Since 2008, Broox Pulford has been coordinating and leading Loops, a weekly bike ride following a series of street and trail routes throughout Denver. Cyclists of all skill levels are invited to join the massive free ride, meeting at Crema Coffee House at 7 p.m. every Tuesday, rain or shine. Celebrating Loops Fourth Anniversary this Saturday, June 23, at City Park, Pulford spoke to Westword about the big bike throwdown -- and the camaraderie that comes with group rides and safe cycling.
Westword: How did Loops begin in 2008?
Broox Pulford: Me, friends Josh Shively, Nigel Penhale and Noah Price got together and decided to go on a bike ride -- we rode around City Park and ended up at The Horseshoe afterwards, and got drinks. As we were riding, we were thinking, "man, we should do this every week, it would be a lot of fun." We're all graphic designers, so we thought we could make fliers -- I had also just started (Denver blog) X Rocks The Spot, and I thought I could post the fliers and make maps (of bike rides) and we could switch off each week. It worked out like that for a while; eventually I took it over, creating the maps and fliers.
Once Twitter and Facebook became a big thing, I promoted through there, as well as the blog. It reached more people, and became a bigger ride as it progressed. People started hearing more about Loops too, just through word of mouth. The first year, in the summer time, we would get maybe twenty people. Now it's closer to fifty or sixty riders every week, and it just keeps growing.
Do you create the maps based on estimations for bigger groups of riders?
Not really? I made a new map every week for a long time -- but I decided it was pretty much of the same parks and was a lot more work than I wanted to take on. I kind of narrowed it down to about six different maps, as opposed to a new one every week. We rotate through those regularly, but there are certain routes that people enjoy more than others. So I try to keep those in heavier rotation.
What is it about those routes that you think riders prefer?
A good balance of uphill and downhill; areas that might have less traffic, so we don't have to deal with cars. Some routes go through downtown or heavier traffic areas, which some people prefer. But some go more on trail, with others prefer. I think there's a positive and negative to both.
When you're on the bike path, you have to be cautious of pedestrians and other people on bikes. When you're in a big group with forty to sixty people, it gets to be a little a little obtrusive to others. We try to communicate with each other -- we have certain codes. If there is a bike coming towards us, we say "bike up," or if we're passing pedestrians we will pass on the left and say "on your left." Or if people are coming towards us, it's "pedestrians up."
Same when when we're on the street -- if there is a car behind us, we yell "car back." It usually means that everyone should ride single file, verses flooding the street. But it doesn't always work out that way. We try to use the codes to communicate within the group.
Do you see a good amount of regular Loops riders?
I would say that there are fifteen to twenty people who ride every week and really know the routes and lead others in the right direction. They also tell (other riders) how to communicate, passing on the codes so everyone understands. The biggest reason we do that is because we don't want anyone to get hurt and we don't want drivers to think poorly of us.
All things considered, we just want it to be a positive thing for the community, verses becoming somewhat of a Critical Mass, where cyclists are trying to take over the streets. We're not trying to do that -- we're saying, we have a right to be here and we love riding our bikes. We like to go out and get exercise. We like to commute. People ride the ride for a lot of different reasons; it is more or less something that we can do and maybe share some knowledge of safety between cars, cyclists and pedestrians. Everyone can ride, and still be safe, and still have fun.
What do you think it is about the group-riding aspect of Loops that's attractive to cyclists?
For me, personally, I like to ride with people who can make me a better cyclist. If I didn't ride with people who were faster and stronger than me, I wouldn't push myself. I wouldn't be as confident on my bike if I wasn't riding with other cyclists who are confident in traffic, can foresee the flow of traffic and can (ride) fluidly within the confines.
It's definitely about camaraderie; we all ride together. If you're riding in a pack, you're more likely to be safer. You can also utilize everyone's energy to progress -- if someone's pushing you, you're pushing someone else. If you ride with people who are confident riding in traffic, you'll get the hang of it. Especially in Denver, where it's illegal to ride on sidewalk, it's good to learn with other people. Riding becomes less intimidating.
What do you have planned for Loops Four Year Anniversary coming up on Saturday?
Being that City Park was the park we rode for the first Loops, we're commemorating that first ride with a race there called the 'Missing Out Criterium.' Everyone who signs up to race counts towards how many laps the person winning does -- every lap loses one person, in a musical chairs of sorts. The last person in every lap sits down, and they're out. Then the last person riding is first place.
Also, in conjunction with that, we're doing 'Simon Says Track Stand' which is a track standing event much like the childhood game of Simon Says, but on your bike. You're balancing -- or track standing -- on your bike, and you have to do what I say. I'll say things like "Simon says, right hand, front wheel," and you have to do this while balancing on your bike. The way you're 'out' is if you put your foot on the ground.
We're also doing 'PBR Pick-Up,' which is exactly how it sounds: we'll put a bunch of (cans of) PBR on the ground and you have to pick up as many PBRs as you can while balancing on your bike, without putting your foot down. No bags or anything -- you basically have to stuff the cans in your shirt. The person who wins gets to drink all the beer they collect.
The last is 'Foot Down' where everyone participating rides simultaneously while trying to get opponents to lose their balance and put their foot down.
Loops Four Year Anniversary meets at the City Park Pavilion this Saturday, June 23 and is free and open to all cyclists. Registration for the race and competition events is from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Those interested in just the competition events may sign up throughout the evening as the competitions progress. For more information on the Loops party or to keep up on weekly rides, visit the X Rocks The Spot Facebook page.
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