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Booze, bikes and childhood freedom with the Golden Cruise

Five years ago, New Belgium sales rep Matt Jones got together with Mike Helms, the manager of Woody's in Golden, to decide on what they call a "common practice" of brewery and bar promotion. The plan: Woody's would attract customers every Tuesday during the summer by giving away free New Belgium pint glasses, and New Belgium would benefit by selling their beer. What they didn't realize was just how much the people of Golden like to get down.

They also love to ride their bikes. If they can do both these things while drinking a few beers in the process, then you have one happy bunch of people. By hosting the Golden Cruise every last Tuesday of the month from April to October, Woody's allows hundreds of residents to take over the town for an hour-long bike ride through the city.

"Remember that first feeling of freedom you had when you were a kid?" asks Jones. "You could never leave the block until you got that first bike and cruised the neighborhood with your friends. That was fun. Sure, maybe you turned 16, got a car, and stopped riding your bike for awhile, but sooner or later, under some wacky circumstance, you ended up back on a bike and remembered how much fun it was. That's what this cruise is all about," he says. The people sure seem to agree. Over 250 of them show up during these Tuesday cruises to park their bikes in front of Woody's, where signs disallow cars from parking there for the evening. The parking lot is blocked off and used to host the event, where establishments around Golden sell food and local bands and DJs come to perform. As New Belgium is the main sponsor, their beer is sold on special and T-shirts are sold to promote the cruise. However, this is all just background noise to the main event. At 7p.m. on the dot, Mike Helms hoists his electric megaphone into the air, sounding a siren and galloping around the parking lot. People stop what they are doing, grab their bikes from the front, and head out into the streets to ride -- hundreds of them, cruising up the main street, slowing traffic and ringing their bells for that childhood freedom. Gears click and smiles form under the setting summer sun, and after the cruise wraps back around through a woodland trail to Woody's again (withe several stops along the way to regroup), bluegrass echoes and beer flows until 9 p.m., when two New Belgium Cruiser bikes are given away in a raffle. Although each month the theme is different, the concept remains the same: show up dressed however you like, ride your bike, drink your beer and have fun. Next month is a beach theme, and there's also a bike-in movie coming up in August.

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"If you think this month's cruise was a little wild, wait 'til you see how creepy the Halloween cruise can be," Helms says with a grin. "This community is why I love my job."

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