Remember when you were 10, riding by yourself to the corner store for the first time? How about when you and your Saturday crew would go soaring down dirt roads, chasing around cemeteries and barns? Or that 2 a.m. sneak-out to meet up with eighth grade band pals? It was your bike — those two glorious wheels of spinning freedom and autonomy — that carried you near and far, rolling you from one adventure to the next. Your bike delivered, kept you electrified, alive and flying.
That feeling, giddy-fun and full-of-life under cover of night, is what Bike Party Humboldt wants to get at in its monthly Bike Gang rides. And you don't have to sneak out to get it. If you ride a bike and want a creative, relaxed opportunity to mingle with other night riders, then this ride is your thing. Seasoned riders, daily commuters, weekend coasters — all are welcome.
Ride organizer Gaela Mitchell is all about making opportunities for adults to have fun on their bikes. Two years ago, she and her husband moved from Sacramento where they rode every day and often at night. Riding at night, especially around the Davis campus, was safe, accessible and genuinely enjoyable. Mitchell wanted to foster a bit of that enjoyment in their new community. "In some ways, I wanted to celebrate what I think is the best part of Burning Man: riding bikes everywhere, with lights and costumes, with people having fun," says Mitchell.
Bike Gang isn't a Critical Mass ride — Bike Party Humboldt isn't trying to make a point by taking over two lanes and shutting down traffic. Instead, it's more about uniting riders, respecting motorists and enjoying creativity and personal expression — LED lights, horns, bells, costumes and Bluetooth speakers are just the beginning.
After 7 p.m. on a clear Friday, riders begin arriving at Dead Reckoning Tavern. With rainbow-shifting LEDs and laser disco lights, the first bikes are impressive. Riders enter, order their brews and complete nametags. One woman points her index finger high, smiling, and declares she's used six strands of lights on her bike. More riders, more glimmering two-wheels. Another rider talks of group night-rides in Austin, Texas.
With her trusty mount Rusty Thunder, self-described casual cyclist Amy Jester is particularly drawn to the ride. She's more interested in a rolling good time than going fast and far. Most people on the ride don't know each other, and that has also lured Jester to the ride. She muses, "Bikes take me places I wouldn't ordinarily go, and doing that in a costume light parade with random strangers is a super fun way to get to know people." Jester sports tan pants, suspenders, and a finely coifed moustache — her old-timey, bike gang alter ego is in full force.
At 8:15 p.m. with 15 riders total, our gang makes ready to roll. Mitchell calls everyone together to review the route and rules of the ride: "Remember, to the right, stop at lights, ride straight, don't hate, pack your trash and don't get smashed — by traffic, alcohol or otherwise." She smiles. We nod. And it's time. Tonight we ride!
Ride leader Mark Mueller takes us from Dead Reckoning to the Arcata Plaza. Oh, great wheels of light and sound! We are a magical, rolling cacophony of rainbows, bike bells, horns, whistles and James Brown funk. So magical, in fact, we ride the plaza twice, onlookers waving and smiling encouraging a third. We're mesmerizing in our shimmery funk-tastic-ness.
Up the hill for a quick stop at Wildberries for snacks, a few more riders, a couple selfies. Then we roll to Janes Creek Playground where we park our bikes and play like we're 12, twisting and turning on what just might be Humboldt's coolest kinetic jungle gym. The funk's still pumping and many are keeping a good beat. A little before 10 p.m. we ride back through Arcata and out to South G Street and Redwood Curtain Brewery. Under a near-full moon we are laughing and riding.
Jester says it best, "Riding your bike at night is like flying, and tonight we're soaring, soaring through this community." Are you ready for that?
Bike Party Humboldt's next Bike Gang ride is at 7 p.m. on Oct. 23 in Eureka. It begins at the Old Town Gazebo and rolls on from there. It's a Halloween-themed ride, so dress the part. Check the Humboldt Bike Party Facebook page for updates and to get in touch.