Bike culture continues to thrive
Riding a bike for the first time is a moment most people never forget. That sense of accomplishment as each foot presses down on the pedals and the person pushing the bike from behind finally lets go. A growing breeze swirls around as the only direction the bike can go is forward. The feeling of freedom and independence becomes so overwhelming it is hard to believe it all came from a bike.
Since the first moments of riding a bike, the concept of these two-wheeled contraptions have changed before society’s eyes. While they no longer serve as a quick means of transportation to the park down the street or for racing the neighborhood kids up the block, bikes play a prevalent role in everyone’s lives.
Arizona State University alumnus Julian Wright is the owner of Handlebar located on Mill Avenue. For him bikes serve as much more than just a means of transportation. Wright’s bar is inspired by the many beer gardens he encountered while traveling through Europe and he decided to incorporate bikes into the bar's aesthetic in multiple ways.
“We’ve built bike racks into our patio railings,” Wright says. “We also have a lot of bicycle art in the bar.”
From wheel-inspired napkin holders to a bike photographer to actual bikes hanging from the ceiling, Handlebar has it all. Wright also encourages the concept among his customers.
“We have a lot of people that bike a lot together,” Wright says. “We definitely support people biking to the bars and not driving. We encourage that as much as possible.”
Other restaurants within the valley have centered their establishment’s theme on bike culture as well. Spoke and Wheel Tavern incorporates many of the same design concepts in their restaurant. Restaurant manager Tony Gordillo says the restaurant also offers happy hour for customers that ride their bike to the tavern. Spoke and Wheel also participates in other events to help encourage bike culture.
“We partner up with other restaurants and we do biking events,” Gordillo says. “You get a good deal if you come here and finish a route at a certain location.”
Both Gordillo and Wright are bicyclists themselves and agree that Tempe and Phoenix lend themselves to a growing bike culture.
“Tempe’s a pretty natural landscape for bike culture, that’s probably why we’re a little ahead of the game, but I think you’re starting to see it become more popular all around the state,” Wright says.
Electrical engineering graduate Scott Jones is part of the ASU cycling club and has seen an increase in bike culture during his time cycling for both leisure and competition. Jones also highlights the area as a key component to bike culture’s success within the valley.
“I think that the Phoenix metro area and Tempe in particular has pretty good cycling infrastructure, lots of bike lanes, streets are wide and people understand traffic laws pretty well,” Jones says.
Handlebar is also the sponsor of ASU’s cycling club. Both organizations heavily utilize different aspects of bike culture.
“They let us bring out bikes on the patio and it’s really cool to have businesses that are centered around a certain subculture of the community,” Jones says.
Jones shared that the cycling club aims to provide a platform for students that wish to either bike for casual rides or bike competitively.
“We don’t have any required practices, but it’s with 35-40 people on the team, it’s always easy to find people to ride with in order to just get out there and spend more time on the bike,” Jones says.
For those that spend much of their time centered around cycling and bikes, their only desire is to see the concept grow in the years to come. Wright is currently in the works of opening a brewery in downtown Tempe that is based off of the same bike culture concept.
Pedal Haus will include more bike racks, bike-themed décor as well as a bike shop within the brewery that sells custom bikes.
“When we do open the brewery we hope to do events that start with a bicycle ride to further encourage people to ride their bikes,” Wright says.
Jones hopes that bike culture will continue to strive throughout the Tempe and Phoenix area. As an avid cyclist he can relate to the distinct sense of independence that comes with riding a bike, whether it be for transportation, leisure or competition.
“I think Arizona has a very good cycling community, much better than a lot of other parts of the country,” Jones says. “I think it would be really cool if the acceptance of cycling and the sense of community that we have here would spread throughout the country and that cycling would become a big thing elsewhere.”
Reach the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @manalichavan72.