If you frequent downtown Charleston, you may have seen a woman navigating city streets on a bicycle, without pedaling, loaded down with cardboard boxes and saddlebags.
You’ll see her on hot days, cold days, snowy days, rainy days, pretty days, whatever. Her name is Katy Casto, 35, and she plies her trade five days a week in the intense, high-pressure environment of Jimmy John’s sandwich delivery.
The last sentence is not sarcastic. The national chain, with its motto of “Freaky Fast,” takes speed in both delivery and in-store service seriously, from its location on the corner of Capitol and Virginia streets. Astride an electric bike that makes such rapid treks possible, Casto is a bullet, dodging cars, pedestrians and potholes the best she can.
Sometimes her own equipment does her in.
“My [front] rain guard slipped off the other day and got caught,” she said, recounting how the front fender slipped between the tire and forks one day this past week, nearly sending her over the handlebars. “I wiped out. The tire locked up, the tail end picked up.”
Luckily, her super supportive husband Joseph — a delivery driver for Gino’s Pizza — came to the rescue. The two often see each other on their respective expeditions.
“He’s always coming to my rescue,” she said. “If the brakes are going out, he’ll tighten them up for me. I love Joseph.”
Crashing is not uncommon. Once, miraculously, she flipped entirely over the handlebars downtown after being rear-ended by a car — but both she and her orders remained intact. A sideswipe crash on Pennsylvania Avenue sacrificed her orders. She had to go back.
Casto and husband are considering opening a car detailing business but, until that happens, she darts about town on her electric chariot, a job that obviously carries with it some danger.
She has owned the electric bike six months and logged 2,400 miles — all within the city limits. Her coverage area generally runs from the state Capitol in the east to Bigley Avenue on the near West Side.
She once made it from downtown to the University of Charleston, across the Kanawha River, and back in 20 minutes. “My boss said that was faster than the drivers do it,” she said.
The bike, a Lectric brand, cost $900. It’s one of the more affordable, full-size electric bicycles on the market. With pedal assist set at 5 — the easiest — and the throttle open, she can reach up to 28 miles per hour and does so often. The motor requires only a regular wall outlet to charge.
Her work ethic is impeccable.
“Rain, snow, sleet, whatever, I don’t call off,” she said. “In the rain I get soaked, change my clothes and get soaked again. I pretty much have to be on my deathbed.”
A recent, enduring image is of Casto is in the middle of a driving rain, poncho blown by the wind, pressing on. She is a remarkable image of toughness, even claiming to enjoy the rain. Only in the past six months has she started using a poncho.
Two days a week she works a morning shift that lasts until 1 p.m. or so, then it’s back on at 3 until the 9 p.m. close. She rode a regular bike before acquiring the motorized one, and she stayed sore a lot. Alternating from pedal assist to the motor, the electric version is just right.
“I love my job, I really do,” said Casto, who is raising her 12-year-old daughter, Ariel Hancock, with Joseph. They’ve been married eight years. “I say when you love your job, it’s really not work and I really love my job. I’m not going to find another job like this one. I’m outside, I can be in my own little world, I put on my music and just go.”