Sure, the weekend club rides are great. So are the charity rides to raise money for a good cause. But for a particularly memorable time, don’t miss these unique events that celebrate life on a bike with a twist.
Tour de Donut rides
Locations: Illinois, Texas and Ohio
The theme and strategy of the Tour de Donut and similar rides is simple. Have fun, ride your bike and eat a lot of donuts. This is a “race” where participants can knock minutes off their overall time by consuming donuts at stops along the way. The 500-some riders at the Texas version of the Tour de Donut collectively downed almost 5,000 donuts while raising money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation last year.
In the Illinois Tour de Donut ride, each donut eaten takes five minutes off your total time. Most of the riders who finish in the top ten each year combine speed with gluttony and eat enough donuts over the course of the 32-mile route that they end up with a negative time overall. The top eater in 2011 forced down 40 donuts in an unbelievable feat of digestive daring. The race has even been the focus of a documentary called Tour de Donut: Gluttons for Punishment. Yes, it’s all about the bike riding. And the joy of stuffing yourself silly.
Midnight Bike Rides
Locations: St. Louis, Vancouver, Houston, Chicago, and more
A number of cities host midnight bike rides and these are a lot of fun. In Chicago, it's called the L.A.T.E. Ride (which stands for Long After Twilight Ends) and the 25-mile jaunt rolls out of downtown every year at the end of June. St. Louis' version is called the Moonlight Ramble. and has been going for the last 40 years. It presently claims 10,000 riders who leave en mass at 12:01 am for a 15 or 25 mile bike ride through the city’s streets.
This type of event is a lot of fun for many casual, once-a-year riders and families with grade school age kids. The downside comes in the unpredictability of these same riders who may not have much experience. Plus the fact that probably half of the cyclists have no lights whatsoever can lead to collisions on darkened streets, so have fun but be safe.
Locations: Cities worldwide
The preeminent protest ride, Critical Mass is typically held on the last Friday of the month in cities around the world. Critical Mass started in San Francisco in September 1992 to reclaim the streets when cyclists saw themselves being marginalized by automobiles.
Critical mass rides are not really organized or led; they just happen. Usually only the meeting place and time is fixed, and then the ride is on without official blessing or authorization. Sometimes this mass ride disrupts the flow of automobiles as the group streams through an intersection. The common response? A phrase which forms the heart of the Critical Mass philosophy: "We aren't blocking traffic; we are traffic."
Critical Mass has drawn the attention of the police on a number of occasions, in particular with high-profile clashes with the law in New York City during the Republican National Convention in 2004 and in London in 2005 when authorities demanded that a group of people with no formal organizational structure somehow apply a week in advance for parade permits for specified route. In both cases, an extensive legal discussion ensued about the right of people to freely assemble, and the case was ultimately argued before the U. S. Supreme Court.
Equal parts political statement and a demonstration of cyclists’ unity, taking part in a Critical Mass ride is something that you will not likely soon forget.
World Naked Bike Ride
Location: various places around the globe
The World Naked Bike Ride is another event that is part protest, part celebration. Organized by environmentalists and free spirits of all sorts in cities around the world, the naked bike ride celebrates positive body image as well as the freedom and independence bicycling offers from oil and the “infernal” combustion engine.
Held on varying weekends (typically in June in the northern hemisphere and in March in the southern hemisphere), you can check out this website for a complete list of locations where naked bike rides are planned. View with discretion, i.e., when the boss isn't standing over you as there are uncensored photos of riders.
Also, going in the buff is not necessary to ride if that's not your thing, but certainly encouraged and part of what makes this ride stand out.
Bike the Drive
Chicago's Lake Shore Drive is one of the city's most notable routes, threading between the city's beautiful skyline and the beaches of Lake Michigan. The problem for cyclists is that it is dominated by cars 364 days a year. However, the good news is that for that one day a year, typically a Sunday in late May, an event called Bike the Drive makes Lake Shore Drive completely car-free, and the space is given over to cyclists. Rather than a dedicated route, Lake Shore Drive is dedicated as an open space and cyclists are free to ride as short or far as they want during a five hour period, typically 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. More than 20,000 riders participated in 2012, with proceeds benefitting the Active Transportation Alliance, Chicagoland's voice for better biking, walking and transit.