Ten places to ride your bike this summer
The wheels are always turning in Denver, which just won the REI Cycling Town Showdown as the country's bike-friendliest city. Denver not only has great places to ride your bike, it also has great places to ride your bike to. Here are ten of our favorites for this summer.
Denver Bicycle Cafe
Denver Bicycle Cafe is the ideal pit stop during an afternoon of bike riding around town, and even rates a spot on local comedy team the Grawlix's web series. Not only is this a chilled-out, naturally lit watering hole with both craft beers and locally roasted coffee, but it has a full-service bicycle-repair shop tucked in the back corner where you can get your two-wheeled steed repaired or tuned up while you give your legs a rest inside or on the patio. With the Denver Police Department issuing bicycle DUI citations, however, be careful that the cafe's 4-6 p.m. happy hour doesn't leave you wobbling in and out of the bike lane on your ride home.
What was formerly known as the Derailer Bicycle Collective reopened last month as the Bike Pit. Unlike most bike-repair shops, the Pit not only does its work 100 percent free of charge, but there's also a teach-to-fish ethic of instructing patrons on the anatomy of their bikes and how to go about repairing them. And if you're currently without a cycle to call your own, show up on the first Thursday of the month and build one from scratch with donated parts. There's no need to bring any tools; the Pit will provide all you need. A list of various classes and open shop times can be found on the Bike Pit's Facebook page.
It's no wonder that Denver often ranks as one of the most bike-friendly cities in America: The Greenway links you to an incredible number of daytime and nighttime events throughout the city. The trail along the South Platte River stretches nearly thirty miles from end to end, and you can easily pedal yourself to Confluence Park, the Denver Performing Arts Complex or Cherry Creek. And since the downtown portion of the trail runs beneath the bustle of auto traffic along Speer Boulevard, your stress and commute time will be sliced in half while you avoid intersecting traffic and stop signs.
While plenty of locals have purchased their own wheels and taken up bicycling as their primary means of commuting, Denver's amazingly accessible B-cycle program gives plenty of love to those who'd just like to take a spontaneous spin around the city. Similar to a car-share operation, this program allows residents to purchase a monthly or yearly membership that gets them rental bikes; if you're an out-of-towner looking for a more intimate, cardio-friendly method of bouncing about the city, you can lay down a reasonable eight bucks for a 24-hour rental. And with pick-up and drop-off stations peppered throughout our cycle-friendly city, B-cycle is a convenient way to get both sunshine and exercise without committing to maintaining your own set of wheels.
Denver Cruiser Ride
Bringing a Burning Man aesthetic into the urban maze of Denver, the Denver Cruiser Ride is a party of lights, costumes, ghetto-blaster music and inventive themes -- Under the Sea, Superheroes -- that rolls out every Wednesday night from May to September. Celebrating the vintage model of casual cycling, this ride is not for fixed-gear bikers looking for a sober commute, but is geared more toward cruiser fans in search of a fun night out with like-minded riders, most of them gussied up in costume. With a half-dozen locations hosting gatherings for the 7 p.m. start, you're sure to find a bicycle bash to call your own.
Buffalo Creek Mountain Bike Trail
Anyone sick of dodging cars and braking every other minute for stoplights and pedestrians can find a number of options for getting out of the city and pedaling through more scenic, less stressful environs. Rated as the number-one trail by Colorado readers of Singletrack.com, Buffalo Creek is a fourteen-mile trail for intermediate mountain bikers who want to spend two to three hours in the Rockies -- and it's just an hour outside of Denver, off Highway 285 in Pine. This route is ideal for relative newbies looking to step up their game, as well as more seasoned veterans of outdoor biking in need of a more relaxed ride.
New Belgium's Tour De Fat
September 7, noon, free
Similar to the Denver Cruiser Ride but on a national scale, the Tour De Fat is a Euro-style carnival of two-wheeled weirdness featuring live music, costumes and thousands of riders atop creatively constructed bikes, from the freakishly tall to the laughably small. Your participation benefits worthy nonprofits and will be rewarded with beer. Lots of beer. While the specific lineup has yet to be announced, trust us: Even if you don't want to ride, you should head to City Park for this end-of-the-summer bash full of bikes and beer.
InnovAge Moonlight Classic
July 27, 8:30 p.m., $30-$50
While many of us need no excuse to enjoy a nocturnal ride around the city, this annual event regularly attracts 4,500 people who want to enjoy the night air and support the cause of helping seniors live independently. With a three-tiered, auto-free course designed to separate families, cruisers and "gonzo"-level riders, the Moonlight Classic is a thoughtfully structured event stretching ten miles around the downtown area. And InnovAge has bracketed this 21st-anniversary ride with a family-friendly pajama party beforehand and a burrito-and-coffee breakfast by Santiago's to replenish resources afterward.
Denver Century Ride
The Denver Century Ride is one of the most anticipated urban bike rides of the year, and a regular Father's Day celebration for many. With five separate routes -- from the 100-mile advanced level to the kids' bicycle parade -- the DCR appeals to a wide variety of ages and skill levels. And while you exercise your love for long-distance cycling, your efforts will perform double duty: Your registration fee funds a donation to BikeDenver, as well as such charitable organizations as Global Down Syndrome Foundation, Project Recycle, Young Life and others.
Ride to WaterCourse Foods, Get a Discount
WaterCourse doesn't just serve the town's best vegan/vegetarian dishes (it earned the honor of Best Vegetarian Restaurant in the Best of Denver 2013); it also supports the arts and local charities -- and is a strong proponent of Denver's ever-expanding bicycle culture. That's why it offers a 10 percent discount for any patron who cycles to either WaterCourse (conveniently located just off the 16th Avenue bike lane) or its sibling, City, O' City. And since both restaurants are completely meat-free, after taking advantage of this deal, you'll still have the energy to pedal yourself back home instead of wallowing in a sluggish food coma.
Follow me on Twitter at @JosiahMHesse.
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