I didn’t happen to be in town on Tuesday, so I couldn’t do the big PMTNR, but the Spokes People have encouraged numerous social rides, one of which was Thursday Night Lights, which I rolled by to participate in (on a bike borrowed from Pam).

There’s not quite an equivalent of these social rides in the Bay Area. We have lycra club rides, and Bike Party, but not an exact analogue to these no-drop, baggy pant (mostly), casual get-together rides. Perhaps it’s because our bike culture is more mature, and people do casual rides with their friends instead of as a specific event. Or else that our event rides get too big (like East Bay Bike Party) to really be social.

Thursday Night Lights ride

We wound up having about 25 riders, ranging from weekend road warriors, to a mother and daughter on department store bikes. It was clear that most people knew each other from previous rides. We rolled out at slow pace, with the leaders modeling Cycling Savvy “control and release” road behaviors. The group stopped to deal with a couple mechanicals (a flat tire and a loose handlebar). Midpoint of the ride was at a brew pub (a bit overwhelmed with 25 people dropping in), after which we rolled back to the bike store. Most had driven there; most of the people I conversed with during the evening expressed fear of riding alone on Charlotte’s roads.

The next day I met up with the Friday morning breakfast group. This was a tradition started by Dianna Ward, executive director of Charlotte’s B-Cycle (bike share) program. As a strategy to normalize utility cycling, B-Cycle provided free breakfast for bike commuters for several months. The sponsorship ran out, but a group of folks decided to keep the tradition alive, and I joined them for bagels and coffee at the Common Market on the south side of downtown. The Common Market itself is about to become a victim of Charlotte’s rapid growth; it’s going to be torn down for a new 8-story office building with ground-floor retail.

We had lots of good conversations about neighborhood change and riding in the city. This was again clearly a tight-knit community. At the end of breakfast, I was gifted a “bullet”; a 30-oz plastic beer container from Unknown Brewing Company, an award typically given for lap primes and other minor achievements at local races and bike events. Unknown sponsors a number of local bike events in Charlotte; beer culture and bike culture are strongly intertwined in the city. (More on that later).


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