From Santa Barbara to Baltimore and in cities the world over, cruiser bike rides are becoming part of the fabric of communities. Weekly or monthly, in good weather and sometimes bad, these rides are all about going slow, being social and enjoying the company. There’s no speed requirement, no hill repeats and no fear of being dropped. Instead, there are costumes, fun destinations and music to pedal to. If you’re looking to launch a social bike ride in your area, here are some tips to get you started.
Word about your ride will spread quickly and soon friends of friends and total strangers will start showing up. Work up to that by starting with a small group. You want to grow at a slow enough rate that you can get everyone abiding by the culture of your ride. When you are ready to open the ride, choose a regular starting place and stick to it. Parks make great start and end locations, and even awesome stops for dance parties along the way.
Take some time to find a great route. Include as many bike paths and lanes as possible, to ensure that riders of all levels feel safe. Alleys and smaller streets with less traffic are better than major city arteries. Stick to certain familiar routes for larger rides so people know how to find you if the ride gets broken up. Always have someone in front who knows where they’re going and remember this isn’t about speed or a destination, it’s great to meander around and go up and down adjacent streets.
Work with the city, not against them
As your ride gets larger, you’ll likely end up interacting with the police and other official city agencies. This is something you should be prepared for and open to. Work with your city or town to get any required permits and be willing to accept a police escort if needed. Getting support from city council or the mayor and even inviting officials to join the ride is one way to prove that cruiser rides benefit your town.
Create some ride rules
Start a culture of safety and respect for everyone around (people on the ride or not, bikes, cars, pedestrians, etc). One cruiser ride has the following mantra: “Ride with a light, stay to the right, stop at red lights, and everything will be alright.” Post your rules on your website or social media page and have a plan for what to do if riders don’t abide by them. The best social rides are ones where everyone is accountable to each other and it doesn’t fall on one leader to enforce guidelines.
Make a good impression
Never underestimate the joy a large group of cheerful bike riders can spread. Smile and wave as you bike around, invite riders you pass to join you and do whatever you can to make people associate your ride with happiness. Yes, you may slow traffic down, but if you do it right, people won’t mind. Be aware of your noise level in neighborhoods. Music, bells and cheering add to the fun, but you don’t want to ruin your reputation by waking up a bunch of kids.
Once your ride starts to take off, keep it fresh by giving each week’s ride a theme. Encouraging people to dress up in costumes or playing music from a particular genre or era are just two ways to keep people coming back weekly or monthly. Some ideas for themes are: prom night, robots, or recycled materials.
Share the work
Find some of the most dedicated riders and recruit them as volunteers. Get as much help as you can with route planning and crowd control. As your ride grows, so will the work, and having a solid team in place is crucial to continued success. A key role for volunteers is that of rangers, experienced ride leaders staggered along the ride. From stopping the group at red lights to assisting with mechanical issues, it’s a huge help to have more than just a leader and a sweeper. Rangers can also help new riders who are still getting used to riding close together in large groups.
Join a family plan
Most cruiser rides start after work on a weekday, ride for a few hours and around 10 miles, and include some night riding. Because of these factors, they may not be the best environment for kids. A great way to be as inclusive as possible is to plan some kid-friendly rides. Weekend mornings with shorter routes are perfect for families. When you’re ready to expand your ride calendar, these are great additions.
Learn from the best
Need more guidance? Use already successful socials rides as learning opportunities. Use our map to find websites and contact information for cruiser rides and reach out to speak with their organizers. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel and it’s likely that another community has already dealt with the exact issue you are facing.