Have you ever been out and about in LoDo on a summer evening, when suddenly a phalanx of bicycles with lights, bumping stereos, and boisterous riders rolls past? Chances are, that’s the Denver Cruiser Ride. Since 2005, the organized, nighttime social bike ride has been a mainstay of Denver’s bicycle scene. Denver Cruiser events have been known to draw more than a thousand cyclists, and the rides have developed their own subculture: tricked-out two-wheelers, undisclosed destinations (which sometimes turn out to be parking lot concerts), and a ritual known as the Circle of Death, in which masses of cyclists begin spinning around a stationary party, forming a kind of cruiser whirlpool.
Then the pandemic hit. “And it killed the rides in 2020,” says Denver Cruiser Ride founder and organizer Brad Evans. Even last year, once the Denver Cruiser rides started rolling again, Evans only organized 12 events compared to the usual 20 during fair weather months, due to concerns about coronavirus variants.
But when the Denver Cruiser Ride hit the brakes, something funny happened: Smaller social rides began to sprout and gain members. One, called Wednesday Night Cruisers, actually took over the Denver Cruiser Ride’s traditional Hump Day slot during its absence in 2020. Evans wasn’t mad though. He says he was thrilled to see new pedal pushing adventures forming around the Mile High City.
Rather than compete, Evans has been promoting the other rides on his Bike City Mag website. Evans even moved Denver Cruiser’s usual night to Thursdays to accommodate the new Wednesday night group. “I figure that more people riding bikes on any day is the best answer,” he says.
We agree, which is why we rounded up the five best social rides around the metro area, new and old. All are free and encourage newcomers.
The vibe: This social bike ride isn’t fast, but it’s mighty. Expect to join hundreds of fun-loving cyclists who hoot and holler as they lay claim to the city’s streets and back alleys, all in the spirit of two-wheeled freedom. The routes are safe and well-planned (revealed right before the ride), and typically lead the group anywhere from three to six miles through urban and neighborhood streets before arriving at a secret location. This is Denver’s OG ride, named after cruiser-style bikes, which are encouraged, but all bikes are welcome. Once the throng gets to its destination, there’s a good chance it’ll find food trucks and live music waiting. Chances are also good that there will be beer; after all, a little liquid courage helps with participation in the Circle of Death.
Who it’s best for: All riders are welcome, although it’s ideal for older teens and adults who can stay up later on a work night.
When: Every Thursday until September, usually at 7 p.m.
Where: Meeting spots vary; check the website or Facebook page for weekly details
The vibe: For this cohort of two-wheelers, Halloween comes once a week, every week. If cosplay is your thing, this is your social bike ride. Expect themes like Prom, Beach, Mad Max, and Pride—and be prepared to be gently jeered if you show up sans costume. Ride organizers typically post the themes to the Colorado Cycling Connections Facebook page before each ride. The point of this casually paced ride is to get goofy with your friends while hopefully avoiding any wardrobe malfunctions.
Who it’s best for: Adults of drinking age. This ride starts at a bar and the party rolls on from there.
When: Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m.
Where: Meet at the Gin Mill
The vibe: Want to bring the kids, or even tow along the littles in a bike trailer? You won’t be the only one in this family-friendly ride hosted by Alameda Connects, a nonprofit dedicated to fostering community, in Lakewood. Unlike some of Denver’s more rambunctious nighttime jaunts, this short spin through Lakewood’s leafy suburban neighborhoods is actively promoted—and sometimes attended—by local politicos. Lakewood’s mayor even showed up for the first ride in June. The training-wheel set will pedal slowly while enjoying the sunset hours, before ending up back at Belmar, where there are food trucks aplenty as part of Lakewood’s Street Food Social event (which happens every Friday through September).
Who it’s best for: Families with kids of all ages
When: July 8, August 12, and September 9; 6:30 p.m.
The vibe: Apparently cruisers and costumes go together like peas and carrots, a phenomenon the Golden Bike Cruise fully supports. Rides this summer include prompts like Christmas in July, Minions (yes, those goofy little yellow movie creatures), and Zombies. The roughly 30-minute social bike ride starts and ends on the top floor of the parking garage next to Golden’s historical Armory Building. There, riders will find live music, as well as vendors selling brews and burgers; New Terrain Brewing Company typically serves up the suds and Bob’s Atomic Burgers dishes out patties. While parents load up on calories, kids can participate in post-ride raffles (and even win bikes). Profits from the food and raffle sales helps benefit Golden Community Commons, a nonprofit that supports various community organizations in Jefferson County.
Who it’s best for: Families with kids of all ages
When: July 26, August 30, and September 27; 5:30 p.m.
Where: The upper deck of the Calvary Church/Armory Building parking garage – accessed on 14th Street
The vibe: It probably comes as no surprise that Boulder, the Front Range’s bastion of cycling and of all things quirky and weird, has one of the oldest social bike rides around. Since 1992, the Happy Thursday Cruiser Ride has been one of the most rollicking, consistently fun excursions on two wheels. This themed, costumed ride turns heads as cyclists yell “happy Thursday!” wherever they go (which is usually around Boulder’s downtown corridor and nearby leafy side streets) and the event almost always morphs into a dance party by the end of the night. Upcoming themes include Anything But Clothes, Lingerie Ride, and Burning Man. This summer, look out for the cyclist who built a concert-grade sound system and set of turntables on the back of his e-bike. Once a DJ gets on the decks, you’ll barely be able to tell if you’re on a social bike ride in the People’s Republic or clubbing on Ibiza.
Who it’s best for: Participants of all ages, but best for teens and adults who can stay out late for some weeknight revelry.
When: Thursdays at 7 p.m.
Where: Greenleaf Park in Boulder