Bike Party. What is it? Is this just an excuse to bike & drink beer? (Something we have no problem supporting fyi) An EDM party? A bunch of bike hippies partying in the streets?
Bike Party is a monthly celebration of the bicycle and of bike culture––a rolling, rollicking party on wheels. It’s the fusion of a night-time ride through the city with a dance party––with mobile sound systems on bike trailers keeping the party thumping and the mood elevated. Scores of cyclists ride safely in numbers along a pre-determined route. They gather at a friendly start point––like a park or a bike shop––and complete a loop that’s typically 8-15 miles long, with two stops to regroup along the way. These “party stops” see the action transformed from a ride to a social event––with dance, contests, lights, games, food and drink, performances, and prizes. After about 45 minutes, the party mounts up and pedals to a second stop for another 45-minute party. Then it’s off to the finish––a loop back to the starting point, or somewhere close by.
Are we just a bunch of bike hippies? No! Certainly “bike hippies”––whatever those are––are very welcome at Bike Party. But so are roadies, fixies, cruisers, weekend warriors, hipsters, touring enthusiasts, mountain bikers, tall bikes, cargo bikes, choppers and scrapers and BMXers. And unicyclists, hand-cyclists and inline skaters (like me!) for that matter. Bike Party is at its best when there’s an array of folks from all walks of life bringing their own brand of human-powered transportation to the table, sharing their music, lights, fashion and good vibes.
Are we an EDM party? Sometimes! There’s no doubt that, with your heart rate elevated and your booty warmed up from riding for several miles, it feels good to find a great beat and dance around. But at a big Bike Party event there are all sorts of other things going on––not just other kinds of music to find, but games (bike sumo! slow races! jousting!) and socializing to be had.
As for beer drinking: I’d like to submit that a cold, hoppy beverage is much, much tastier after you’ve moved your body around for a few hours, riding bikes and dancing and being on your feet. If you think about the Friday routine of a lot of people: It’s straight from home, to the car, to the office, to the car, to the bar. Drinking at the end of an inactive, sedentary day is a really different thing than going out, getting your heart pumping and sweating a little (or a lot), then rewarding yourself with a cold drink. Plus, the exercise keeps the love handles at bay! So yeah, many people want to ride bikes, they want party, and they like to drink beer. My strong suggestion is that they do it in that order. One of the rules of Bike Party is “stash your trash, and don’t get smashed.” It’s really important that people follow the rules of the road, don’t litter, and stay safe out there. And when you’re done have a brew or two or three with your new friends.
How intensive is the biking portion of Bike Party? Is it an organized ride or meet up? From the Youtube videos we watched there was a lot of partying around bikes but not a lot of actual biking.
There’s plenty of bike riding on Bike Party! But since the stationary party portions are so much fun (and so much easier to film) there’s a strong YouTube bias for those portions of the event. Don’t let it fool you; it’s 50% cycling and 50% party stops, and 110% a good time.
I’ve heard some novice riders say, “No way can I pedal all of these miles!” To those people I suggest: “Yes, you almost certainly can!”
So, each Bike Party has a different pre-determined route, which we post online about a week ahead of the event. We do a series of test rides, which we advertise online for anyone who’d like to attend, where we refine the route and identify any problem hills or intersections.
We generally seek out relatively flat routes that avoid a lot of car traffic. Since our route is pre-planned, and since we only travel a few miles before regrouping at each party stop, it’s possible for faster riders to blaze a trail ahead while slower social riders can hang back––clustered around a speaker bike and mobile deejay, perhaps––and just enjoy pedaling within the safety of a large group. We stay to the right and stop at lights. We ride straight and don’t hate––rolling past conflict. It’s really important that people respect the rules of the road and motor vehicles––this way, we can demand that they respect our rights as cyclists in return.
I’ve heard some novice riders say, “No way can I pedal all of these miles!” To those people I suggest: “Yes, you almost certainly can!” Our rides travel along a pre-determined route at a social pace, and our slower riders don’t move all that fast. Even an occasional rider on a heavy beach cruiser is easily capable of riding 15 miles over a few hours’ time. And you’ll honestly will be having so much fun that you won’t even notice the moderate workout you’re getting until after the event. I’ve met so many people who’ve become much stronger (and frequent) bike riders simply by attending Bike Party each month.
That said, you should come with your bike in good working order. Check your brakes. Make sure your wheels are not out of true. Bring a pump and a spare tire or patch kit. Ride with a buddy (or two, or five) and check up on each other. And bring a helmet and lights!
How big is the Bike Party Community in SD & how do you envision it growing?
I moved here just a year ago from the San Francisco Bay Area, so I’m still getting to know the scene. But I’m already impressed with the number of people who ride bikes in San Diego, especially given the (woefully inadequate) state of the city’s bicycle network. The weather here is mostly terrific year-round, and there are some really beautiful areas to explore by bicycle. But I think there’s enormous room for improvement and growth––both for Bike Party and, by extension, San Diego’s cycling community writ large.
I think that the way that we do that is by finding strength in numbers, by coming together as a large community of cyclists. There are plenty of other ways this already happens––like the races at the Velodrome, the annual Bike the Bay rides, and Tour de Fat, for instance––but wouldn’t it be great to get folks from all the different cycling clubs together in one spot each month, and just throw a huge party on wheels? That’s what Bike Party can do. And longer-term, once we find that strength in numbers, we can begin to flex some political muscle and create a much more extensive and much safer bicycle network here in San Diego.
After doing some googling Bike Party seems to be pretty big in some NorCal communities drawing 1000s of participants regularly. What does the SD scene need to reach that type of audience & why aren’t there people regularly bike partying in the streets already?
