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 in 2021, 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.

Denver Cruiser Ride

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

Wednesday Night Cruisers

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. Join the dedicated WNC – Wednesday Night Cruisers facebook group for regular updates and meet-up info. Ride organizers also 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 p.m.
Where: Meet at the Gin Mill

Belmar Summer Cruiser Ride

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 2022. 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: June 9, July 14, August 11, and September 8; 6:30 p.m.
Where: Belmar

The Golden Bike Cruise

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 Cowboys & Cowgirls, School Pride, and “Lighted 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: May 30, June 27, July 25, August 29, and September 26; 5:30 p.m.
Where: The upper deck of the Calvary Church/Armory Building parking garage—accessed on 14th Street

Happy Thursday Cruiser Ride in Boulder

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, Rave/Neon, and Pirates.
Who it’s best for: Participants of all ages, but best for families and adults who can stay out late for some weeknight revelry.
When: Thursdays at 7 p.m.
Where: Greenleaf Park in Boulder

¡Viva! Streets Denver

The vibe: Want to know what it’d be like if cars suddenly disappeared from Denver? At ¡Viva! Streets, you won’t have to watch out for aggressive or distracted drivers. Over 3.5 glorious miles stretching along Broadway and Welton Street, cyclists and pedestrians have complete reign over the roads, which are blocked off from vehicle traffic (except crossings, which are monitored by Denver police officers). Taking inspiration from Los Angeles’s successful CicLAvia events, ¡Viva! Streets launched in May 2023 to promote healthy living, connect people and neighborhoods, support local businesses, and create a community experience with various “activity hubs” along the route, which include food trucks and live music.
Who it’s best for: Families with kids of all ages.
When: Sunday May 14, June 4, July 9, and August 6 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Where: Broadway between 1st and 20th Avenues, as well as Welton Street between Broadway and 28th Street

Tour de Fat

The vibe: Advertising itself as the “world’s greatest costumed bike parade,” this free annual ride and festival thrown by New Belgium Brewing Company combines a whole lot of quintessential Colorado fun into one event. Beer? Check. Thousands of costumed revelers? Check. Live music? Check. Expect to see wildly customized bicycles—one year, two riders even attached a couch between their bikes—and nationally known music acts. And though this year’s Tour de Fat is only happening around New Belgium’s headquarters in Fort Collins (the rides also used to take place in Denver before the pandemic), the event is still well worth the trek. And who knows? Maybe with enough pressure, the Tour de Fat will come back to the Mile High City. For now, enjoy 2023’s Tour de Fat festivities in Fort Collins, where you can rock this year’s costume theme “come as you are,” sip your favorite Voodoo Ranger IPA of choice (a portion of beer sales benefits local nonprofits), and enjoy a headlining music set from Thee Sacred Souls.
Who it’s best for: All ages, but best for the 21 and up crowd
When: Saturday, August 26, 2023
Where: City Park in Fort Collins

Chris Walker
Chris Walker
Chris writes for various sections of 5280 as well as 5280.com.