In Myers Park, a multi-colored blur of spandex speeds past oak-tree-lined streets that form the Booty Loop. On the Sugar Creek Greenway a young couple clad in T-shirts and cargo shorts hauls the bounty they’ve collected at Kings Street Farmers Market on the back of their mountain bikes. And on a cool spring Tuesday morning, a banking executive leaves her car at home, opting to commute on her sleek, new road bike.
There’s no doubt that the Queen City is, inch by inch, becoming a cycling town. And each year there is no better celebration of its liberation from the confines of the car than Bike! Charlotte . The seventeen day festival is a city wide event, incorporating elements for the most seasoned riders and for ones not quite ready to bike-commute to work.
“My favorite events are the bike rodeos,” explains Neal Boyd of Charlotte Sports Cycling. “They teach kids how to handle anything they may encounter with make shift road signs and an obstacle course.”
Bike! Charlotte is a city initiative that had its humble beginnings in 2000. The few events and small group of city employees and volunteers has grown to over two weeks packed with dozens of rides, rodeos, and parties.
Because of this amazing growth, Boyd’s company, which specializes in organizing and timing all sorts of athletic events, has been organizing Bike! Charlotte for several years. Each year the website is packed with an increasing number of events.
Besides the rodeos, Boyd also suggests that everyone attend BikeFEST. Six blocks of Thomas Avenue—the heart of the ever-hip and always interesting neighborhood of Plaza-Midwood—will be taken over by cyclists of all ages. Music and food will accompany contests like the Flat Tire Challenge, a bike wash and lube station, and a kid’s bike parade.
Other notable happenings around town include a bike-in movie complete with bike valet, the Bike Luck charity ride supporting Camp LUCK and a free bike repair clinic at Ultimate Bicycle . The Spoke Easy on Elizabeth Ave is offering a yoga class geared towards cyclists. And in the South End, Charlotte NC Tours is providing free bicycle and surrey rentals for those wanting a different take on the South End Gallery Crawl.
Events aren’t restricted to the road. The Dirt Divas, Charlotte's most active female trail riding club, leads a ride at Renaissance Park, and yes, men are invited to this one. Sun and Ski Sports will be teaching mountain bike riding basics, including bike maintenance, on the forgiving singletrack at Francis Beatty Park.
While the Queen City hasn’t yet been crowned a top biking city by many cycling magazines, these events go a long way to pushing that movement forward. The kick-off event for Bike! Charlotte is a ride through the streets near Uptown, culminating in free breakfast. City leaders will be in attendance and it’s crucial, says Boyd, for them to see a great turnout.
“Ultimately what we need is more people riding bikes,” Says Boyd. “We do need more facilities but we won’t get them until we have a large community riding bikes—not just the spandex crowd, but people using bikes for utilitarian purposes like commuting and trips to the store.”
Bike! Charlotte 2015 Details:
When: May 1-17. The Bike! Charlotte calendar is packed with events throughout the 17 days.
Where: All over Charlotte and surrounding communities.
What: A ridiculous number of bicycling related events from group rides to clinics to festivals.