There's a new sheriff in town, one with a mean set of handlebars. We're not talking about a mustache. We're talking about his bicycle.
The dude in question is Brad Evans, local realtor by day and two-wheeled merry prankster by night. In 2004, Evans founded Denver Cruisers, a pedal-powered party that hops from bar to bar on Wednesday nights all summer long. The boisterous events have always been all about bikes, booze and brouhaha, with Evans and his cohorts hitting the streets in glammed-up outfits like wigs and dresses. Evans even got hitched during one particularly memorable ride last year. But tonight, during the Cruisers' first official ride of the season, Evans will take the lead with a little more respectability and officialdom. Thanks to his brand new cruiser magazine, cruiser social networking site and cruiser consulting firm, he's become an unofficial bike ambassador to the world.
The whole shebang started as a lark five years ago. Evans, inspired by the successful Boulder Cruiser Rides he'd attended, started tooling around Denver on Wednesday nights with a dozen friends on the balloon-tired beauties he'd loved since he got his first bike, a Schwinn Typhoon, in 1971. But then, as word spread, the dozen friends grew to sixty, which then grew to ninety. Last year's cruiser season began with 250 riders a night and ended with about 600. By then, Evans realized that not only did he have a second job on his hands coordinating with local bars and riders and officials each week, but he'd also tapped into whole new subculture.
"We realized there was more to this than we first thought, when you start putting together fun and bikes and socialization" says Evans. "The cruiser rides really became a connecting point for people. It made us think, what do we do with all this?"
Brad Evans, right, and fellow Kickstand Magazine employees Alex Reshetniak and Jennifer Kraai
His answer was Kickstand Magazine, a new glossy he's launching next month that's dedicated to cruiser bikes, cruiser rides and cruiser culture. While it might not seem like the best time to start a new publication, Evans and his partner, Denver Cruiser colleague Alex Reshetniak, have already lined up a thousand subscribers and 600 distribution points at bike shops nationwide for their 20,000-copy first issue. They're also launching a companion website, www.CruiserRide.com, to serve as a networking portal for the dozens and dozens of cruiser rides around the world.
As if Evans and his cohorts don't have enough on their plate, they've also become bicycle peacekeepers of sorts. When they heard rumors Denver police could be cracking down on cycling rule-breakers this summer, they asked officials what they could do to help prevent the sort of confrontations the city experienced several years ago between cops and Critical Mass riders. Soon, Evans and his colleagues were recruited to help spread the word about city bike rules by designing and distributing city-funded spoke cards that will detail the dos and don'ts of downtown cycling.
They'll be organizing the campaign under the auspices of their other new two-wheeled endeavor, a consulting firm they've titled the Human Powered Transit Authority. Unlike other local cycling organizations that focus either on biking as transportation or biking as fitness, Evans says HPTA is all about biking as recreation, pure and simple -- not to mention convincing uptight officials to go along for the ride. If HPTA has its way, maybe even longtime no-bike zones like most of Auraria Campus and the 16th Street Mall during the day will some day be thrown open to riders.
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"Brad wants everybody to be out riding the bikes all the time," says Denver City Council Member Carla Madison, who owns a cruiser bike herself. "He wants to do it legally so it works for everybody -- the people on their bikes and driving their cars and walking on the streets and everyone else. He's making sure his group will continue. He's really trying to do things right."
So next time you spot a horde of rambunctious bikers cruising across downtown on a Wednesday evening, pay your respects to Brad Evans, the goofy guy up front. After all, he's the city's unofficial bike czar.
Just don't be surprised if he's wearing a dress.