Bike Party is an absolute phenomenon in the Bay Area. In San Jose, the birthplace of Bike Party, you’ll regularly see rides of 2,000 people. Picture a mile-long procession of bicycles, bathed in music, with woofers and subwoofers and tweeters blaring out from two dozen speaker bikes. There are lights everywhere, and not just red blinky lights: Silicon Valley has produced some amazing LED light kits, like RevoLights http://revolights.com/and even the animated Monkeylectric wheel lights http://www.monkeylectric.com/ . Picture party stops with deejays spinning records off the backs of cargo bikes, laser beams shining off of mirror-balls, dancing people, games, and food trucks that follow the crowd from one stop to the next. After about 45 minutes, it’s time to ride off again. The speed demons hustle out in front, while the cruisers and heaviest, loudest music bikes plod along in back. To keep everyone aimed along the same route, volunteers claim intersections and guide the spreading mass of bike to the next party. Seriously, if you haven’t seen Bike Party in action, there are some amazing videos from San Jose to check out:
And that’s just the third Friday of each month; there are crowds of about 1,200 each second Friday in the East Bay––Oakland, Berkeley, San Leandro or Richmond––and hundreds more each first Friday in San Francisco. It’s not just the Bay either; Bike Party is also huge in other parts of the world. There are monthly rides in places as far-flung as Seoul, South Korea; São Paulo, Brazil; Boston, MA and Montreal, Canada.
Why don’t we see this happening here on the same scale? I think it’s down to two factors.
(A) San Diego’s different neighborhoods aren’t well linked together by bicycle networks, so local communities of cyclists don’t have an easy time grouping together in larger gatherings and rides.
(B) We do have a strong foundation of cyclists, and we just haven’t put in the effort to get everyone together on a regular, monthly ride. I’m hopeful that we can overcome the problems of San Diego’s sprawl and make a big, monthly Bike Party celebration a reality. After all, we’re barely a year old and we’ve only just begun in earnest!
What is it about riding a bike that appeals to such drastically different demographics?
Who hasn’t ridden a bicycle at some point in their lives? And once you learn, getting back on two wheels is, well, like riding a bicycle. Kids and teens often experience their first taste of freedom and mobility on a bicycle, long before a car is even an option. And for a lot of adults, automobiles can be out of reach for financial or other reasons, and bikes are cost-effective alternatives. And on the other end of the spectrum, you have people of means who can afford all sorts of expensive cycling equipment and ride bicycles for fitness and recreation.
To us, it seems like you need an epic rolling DJ to get this party started. Who controls the jams at these events & how do you keep the tunes going on the road?
Okay, so you’ve identified our biggest barrier to taking Bike Party to the next level in San Diego. We need music bikes! I’m not talking about little bluetooth speakers on a backpack, either; I’m talking about a bike trailer that carries on it hundreds of watts of speakers and amp and hours of battery and 80dB of sound. We need someone to step up to the plate and become a local bike deejay hero. By building a speaker bike, you’ll be the life of Bike Party and of all other social rides that you attend. To get started, I suggest that you check out the builds available on this online group: Music Bikes Group.
So in the coming days, we’ll be trying to secure at least one music bike for October’s ride (and all future rides) by trying to identify one superhero who can commit to building a speaker bike and bringing it out. If we can’t do that, we’re looking into launching a Kickstarter campaign to crowd-source a “communal” Bike Party music bike. But I’m confident that, once our first mobile deejay arrives on the scene, others will follow, and we’ll have an “arms race” of speaker bikes. Which is great, because two are better than one, and twenty speaker bikes make for different sub-clusters of Bike Party fun.
In October Bike Party is hosting “Bike to the Future” Bike Party in honor of Marty McFly’s arrival in the future. Anything special this BP will have related to BTTF?
So we live in the future, and we want to show it to ourselves by decking ourselves out in as much high-tech gear as possible. Grab your wildest future-garb and see if you can win our costume competition; bring your futuristic LED lights and laser beams out. I’ve heard a rumor we might have a mirror ball suspended from a drone at our party stop. That’s as close to a hoverboard as we can get at this point. Beyond that, we’ll have a good old-fashioned keg of beer at Hub & Spoke, as well as a Fender Blender pedal-powered cocktail maker. Expect some potent, frozen cocktails blended up by bike! We’ll ask for a drinks donation to benefit Bike Party outreach.
What does Bike Party need, & need to do to succeed in San Diego?
Simply put: We need everyone who enjoys (A) partying with friends on a Friday night, and (B) riding bicycles, to join in and bring out as many friends as possible. Once this thing takes off––and it will––we can expect to see growth like San Jose had. They broke 100 people on rides in summer 2008; by the spring of 2009, they were seeing rides grow by 50% each month, reaching 1,000 riders that summer, and not long thereafter hosting a ride of more than *4,000* cyclists. We can do something similar here! Join the ride, bring your creativity and good spirits to the party, and invite as many friends as possible. Spread the word on social media––we’ve got pages on Facebook, Instagram, and Meetup.com. And by all means, construct a speaker bike and play deejay to the crowds; organize a game or contest of your own at a party stop; cook up some treats and bring them on a cargo bike; put on a light show, or show off a talent. You make Bike Party that much better!
How family friendly is the ride?
I’d recommend that parents check out a ride first before thinking of bringing a kid. Bike Party, when it’s at its best, is a bit like a rock concert, so it’s probably a good idea to scope things out ahead of time and consider leaving little ones with a babysitter. That said, I’ve seen plenty of kids on Bike Party rides at the back of a tandem or cargo bike. Just use your best judgement.
Where can people find out about up-coming Bike Parties or information on the SD group?