Bicycles. What can’t they do? They take you to work, save you money, help you exercise and can even make you popular.
Now, you may have missed the chapter on bicycles in How to Win Friends and Influence People, but I assure you that a bicycle has the power to introduce you to many wonderful people. I came to this realization after rediscovering the joy of getting around town by bike a few years ago. At first, I was happy pedaling on my own but I quickly discovered that it’s hard to be alone while biking in a big city.
Back when I commuted by car, not once did I strike up a conversation with another driver while behind the wheel. Sure, there were some minor exchanges, but rarely was it anything memorable (and sadly, not always positive). Yet, on a bike the experience is the exact opposite. I’ve asked and been asked for directions. I’ve cheerfully said hello and shared the delight or disgust of a strange smell wafting down the street. With no steel cage around you and no tinted windows, bikes are open to their surroundings, the perfect social machines.
The social power of a bicycle truly shines during group rides.
Riding in a group adds a whole new dynamic to traveling by bike. You can lead the way, you can hang back and watch or you can find a spot in the middle and feel the surge of excitement that comes from being surrounded by other people on bikes. Ready to experience your first group ride? Here’s what to look for:
Portland, OR may just be the capital of group theme rides. Each year, the 3-week event, Pedalpalooza, is host to countless theme rides. Dress up as your favorite Doctor Who or Star Wars character and hop on your bike for an out-of-this-world adventure. Some themed rides even have a global presence. The Tweed Ride, started in London, UK, sees participants dress like it’s the 1890s in wool cycling costumes to bike slowly around town. Tweed Rides can now be found in Australia, Canada, Brazil, Germany, Latvia and the United States. If dressing up isn’t to your liking, you can always dress down to ride. The World Naked Bike Ride hopes to “deliver a vision of a cleaner, safer, body-positive world” by having participants dare to bare, stripping down to next to nothing for a slow rolling party on two wheels (or more).
Too often, cycling is seen as a male-dominated activity that may make women feel uncomfortable. On ladies-only rides you’ll find women getting back on the bike for the first time since childhood riding shoulder to shoulder with seasoned bike commuters. These events are as much about building confidence to ride around town as they are about meeting new people. Look for Two Wheels and Heels events in Cleveland and Columbus, OH and Minneapolis, MN.
The only way to truly get to know a city is by bike. Why hop on a stuffy bus when you can join a bike tour to get an on-the-ground feeling for a city? Tour guides are full of interesting tidbits you may never learn alone and are a great way to meet travelers and locals.
The power of the group ride is often at its most powerful when it takes the form of charity rides. Working for a common goal, charity rides are visible, engaging and a great way to help raise money for causes you believe in. Some charity rides will see the closure of typically car-only roads, providing a unique experience as well as opportunities to share the road with thousands of other cyclists.
Duncan Hurd is managing editor of Momentum Mag, an independent media company that promotes, encourages and inspires “Smart Living by Bike.” He lives in Toronto, Canada and believes that every ride is a group ride, even if those around him don’t know it yet. Subscribe to Momentum Mag’s free newsletter.
Photos: itsbruce, Sarah Bryant