The rain was blinding and the temperature was in the 40s on Saturday, but Byron was still sweating.
Last year, the ride was “magical,” Byron said — several hundred riders, great vibe, bikes of all shapes and sizes. This year, as the driving rain showed no signs of stopping, he worried about turnout — and was surprised when several dozen cyclists, mainly from Social Cycling Austin, turned out at 4 p.m. on Saturday to run this year’s ride with him.
“In Seattle,” Byron said, “we ride in the rain all the time. But I wasn’t sure if anybody would show up today.”
We had to remind him: In Texas, the weather can turn on a dime. Cyclists around here, particularly the rain-or-shine members of SCA, will usually show up even in the pouring rain because chances are it’ll let up in a few minutes. And they’ll usually ride even if it doesn’t.
Sure enough, about 15 minutes before the eight-mile ride took off from the Google Map house on the appropriately named Rainey Street, the rain stopped and the air warmed slightly, leaving us with a cool, brisk, and mostly dry ride through Austin’s east side.
It was the third year in a row that SCA ran the rides, coming up with the route and organizing volunteers.
As a committed member of SCA and do-or-die attendee at the Thursday Night Social Rides, I was proud to help host Byron and the other visiting cyclists. It was like being an Austin cycling ambassador.
The second ride happens today, Sunday, at Club DeVille on Red River. A marching band will show up to join us at 4:30 p.m., and the ride starts at 6 p.m. Click this link for more details.
The no-drop ride is free, with no badge or wristband required. Just show up on a bike, and be ready to have some fun. The ride ends with a free keg at the Frontier Bar on the east side.
Here are some group-riding tips if you’re rusty, or if you’ve never been on a big group ride before.
Two years after launching a bike maps program with Bike Hugger, Google Maps invited Byron to headquarter this year out of their party house at Bar 96 on Rainey Street.
Also for out-of-town cyclists, SXSW and Tern are hosting a bike-share program for badgeholders. They’re first-come, first-serve and available through Tuesday. Here’s more info on that awesome program.
The ride on Saturday was supposed last about 12 miles, but for whatever reason, the group voted — overwhelmingly — to cut it short and get back to the Google Map house for some free beer and a crawfish boil.
That’s the SCA I know and love.
About the only bummer of the afternoon was the fact that one of our riders’ bikes was stolen right in front of the Google Map house after the ride was over.
Byron has been coming to SXSW for a decade, attending the interactive sessions as either a blogger or a designer and developer. Obviously an avid cyclist, Byron found kinship with Austin and SXSW in both its tech sector and its cycling community.
“Austin’s a bike town,” he says simply. “The bike is a constant in the design and development community. In the web community, the bike is a connector - across professions, across skill sets, across demographics. I come here and ride with people that I care about and want to ride with. It’s awesome.”
Nigel Gregory, a friend of mine and one of the ride leaders for Social Cycling Austin, said these rides are cool because they encourage a traffic-free SXSW.
“It’s almost mandatory that everyone comes to SXSW on their bikes, especially with the traffic and everything,” he said, only half joking.
Then, he said something so profound it was like Deepak had joined us on the ride.
“We need,” he remarked, “more bikes.”