Bike Party Sacramento kicks off 93rd ride in September
Eight years and a global pandemic after its founding, Sacramento’s favorite non-biker-focused cycling group held its 92nd ride on August 6.
Since 2013, rave on wheels has grown into a beloved local institution. On the first Friday of each month, hundreds of mobilized Sacramentians – often dressed in costumes, carrying alcohol and explosive music – take to the streets. Beyond their limited pandemic schedule and taking advantage of the COVID-19 cycling boom, Bike Party is experiencing a renaissance.
Pedaling the streets, the crowds are dotted with sleek cruisers, trimmed tandems and custom lowriders. It also includes skateboards, scooters, inline skates, and even power wheelchairs. Bike Party rode to celebrate Halloween, Thanksgiving and March Madness; they’ve put on Tiki-Valentine’s Day rides, graduation party rides, and lots of neon rides. Regardless of the theme, participants adorn their bikes with flashing lights and festive decor. Nothing is off limits: a man once rode a bicycle with a cat perched on his shoulder. Another time, at a May 4 themed event, a lightsaber-wielding rider (who insisted others call him “Lord Equis”) trotted alongside the cyclists.
The dogma of Bike Party? “Stop at traffic lights, keep right, drive straight, don’t hate, put your trash away and don’t get run over. “
As participants weave their way through the routes – which are designed to avoid obstructing traffic or commerce – they make multiple stops to hydrate, drink, and socialize. It’s a bike ride, but passing with its pulsed EDM, technicolor lights and electric power, participants radiate the atmosphere of festival-goers.
“We compare our events a lot to a performance,” said Lawrence T. Risley, who led the group for five years. “Because it really is. “
During events, there is a noticeable absence of sprints, tricks or tight lycra optimized for speed. Each element subverts the norms of cycling groups, which makes sense given the circumstances of the founding of Bike Party Sacramento.
“To be honest, I was never really a bike guy,” said Conrad Lawrence, who hosted the very first Sacramento Bike Party in 2013. “The only reason I had bikes was to go at Burning Man. “
After breaking up with his girlfriend – and hearing his plea that he “shouldn’t become a hermit” – Lawrence began attending bike rides in the East Bay. One night, as he was making his way home, he had an idea.
“As I got home at 1 a.m. I realized that there was absolutely nothing going on in Sacramento, in terms of biking, other than, you know, the Spandex crowd going up and down the damn trail. from the river.”
Lawrence therefore created Bike Party Sacramento, a cycling event intended for people not very passionate about this sport. To his surprise, 40 runners showed up for the first round.
Fun Bike Party Status
The organization has achieved cult popularity among Sacramentians, many of whom have attended monthly events for several years. These enthusiastic Bike Partiers rave about the group’s warm and welcoming community.
“It creates a human connection and makes Sacramento an even more hip city,” said Rob Schopen, who has been a dedicated Bike Party participant since he spotted one of their lively rides through downtown. A few years ago.
“I’ve seen so many genuine acts of kindness over the years,” Schopen said. “Everyone looks out for each other and is ready to help each other with whatever is needed: broken bike, water, zip ties, conversation, but usually just a smile or a hug. “
Thanks to the help of volunteers – who bring the group together to make sure no one throws litter or climbs dangerously – the event is completely free. “There is no money exchanged,” Risley said. “It’s just a labor of love.”
Partially inspired to start Bike Party “as a way to meet girls,” Lawrence is adamant that the group’s priority should be fostering human relationships. Faithful to this mission, the group leaders avoided requests for publicity or races. “It’s a social race,” Lawrence said. “It’s not a competition and it’s not promoting an event or anything like that.”
Participants organize themselves largely on Facebook, where the Bike Party Sacramento group has more than 3,600 members. There, Bike Partiers post images and videos of events, search for lost bikes, and share invitations for everything from bike swaps and birthday parties to treks to raise funds or raise awareness for various causes.
Each year the group organizes a “Ride of Silence” to commemorate cyclists who have been killed or injured on the public road. And as is tradition, a delegation goes to the Shriners Hospitals for Children over Christmas to bring gifts, holiday cheer and even Santa himself to pediatric patients. Bike Party made the trip for six straight years, and they didn’t let the pandemic stop them – last December, they cycled a dazzling parade of lights, costumes and music through the parking lot, and the kids watched through their windows.
“And for me, that’s what it’s all about, sharing moments with friends and strangers. And providing a unique experience and smiles for those kids out there who are fighting for their lives, ”said Risley.
