(full event slideshow at the bottom↓)

Bikes & Beers is returning to San Diego for a third year! It’s one of our favorite events. You can get tickets HERE (and we’re not even getting paid for saying so). 

Lightning Bolts of Awesomeness

If I wanted to get succinctly creative I’d describe the recent Bikes & Beers San Diego group ride as follows:

Anticipation. Rolling. Rolling. Hey, that’s pretty! Wow, what a view. Water break. Rolling. Cruising. Ocean waves and sunshine. So that’s a hill. Damnitsonuva that’s a BIG hill. SUCCESS! And DOWN we go! Cruise, rolling. Finish. Liquid carbo-loading. Good people, and good vibes.

But I don’t really feel like getting creative with it. So here’s how it all went down.

On past rides, Bikes & Beers events consisted of shorter rides between beer drinking facilities. You’d ride 7 or 8 miles. Have a beer. Ride 7 or 8 miles. Have a beer, and then ride to the finish and have a beer. This time the B&B team changed the format to consist of one long ride (23ish miles) with a mini-beer festival at The Quartyard at the end. As with all the B&B rides this one was, in part, to benefit the local bicycling community. BikeSD was the recipient.

Bikes and Beers RidersI got to the event early because I anticipated a downtown clusterf*&k with parking, traffic and a large number of riders driving in. In addition to the ride, this was my first visit to the new Quartyard open-space project. I was stoked to see there coffeeshop open because I was going to need the energy. I checked-in, got a wristband and a booklet of coupons with free beer tickets for later. Due to the new format there were was space for vendors. Deco-Bike, the new SD ride-share program, was already set up. Local bike shops were offering quick tune-ups and pumping tires. In the far corner a bike valet and more vendors.

Bikes and Beers RegistrationA line of people & bikes started to filling up the entrance and sidewalk. It got a little crazy. The Quartyard is a great spot for a festival but it wasn’t a great layout to get people through registration quickly. Even when there were openings at the check-in table there were too many bikes in the way for people to get through. Some restructuring of the bike valet location and volunteer workers walking the line checking-in riders would minimize that issue in the future.

Despite the ride length, Bikes & Beer rides really cater to a mass cycling audience. Sure there were riders decked out in full cycling kits with fancy road bikes, but there were also people riding mountain bikes, hybrids, cruisers, electric-enhanced commuters and any other kind of bike you can imagine. It isn’t a race so there is no need to get competitive unless you want too. Just before 10 AM Councilman Todd Gloria hopped up on stage and gave a little speech about the growth of biking in the SoCal community.

Bikes and Beers John AndersonPeople were still registering but the first wave of riders was ready to go. Itching to go even. John Anderson, one of the event founders and wearer of some incredible spandex tights, rang the cowbell and opened the gate. About a 100 riders headed out, around the block, northward towards Balboa Park.

Those first moments of a group ride are thrilling, exciting & a bit terrifying. You don’t know yet how hard the ride will be, if you’ll be able to keep up or if other riders will like you. It’s kind like your first day high school. I’d say to try not to feel that way, but it is also kind of great. From past experience on Bikes & Beers rides you’ll have nothing to worry about. Right away I found myself next to a couple from Long Beach who drove down to ride. We wound slightly uphill through the park into the museum area chatting about the LBC bike community. Traffic was light and most cars gave a wide berth. Despite being a large group we thinned out into a long line of smaller groups that would bunch up at stoplights or major intersections.

bb-on-rideWe veered onto the sweet new bike lane on Fifth Ave through Hillcrest. People on the sidewalk & in cafes would point, wave or flash peace signs. The new bike lane is awesome. Super smooth cruise. Bikes and Beers had given us some basic road directions, provided signs along the route and for the first time had partnered with a navigation app, Ride With GPS, for your phone. I didn’t use it but people I was around did. It got rave reviews, and came in handy when we missed a turn or got separated from the group. The signage could be hard to see and sometimes it looked like it may have gotten moved.

We meandered through Mission Hills and up into Fort Stockton. There were hills but the route kept us going uphill in shallow increments so it was barely noticed. We got our first views of the water coming out of the park, cruised downhill onto the PCH and then onto the bike path along the San Diego River. We hit our first water stop where there were fruits, granola bars, water and a local bike shop maintenance crew hanging out to support us if needed. Only about 1/2 the riders stopped and there wasn’t much socializing amongst those that did. Only the noshing of energy, and then back on the road.

Bikes and Beers San Diego River

We crossed the bridge into Ocean Beach, and our group splintered further. Some of us followed the signage and others went down towards the beachfront. Somehow, none of my group was using the app so we got old fashioned and dug out paper maps. The great thing about group rides is that there is always someone to pick you up when you get lost, someone coming behind to make sure no one gets left behind and to help when needed. Each wave of riders had a designated leader that would direct the way and then roll back to make sure we all made it. Events like Bikes & Beers reminds me that cyclists are a true community.

Bikes and Beers Sunset Cliffs

We kept rolling along Sunset Cliffs. What a way to spend the day. The sun, the ocean and our bikes. This is where I started to mentally gear up too. In order to get out of Point Loma we’d have to go up the aptly named Hill St. Until we made it up and over it was a monster tugging at my thoughts. It was a right turn up the hill, and immediately it sucked. It was bigger than I imagined. Even though I was shifting through easier and easier gears I couldn’t build up momentum. My lungs were burning. I pumped my legs harder and stood up in the saddle. But three-quarters of the way up I admitted defeat. Around me a group of roommates from SDSU were doing the same. Looking back down hill was a line of walkers and some brave souls powering through. Cheers to them. Even the walk was hard!

Bikes and Beers Hill

At the top it was all worth it for the view out over the ocean looking west, and the city of San Diego with a mountainous background heading east. AND we got to ride down. We came down Talbot St hunched low over the handlebars gaining speed on a long curving cruise with no stop signs and a few conveniently green stoplights. At one point a speed checker registered 34 MPH as I passed. All that burning in my lungs was forgotten by the time I hit Harbor Drive for the last remaining miles to the finish line where beer was waiting.

Bikes and Beers QuartyardThe new festival was just getting into swing when I rolled back into The Quartyard about 2 hours and 15 minutes after I left. Success! I found my free beer coupons and hit the bar. I waited a few minutes before realizing that there were two other bars that didn’t have a line! Coupons were good for draft pints but the bars were giving cans too. DJ Jordan was rocking tunes rocking the stage with some upbeat jams, and the bike valet was filling up as more and more riders finished.

Bikes and Beers CheersWhile on the ride I missed the “socializing at breweries” aspect from past rides, but the festival more than made up for it. Everyone was smiling, cheers-ing their beers, playing games or chilling in the afternoon sun. Because you can only ride along with so many people it was a great opportunity to meet up with riders that left in different waves. There were more than 600 registered riders, and the Quartyard held those of us hanging out comfortably. Because the ride was over I could stay or go as I pleased. I was having such a good time chatting with riders, watching the NCAA at the bar or catching shade on the Social Cycle that I was still there when the fest officially ended. I am sold on the new festival format, and The Quartyard. Overall, there were some new format logistical issues, but when I finally got back on my trusty Surly for the ride home I was filled with good beer and good mojo.

Bikes & Beers is continuing to grow with a North County ride in the works for fall. I’m looking forward to more rides, more festivals and, definitely, more beer.

You can get tickets HERE.