I first encountered Social Cycling Austin in 2009, during SXSW. I was cruising about downtown on a 3spd beach cruiser with ape hanger handlebars. A couple of folks invited me on a group ride that was sponsored by the newly formed Social Cycling Austin group.
The years passed and my schedule never permitted me to join them in their rides again…until recently.
The Group: Social Cycling Austin
Social Cycling Austin was founded in 2009. Keith Byrd was very active in its organization and Brooks Goldsmith took care of their social media. The group’s goal is to bring awareness to bicycling in Austin. Their mission statement is summed up in their motto: “Putting Butts on Bikes since 2009.”
Social Cycling Austin now hosts several bike rides in Austin each week:
- Monday is the Heavy Metal and Lend Us Your Legs rides. The Heavy Metal ride mixes rigorous riding, exercise and beers at the Jackalope. Lend Us Your Legs involves giving visually impaired people a riding experience via tandem bicycles.
- Tuesday is the YO!GA ride, which mixes riding and yoga.
- Wednesday has the Hump Day Nooner Ride.
- Thursday plays host to Social Cycling Austin’s flagship Thursday Night Social Ride.
- Saturday is the Caffeine Cruise.
- Sunday features the Bike Curious Ride.
Each ride has a captain organizer. Volunteers help guide riders in the right direction, since the rides are not aggressive like Critical Mass, and traffic laws apply.
The Ride: Thursday Night Social Ride
I decided to try the Thursday Night Social Ride (TNSR), so I loaded up my bike and made the trek to East 5th Street. I figured my parking spot was halfway between the start and finish of the ride. If I was gassed from the ride, I wouldn’t have far to go at the end of the night. This ended up being a wise decision.
Dark settled on Austin as I cruised to Festival Beach where Waller St. and East Ave. intersect underneath the I-35 Bridge. This is their normal meeting place for Thursday Night Social Ride.
Arriving early, I found the guys from BryCycle setting up their tent. Bryce Ramsey’s shop is relatively new, mobile and has a presence on Facebook and at TNSR.
Soon enough, the meeting area was filled with bikes, riders and music. I made a new friend in a guy named Bobby, who has a penchant for cruiser bikes, hip hop and Primus.
Never one to lollygag, Sam Cortez, the ride captain, blew his whistle and we were rolling. The group was massive: 200 people peddled into the darkness. The sounds of derailleurs clicking and ka-chunking into one gear or another and the high-pitched staccato of BMX bike hubs mingled with sounds of hip hop, dub step and salsa music.
We stopped halfway through the ride at Metz Park, located on the corner of Canterbury and Pedernales. The Austin Texas Bike Polo Social Club was having a practice and fundraiser for the upcoming year. Shortening the group name to ATXBPSC, club representative Jasmine Jones gleefully told me about the club and its near-future plans.
At Metz Park, riders happily bought cold drinks and HUGE BURRITOS! These things were massive… and tasty. I divided my time between watching a bike polo match and the antics on the covered basketball court. Folks were doing spinouts on an adult big wheel, built by Matt Armbruster at High Roller, and doing tricks on BMX bikes and fixies. The break was welcome, since my bicycle doesn’t coast and my legs were burning.
The whistle rang out again and we were off: west to Chicon, north to Dean Keaton in a broad arc that took us north of campus, across Guadalupe, south on Nueces to 12th. From there, we biked east to the Capitol and finally towards The Jackalope on 6th Street.
This ride was longer than I expected – 12 miles and 3 hours total. Honestly, this was the longest ride I’d been on. Normally I ride 6 miles or less. But I now know that I can go further without fear of calamity. Tackling hills and dark streets gave me confidence in myself and my bike. That’s the point of Social Cycling Austin, “getting butts on bikes since 2009.” Participating in this group builds confidence and creates competent riders.
What You Need to Know to Participate
- Ride locations, destinations and routes vary. Check Social Cycling Austin’s Facebook page for details.
- The length of the rides and the destinations tend to make these activities more appropriate for adults.
- Helmets are encouraged and lights are very practical – especially for the night rides.
- Be prepared to invest about 3 hours for a Thursday Night Social Ride.
- Cash is always handy to have. You never know where the ride will stop.
- Learn more about Austin Texas Bike Polo Social Club on their blog here.
David Thomas is a freelance writer living, writing and experiencing life in Austin, Texas. He lives with his girlfriend in their mid-80′s duplex in the Wells Branch neighborhood. Find him on Twitter.