Since its founding in 2005, the Denver Cruiser Ride
has sponsored bicycle rides in the Mile High City that doubled as rolling costume parties every Wednesday throughout the summer. But for 2017, DCR founder Brad Evans has announced that the weekly rides will be replaced with five monthly events. In the meantime, he's launching two new projects: Bike City, a cycling advocacy group, and happy-hour meetups called City Spark that he sees as a way to bring together veteran Cruisers, longtime residents and folks who've just moved to the area to build a larger and more cohesive community.
"People come here, and they don't know where to connect and how to connect," Evans notes. "The Cruiser ride is fun and bikes; the lubricant is bicycles and costumes. But I think Bike City and City Spark are the next thing, the next layer."
Over the years, the regular Denver Cruiser Ride became so iconic that in 2013, the City of Denver officially proclaimed Wednesdays "Bike Night in Denver"
in honor of the gatherings. For that reason, the decision to cut back from weekly to monthly Cruiser rides (the full schedule is on page two of this post) wasn't made lightly — and Evans stresses that it had nothing to do with attendance fluctuations.
"We think this will make it bigger," he says. "People have asked us for years, 'Why are you doing so much?' Twenty weeks is incredibly challenging for any kind of event production, and especially one that's operated on a shoestring in the past. And we've never been able to get big sponsors because it's such a big commitment. Porta-lets, insurance — all these things cost money."
Indeed, Evans reveals that the Cruiser rides "have never paid for themselves" and were only able to continue because of "Brad the check writer." That's why, earlier this year, "we came to the realization that we can't do twenty weeks of this. We thought, how many can we do? And five is what we can do — so we went back to the sponsors, and they were like, 'This is manageable.'"
Among the sponsors for the Cruiser ride this year are Avery Brewing Company and Sazerac, the firm responsible for Fireball Cinnamon Whisky — and Evans expects that others, including an area hotel, will be coming aboard. "The cost of doing twenty rides is over $100,000," he points out. "Doing five should cost less, but we'll be doing bigger locations, and they'll cost more. Still, the hope is that we'll be able to be in the black this year."
The logistics of the rides will also be different in 2017. Prior to the monthly events, riders will still be able to gather at the Ginn Mill
, 2041 Larimer Street, which has long served as the rides' start location. In addition, several satellite locations will host their own rides, including Monkey Barrel
, 4401 Tejon Street; Little Machine Beer
, 2924 West 20th Avenue; Be on Key
, 1700 Logan Street; and the Illegal Pete's branch at 270 South Broadway
. The plan calls for riders to mix and mingle at any of these locations between 6 and 8 p.m. on ride nights, with cyclists departing by 8:15 p.m. and connecting for the traditional "Bike Party/Circle of Death" up until 11 p.m.
Denver Cruiser Ride founder Brad Evans.
"We've always toyed with this idea in the past," Evans says about the multiple locations. "This winter, we had a bunch of people come to us and say, 'How do we host our own rides?' So we're trying to accommodate that. This way, we're still supporting the Ginn Mill, but other people will be able to do their own rides" — and the result, he hopes, will enhance safety without sacrificing any energy.
Evans has long aspired to more than simply facilitating fun on two wheels during the warm-weather months. He flirted with entering the race for Denver mayor
in 2015, and his launch that same year of the Denver Fugly campaign
, while lighthearted, raised serious issues about development seemingly run amok in the Mile High City. Likewise, he's been deeply involved in Ditch the Ditch, the fight against the I-70 project
At present, Evans has no plans to become a political candidate. However, he wants to make progress on issues that are important to him, and he sees City Spark as a way to do it.
"We started saying, 'God, so many people are moving here. How do we get them engaged? What topics can we take on and get people engaged in and see what happens when we mix people together?'" he points out. "We tried out the concept in February and did one in April, too — and some powerful conversations and connections came out of them. I think that's what people are hungry for, and what Denver's ready for. Denver's always been a connected place, but now, with so many new people here, they're wanting to figure out how to plug into an already existing network. And City Spark is a way."
So, too, is Bike City, whose stated mission is to "demand that Denver become a more bicycle-friendly city; in doing so, it will create a more vibrant and thriving community." In Evans's words, "we're going to be the bear-pokers for bikes in Denver, together with other groups that are already in place. We're not going to take any money from the city, so we can be more critical about how things are, but also supportive. If they do something great, we'll talk about that, too."
The top priority for Bike City is "advocating — sticking our necks out where nobody has been willing to before, and demanding more," he continues. "I don't want to call it guerrilla, because that's so traditional, but we're definitely thinking outside the box. One of the campaigns we've batted around is, 'Bikes are not cars.' For thirty years, bike advocacy has been, 'We need to have the same rights as cars,' but that's gotten us nowhere. A cyclist is a human body on a piece of 100-pound metal versus a three-ton car with a distracted driver. And that's not the same."
Below, along with schedules for the Denver Cruiser Ride and City Spark, we've included Evans's Bike City primer, along with an open letter he wrote about DCR changes — which he's open to tweaking in the future if necessary.
"This thing has always evolved," he says. "It's not the same as it was when we first started, and the hope is that as we evolve and the city evolves, the Denver Cruiser Ride will evolve right there with it. So the changes are so we can do these other things and have a bigger impact."
Continue for the Denver Cruiser Ride and City Spark schedules, Brad Evans's essay, and more about Bike City.