bought my bike. I couldn’t help but give him a sneak peak of the map. Jefferson loved it and asked me if the company could write up a short but sweet blog post about my idea as a Valentine’s Day feature.

On Valentine’s Day, I shared the map with Clare on her wall and she loved it. I was thrilled that I was able to make her day even though I couldn’t be with her in Toronto. Then, unexpectedly, the Mission Bicycle blog post blog post went viral. Websites all across the country picked up on the story and I very nearly ended up becoming a human-interest story on the 6 o’clock news!

Almost a year later, I got a call from an advertising agency in New York. They loved the blog post and had designed a national ad campaign around my idea and Clare and my ’story’. They pitched the idea to Verizon, and, to make a long story short, they wanted me to star in the commercial.

It was one of the most incredible days of my life.


The shoot started off at the Embarcadero, where I pressed start on my GPS tracking app.


From there we headed up to North Beach, climbing up the Peter Macchiarini steps on my bike and shooting up and down Fresno alley.


Got a little action around the trolley cars Russian Hill, rode through the chaos in Chinatown, and ended up at Haight & Central to make the cleavage for the heart.


The most exhilarating take involved the police shutting down Stockton street so I could fly down the street at 50 mph with an arm car driving a camera only inches from my wheels.


And for anyone who is wondering, the actress in the end is not Clare. It was Monica Barbaro. That would have been too perfect! Monica was great to work with and everyone on set was asking about Clare back in Toronto and the secret to long distance.

I had the pleasure of working with some true pros, like Tom Carney and Greg Baldi. This monster, operated by Greg and his team, is typically used to shoot action movies and car commercials.

Arm car

Due to time constraints, there wasn’t enough time to get all the shots done in one day with one person. We needed to shoot two cyclists simultaneously. Enter my body-double Ranbir Sanghera. Ranbir and I were dressed exactly alike. They even made him a wig to match my long hair!


I showed this to my friend Greg and his response was “Wow Payam, you’re right up there with Catherine Zeta Jones!” I’ll take it.

What do I have planned for this Valentines Day you ask? I’m thinking chocolate and flowers.

Added January 24, 2013