Lack of bicycle lanes, massive potholes, drunk drivers –New Orleans isn’t famous for being the most bike-friendly town on the planet. And yet, it’s overall flatness, waterfront vistas, and relatively small size does make it an ideal place to ride. Over the last several years, an active cycling community has been steadily growing in the Crescent City, and a number of bicycle clubs have been popping up all over town, offering weekly rides, special events, and longer treks that benefit several local charities. The following is a small sample:
In some ways, this is the granddaddy of NOLA bike clubs, although they began fairly recently in 2010. Their weekly themed “Happy Thursday” rides are legendary among locals for their large numbers, outrageous costumes, and pimped-out rides. Each week explores a different neighborhood. Recent themes have included: Superheroes, Wizard of Oz, and their infamous Zombie Ride. Whether you’re a speed racer or slow cruiser, these causal, fun rides are more about the party and less about the race. Riders are encouraged to decorate their bikes and themselves in or out of theme, and many bike builders come to show off their unique creations.
In addition, NOLA Social Ride hosts the most comprehensive website for local cycling events, community hearings on bike-related issues, and listings of other cycling clubs throughout the regions.
Since starting in 2012 as a four-man group ride, this club has grown into one of the largest in NOLA. Their tagline, “For the seriously casual road cyclist,” says it all, as does their motto that no matter the conditions of the road or the scenic-ness of the ride, it’s the people you ride with that count.
The signature Semi-Tough group ride is the Saturday Club Ride, which begins at the ripe time of 7a.m. with coffee and pastries at the Pagoda Café in the 7th Ward. From there, cyclists take off on a veritable tour of New Orleans, heading to a 12 mile push along the lake, crossing bridges and overpasses, and winding back into town through Gentilly all the way to the Marigny.
For cyclists looking for a quicker, faster, and later ride, there’s the Tuesday Loops. Riders meet at the steps of the New Orleans Museum of Art for a series of three 8.1 mile races through the park. The loops are considered good training grounds for developing speed and endurance. Note: Only run March-November (Non-Daylight Savings Time)
For years, a predominately European phenomenon called Cyclocross is enjoying a dramatic rise in the US. In January 2013, the UCI held the world championships in Louisville, KY, the first time ever outside of Europe.
Cyclocross is essentially a bike race on dirt, grass, or gravel, using road bikes with traction wheels. This makes the races shorter than your average road competitions, and much more spectator-friendly, too.
Locally, the Delta States Gran Prix have been hosting events to teams, clubs, and communities who might not otherwise have the opportunity to get involved due to travel restrictions. Races will be hosted across the Louisiana/Mississippi region Oct-Dec to help assemble an entourage to attend the 2015 National Championships to be held in January in Austin, TX. Local events including the upcoming Swamplocross, an unsanctioned race in City Park this Saturday, October 12th.
4. Bayou Boogaloo Bicycle Pub Crawl
This annual daytime ride to the Mid-City Bayou Boogaloo festival features not only a tour of some of the city’s finest drinking establishments, but also some of its most famous sights as well. Organized as a benefit for the MotherShip Foundation and the Mid-City Volleyball Group, the route changes from year to year. In 2014, the ride began at Morning Call in City Park, where riders loaded up on coffee and beignets before hitting the streets. Along the way, the tour stopped at cemeteries, costume shops, and, of course, pubs.
Despite the differing routes each year, one stop has always remained: the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club on Broad Street. There riders enjoy the rich, cultural history of the Zulu in New Orleans and are usually serenaded by a local brass band.
The ride finishes up at the Bayou Boogaloo where local and national acts gather for an all night festival of music, food, and drinks. At the last ride there were nearly 200 riders, and it seems to pick up a bit more each time.