Create a community
The group also comes together on Thanksgiving Day for an event dubbed “The Appetite Enhancement Ride”. This past November this hike was also a charity event: “We gave a lot of money and a lot of food and a lot of love and support,” Risley said.
While these events are significant, the group’s greatest contribution to the Sacramento community may very well be its ability to build community.
“It really brings together people who wouldn’t necessarily meet – old people, young people, different demographics,” said Anil Mantri, who has attended Bike Party events for six years. “It really shows the diversity that Sacramento has to offer. And the people are nice!
“We get everyone from around 18 to 60 – all walks of life,” Risley echoed.
At the onset of the pandemic, Bike Party Sacramento largely shut down – and with it, that community became fragmented. Across the country, however, the urge to escape isolation sparked a cycling boom: Bicycle vendors during the pandemic saw their business increase dramatically, with the national market growing by 75% alone. ‘in April 2020.
As the lockdowns dragged on for months, some members – like Schopen – organized small, masked DIY rides to stay active and connect with their remote micro-communities.
“[I] missed the event terribly, so we created a small group of Bike Party friends and started organizing rides all over Sacramento on a weekly basis, ”said Schopen. “COVID made me realize even more how fortunate we are that this event is taking place in Sacramento.”
Now that nearly half of all residents of Sacramento County are fully vaccinated (and outdoor exercise is considered low risk), Bike Party has returned to normal activities – and the riders are thankful to be back.
“Because we’ve been quarantined with COVID, people are really enjoying the human experience,” Risley said. “And we can do it by bike. With loud dance music.
A carefully curated soundtrack is essential to the energy of Bike Party – like any good party -. Music is at the heart of the ride, and many participants design their bikes specifically to accommodate speakers. As the band spans backgrounds and age groups, Risley scours SoundCloud for locally produced “mixes and mashups” that span a wide variety of genres and decades. The only requirement? The songs must have a rhythm.
“We want people to sing and dance! Risley said. “It’s a bit like a Disney Land parade, but it’s more than that. He brings down the barriers. It creates a feeling of escape. Some say, “If governments could also adopt bicycle parties, we would live in a utopian society. “
That’s not to say the organization hasn’t had its fair share of problems.
Large groups of runners sometimes encounter the impatient driver (in these rare cases, volunteers stop the ride and let the car pass). And sometimes people are so irritated by the noise or the traffic of Bike Party that they turn to the Internet to voice their complaints.
“It’s funny,” Risley said, “Because you’ll have one person for the job, but then you’ll have a lot of people coming up for us.” At first such complaints were more common, but now even those not involved in Bike Party tend to respect what it brings to Sacramento.
“If you’re upset that people are riding bikes, maybe you are the problem,” Risley said.
While Bike Party’s greatest asset is its diverse and vibrant community, disagreements between participants have caused discord in the past. At one point – under the leadership of founder Lawrence – Bike Party closed temporarily to fight the scourge of “young people with small BMX bikes” who rode dangerously, disregarded the group’s community ethic and “just wanted to show off. and create chaos, ”as Lawrence said.
Eventually, Lawrence says, the group ousted the “punks” and got back to cycling as usual, but the divisions between the leaders remained. Shortly thereafter, Lawrence’s health and interpersonal issues prompted Risley to take on the role of leader of the Bike Party.
“(Risley) has a great passion for the fun and safety of BPS,” said Peggi Martin, who attended the very first Sacramento Bike Party in 2013 and has joined the rides regularly since. “He works with a group of dedicated volunteers on safety practices to plan new routes and monthly themes to keep him interesting. It’s simple, high-tech, high-energy, soul-tickling entertainment. … You feel like a child again, with unbridled joy rolling with the group.
While the Bike Party has resisted its leadership shift, disruptive attendees and the coronavirus pandemic, it has retained the spirit that makes it special to so many Sacramentians. As the group crosses town, they bring a thrilling cacophony of exclamations, music and conversation. And in its wake, it leaves Sacramento a little stranger – and more connected – than it found.
“When Bike Party is launched, it’s magic. It really is – dancing, singing, fellowship. We’ve lost that so much, in my opinion, in life, where there’s drama or there’s always something stopping you from just having fun, ”Risley said.
“And that’s what bikes do. It removes all of that, and everyone is included and everyone is accepted. … I see this every month and it’s just beautiful.