Bikes and Beers, an event quickly gaining popularity in Connecticut, has been one of the many great successes of the Connecticut Beer Trail in 2012. And so, to close out the year on Bikes and Beers, this last ride had to be big, loud, and tons of fun. By partnering with the Devil's Gear in New Haven, CT Beer Trail worked together to put on a Halloween cycling event that featured almost 100 costumed riders taking to the streets of New Haven.
This event is a routine one for Devil's Gear, but larger in scope thanks to it being their Halloween ride, and thanks to their partnership with the CT Beer Trail. Calling it "Critical Mass" (a national idea or movement, not really an organization), Devil's Gear hosts this type of ride every last Friday of the month starting at 5:30 PM on the New Haven green (and yes, it runs all year). However, CT Beer Trail's involvement and promises of a craft-beer-driven after party definitely got me, and I'm assuming at least a handful of others, very interested in this ride.
The ride itself gathered on the New Haven green at 5:30 PM. As time ticked on, more and more costumed riders showed up: ghouls; clowns; famous athletes; rock stars; and all manner of bedazzled maniacs lined up and milled about with obvious excitement in the air. Eventually, at around 6ish, we rolled out in a long, undulating line of almost 100 cyclists. The vibe was great. There was no pushing, no vying for position, and no fear as we worked our way through New Haven. All the riders were doing this Critical Mass ride, well, just for the fun of it. It's not really a competition, and so the focus was on cyclists networking with each other, while making a visual statement to everyone in the city that: yes; people do ride bikes here.
As we made our way through the 6ish mile route, red and blue lights began to flash around us and we heard the roar of a Harley moving to overtake us: somewhere along the way we picked up the escort of a motorcycle cop! This emboldened the riders even more and we made our hearty way along the meandering route until at last we ended up at our destination: O'Tooles. As we disembarked, I got the chance to talk to Matt Feiner, the founder of The Devil's Gear. According to him this particular event (Critical Mass) has been going off on the last Friday of every month for just about 10 years now. The ride is always pretty well attended, says Feiner, and the vibe is always generally relaxed.
Feiner told me that there are Critical Mass rides in other states, but many of them seem to end up getting needlessly competitive After starting this event Feiner has been extremely happy with it and has no plans to modify things- saying there's no need to change something that doesn't need changing.
After the chat I ended up back at the bar, enjoying price-reduced New England Brewing beer on draft (thanks to the event) and generally spent the evening chatting and relaxing with great beer. Along the way I bumped into Scott Vignola, the founder of a brand new homebrew shop that's just opened up in New Haven. Vignola has a background in small business and is man fascinated with the way that beer has been creating communities and bringing people together for hundreds of years. At the time of publishing this they have had their grand opening already, and it is a great boon to any home-brewer in the area to have a man like Vignola setting up shop. He is dedicated to not only brewing great beer, but also creating a stronger community in New Haven. If you have even an inkling to get into home-brewing, check out his shop.
At the end of the night everyone had good beer and enjoyed themselves while doing it. Critical Mass is a great movement for New Haven, and it comes highly recommended for anyone: be you a newbie commuter getting road under your tires the first time; or hardcore pedal head. Bikes and Beers still stands as one of my personal favorite events as it brings together good people, fosters great times, and even makes you feel ok about drinking beer as at least you've had a ride before hand!
To keep up with all future events, keep your eyes on my blog (on Blogger, Twitter, and Facebook) and the CT Beer Trail. If you want to know about home brewing and live around New Haven, check out the Luck and Levity site here (Vignola's shop). Lastly, if you're looking to get rolling around New Haven but don't know where to start (or just want to connect with other bicycle fanatics), then check out The Devil's Gear bike shop here.