The pedal-powered parade forms on the first Friday of every month. Vintage bikes, mountain bikes, bicycles built for two – or sometimes even three – all kinds of bicycles are fair game as this mass of riders winds through town. The spectacle can be overwhelming for onlookers as hundreds of bicyclists in festively decorated gear and brightly lit wheels roll by, with one three-wheeled bike often acting as a Pied Piper of sorts by blaring tunes from a boombox in its basket.
Bike Party Sacramento has emerged as one of the city’s main soirees on wheels. No matter if there’s a storm or brisk winter chill, the party’s always popping, even if that means ducking into a parking garage for cover from the rain. In the summer months, Bike Party Sacramento is enjoyed by upward of 600 riders, from youngsters on BMX bikes to middle-age folks in highly stylized bikes that bring a bit of Burning Man’s playa essence to asphalt.
So, in honor of Super Bowl weekend, a football-themed “Cycle Bowl” ride from Bike Party Sacramento will hit the streets Friday, Feb. 3. W and 18th in midtown serves as the meeting spot for this free event, which encompasses a route of about 10 miles and includes a break for rest and perhaps an impromptu dance party – rain or shine.
“It’s a great community,” said Lawrence Risley, a regular participant and Bike Party Sacramento board member. “People get really elaborate and crazy with their bikes. And if someone gets a flat tire, there’s five to 10 people who’ll stop right away to help. It’s invigorating. It’s a neat thing.”
Bike Party Sacramento celebrated its fourth anniversary in January and over time has featured such themed rides as “The Grinch Saves Christmas” and “Star Trek vs. Star Wars.” The party was founded by Conrad Lawrence, a West Sacramento resident and Burning Man devotee, who was inspired to start a local version of the popular East Bay Bike Party after attending a couple of those rides in the Oakland area.
“I had separated from my girlfriend at the time, and she encouraged me to get out and don’t be a hermit,” said Lawrence. “I’m not even a bicycle guy, to be honest. I don’t care about the American River bike trail and doing that speeder’s stuff. But I just wanted to do something.”
About 40 bikers attended that inaugural ride in 2013, and the numbers now swell into the hundreds for a typical monthly event. In a city that’s home to other popular bike parties, such as the annual Appetite Enhancement Ride on Thanksgiving Day, the Second Saturday Midtown Cruise and Meet Your Maker Tour hosted at Bike Dog Brewing Co., Bike Party Sacramento has joined the pack as an especially colorful and consistent ride in town.
A typical route for Bike Party Sacramento usually encompasses 10 to 15 miles. Both new and regular bike partiers can follow Bike Party Sacramento on Facebook to get the latest information on events and meeting spots. Riders can typically start gathering about an hour before the entourage hits the road, and vendors such as Joe’s All American Hot Dogs are often on hand for fueling up participants with food. A ride includes at least one stop, where participants are known to sometimes break out into dancing and other forms of merriment.
The free event doesn’t have much in the way of restrictions – not for ages of participants or the kinds of bikes allowed – but it does put a premium on safety and leaving no trace of garbage. Bike Party Sacramento pedals by the following mantra:
▪ Stop at red lights
▪ Stay right
▪ Pack your trash
▪ Don’t get smashed
▪ Ride straight
▪ Don’t hate
For Lawrence, the pageantry of the ride remains paramount. He encourages riders to decorate their bikes to the fullest, to make them not just a vessel for riding the roads, but a kind of rolling art statement with loads of multicolored lights and other decorative touches.
“Because I’m a ‘burner,’ I push hard to get people to get lights,” said Lawrence. “It looks cool.”
Lawrence himself isn’t able to ride these days. He’s suffering from significant health issues and hoping for a lung transplant in the near future. But he always attends the pre-ride gathering and in the future may ride along as a passenger in a pedicab. And he’s happy knowing that his idea for a party on two wheels has developed into a full-blown convoy.
“Every month we get new faces,” said Lawrence. “We get a lot of people who’ve seen us the month before and go, ‘Wow, what’s that?’ It’s just grown exponentially, and it keeps going.”
Bike Party Sacramento Cycle Bowl
When: Gather at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 3, ride starts at 8 p.m.
Where: Route starts at 18th and W streets, Sacramento; 10-mile route with two stops
Information: Bike Party Sacramento
Note: Dress in your favorite football gear