Did you know that Indy is a certified Bicycle-Friendly Community? And that there are free group rides to join nearly every night? Such organized rides are a great way to break out of your biking rut. This summer, we’re doing a different ride each week. Follow along, or better yet, put on a helmet and join us!
If Memorial Day kicks off swimming-pool season in the Midwest, the annual Mayor’s Bike Ride provides the push-start for Indy’s run of organized two-wheeled jaunts. You’d be surprised by the number of bike rides in Indianapolis—opportunities to point your pedals in a new direction, with company. Most of the rides are free, they're not races, and they're easy enough for the casual joyrider, like me. I don’t own padded shorts, and my bike is a heavy Schwinn cruiser from a sporting-goods store.
This past Saturday, more than 700 people—about half of them as bike-casual as I—showed up for the fourth consecutive Mayor's Ride. Mayor Ballard loves nothing more than leading his constituents around town on two wheels. He started the year by captaining the Polar Bear Ride on a slushy January day. Then came Mayor’s Ballard’s Spring Fever Bike Ride in April. His events usually highlight streets with new bike lanes. But the benefit of riding with the mayor is that IPD blocks the route, so you’re not confined to the bike lanes as you cruise traffic-free roads and whiz through red lights.
That was the case last weekend. Starting at Garfield Park at 10 a.m., the group made a 9-mile loop south on Madison Avenue and back via Shelby Street. We held up traffic everywhere, but I didn’t hear any angry shouts from idling drivers, just riders thanking the police officers and volunteers they passed (that's group-ride etiquette). What the route lacked in scenery it made up for in fun, rolling hills and the novelty of riding on a major thoroughfare that I don’t have the nerve to pedal otherwise, bike lane or not. Before the pack of 700 spread out, a kid wearing a green helmet with a fauxhawk rode by, and I spotted something I hadn't seen before: a child's seat attached to the handlebars instead of the rear wheel. Brilliant!
The route stopped short of the new "cycle track" along Shelby Street north of Garfield Park. The only cycle track in the city, it’s a bike lane separated from cars by a curb and short poles—very Dutch of us. Back at the park, bikers ate free bananas and checked out each other’s rides. That’s the best part about events such as these. Once, on a ride in Chicago, I saw a full tiki bar on wheels, pulled by a bike. At the Mayor’s Ride, the best discovery was the Stromer electric bike, a model newly available in Indy exclusively through Accent Bicycles. Made by the Swiss, it’s a standout among electric bikes because the battery is built into the frame. There’s a key ignition and everything, and it can reach 20 mph. They cost around $3,000. I bumped into another person on a Stromer, so people actually do buy these things. (To see the Stromer and other cool bikes, check out the photos above.)
If you missed this year’s Mayor’s Bike Ride, don’t worry—there are plenty more group rides to come. For freebies, check out the Central Indiana Bicycling Association’s schedule (rides every Saturday and Sunday), the Indianapolis Cycling Meetup rides (downtown on Sundays, 96th Street on Tuesday nights), and weeknight escorted rides through The Bike Line, Bicycle Garage Indy, and other shops. On the Mayor’s Ride, I even met a couple that leads a social outing every Saturday morning from Cool Creek Park in Carmel, stopping for breakfast. It’s on my calendar! If you know about other rides that should be, let me know.
Next: Taco Ride downtown with Indianapolis Cycling Meetup, June 7. Details here.