Crowds of Bicyclists at Patterson Park

Cyclists Resting at Patterson ParkSo, I mostly like to ride a bike alone. I think. I mean, I usually ride a bike alone, and I love riding a bike, so I must prefer to ride alone, right? But then I started riding with one other person, or maybe two, and that was really fun, especially when we got to stop for lunch. The group ride from Ocean City was some of the most fun I’ve ever had on a bike…hmmm, maybe I don’t only want to ride alone. And then there’s Baltimore Bike Party, a growing event that can have over 1,000 riders tracing the streets of Baltimore–that’s a whole different ballgame, and I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be into it because of crowds and fear of getting locked up with other riders and not being in charge of the route and all that jazz. When R. asked if I was really going (every month I say I’m going to go, but I never do),  and if so, could we go together, I figured now was as good a time as any to challenge my own assumption that as much as I love the idea of a massive bike parade through this fine city, it’s not really for me. R. met me at my house and we rolled down the hill and around to the Baltimore Streetcar Museum where there were already hundreds and hundreds of bikes and riders dancing, drinking beer, eating from food trucks, and showing off their Western wear (this month’s theme). Yeah, too many people, we decided as we sipped lukewarm beer under the hazy early summer heatwave. We both tested the waters–“I dunno, maybe we should just go on our own ride,” I muttered. We sort of made up our minds to skip it and headed to our bikes. I found A. to say my goodbye, said, “Meh, too crowded,” he said, “Stay toward the back! See you there!” Ok, fine. So far A. has been right–I could ride 50 miles, I could ride 80 miles, I could probably manage an excruciatingly slow ten miles with 1,000 people. So we hung toward the back, and as soon as the ride stretched out long enough for us to have some space we were having fun. It was awesome–volunteers stopped cars so we could ride without fear, people lined the route to take pictures and get their high fives, and everybody was pretty happy. And then I got a flat tire, but even that was no cause for alarm. I had a spare tube for once, and I trusted A. would have a pump–he did (but he threatened to tell my father that I was traveling without that necessary tool), and I changed the thing in under ten minutes under the watchful eyes of R. and a couple of curious kids who seemed impressed that I knew what I was doing. We set off to catch up with the ride, following directions shouted by folks from their stoops–the only time masses of white folks travel these neighborhoods is during Bike Party, so everyone knew who we were with, for sure. We caught them a few minutes later in Patterson Park, where I snapped this picture of A. rehydrating and the gathering hordes in the background; there’s no way to get a picture that captures just how massive this ride is–it is simply wonderful. But that was enough wonder for us, so R. and I took our leave, riding back up the hill, a stop for a second beer at the new place in the neighborhood. I still like riding alone, but maybe I can also ride with giant crowds once a month or so, for a little while, at least. Thanks, Bike Party, for throwing such an excellent show.

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