Hot August bikes

Reno Critical Mass takes a special Hot August Bikes ride

“Hippies suck!” shouted a man.

“Get out of the road,” yelled a woman in a minivan.

“Not everyone enjoys this crap,” boomed a dour fellow.

The critics were numerous. Many motorists couldn’t fathom why a herd of 25-plus cyclists would hog a lane during Friday rush hour, or why they would cheer and grin and wave as horns honked and impatient drivers scowled.

Reno Critical Mass, which usually rides the first Friday of the month, gathered at the plaza next to Java Jungle on Aug. 9 for a special Hot August Nights ride—Hot August Bikes. I joined them. Three women wore full, 1950s-style skirts, and many cyclists decked out their bikes in attention-getting adornments like streamers and signs.

We left about 5:45 p.m., heading south on Virginia Street to the Atlantis Hotel-Casino. Riders shouted, “Critical mass!” or “Hot August bikes!” They handed out flyers, some proclaiming, “Bikes, Not Bombs,” and others containing fun car facts—such as the statistic that nearly 50 percent of the justice system is tied up in auto-related claims.

“Drivers say, ‘Stop blocking traffic,’ “ noted one cyclist. “We are traffic.”

Many drivers allowed us our lane, slowing down to let the throng pass or change lanes. Others cheered and waved.

After riding to the Atlantis, we returned to downtown Reno shortly before 7 p.m. Virginia Street was blocked off, beginning at the Liberty Street intersection, but we coasted past the roadblocks, allowed in the no-car area by patrolling guards. The streets were already lined with thousands of auto-enthusiasts. Anticipating the parade, police had cleared the streets and sent onlookers onto the sidewalk, behind rows of temporary fencing.

And then the shouts, whistles and applause began. We had a large captive audience, all geared to be entertained. As we sailed down the street, our somewhat incredulous audience cheered wildly for us. Only a few shouted, “Where are the cars?”

The cheering continued as we reached the end of the drag at Fifth Street. We circled around and headed back for another lap, but police, informing us that the car traffic would soon be on its way, directed us to the gate. We paused at the corner of Fifth and Sierra streets, before heading back to Java Jungle. We were amazed and exhilarated. It will be tough to top that ride.

The next Reno Critical Mass ride will meet at Plaza West, next to Java Jungle on West First Street at 5:15 p.m. on Sept. 6.