Washington's Bike Party Wheels Keep Rolling

29 May, 2018

It is 10:30 on a warm May night in Washington, D.C. Emily Skeels and a few friends are outside talking and laughing. One friend plays music from a wireless device.

Skeels and friends have just finished a bicycle ride around the city on an event called D.C. Bike Party.

Each month, hundreds of cyclists take to the city's streets for this highly imaginative group ride. They meet at Dupont Circle and roll onto the road in colorful clothing as the sun sets. Event volunteers lead the adventure.

D.C. Bike Party riders often take a break at parks or open areas, where they listen to music and dance.
D.C. Bike Party riders often take a break at parks or open areas, where they listen to music and dance.

Skeels, who has lived in D.C. for many years, tells VOA what she likes about Bike Party.

"I love bikes and I love biking on streets without traffic and all of my friends go and the weather's really nice right now."

Technically, there is traffic, but the huge group finds safety in numbers. And that's not all they find.

A party on wheels

The name "Bike Party" is just right, since this is more of a celebration on wheels than a usual cycling event.

For one, it happens at night. And, there's music – lots of it. For example, longtime event volunteer Danny Lesh brings along his "sound bike" – a bicycle with an oversized speaker system attached.

Lesh built the system in 2012. He says he "had a good feeling that great music" could build a following for a community bike ride in DC. He was right.

Each month, he makes music playlists that fit with the event themes. Tonight, Lesh played funk music for the event's Photon Funk Ride, in honor of the city's yearly Funk Parade.

And then there are the costumes. Many riders dress in creative, brightly colored clothing to go with the themes. In October, for example, they dress up for Halloween.

Washington, D.C. native Will Bien Duggan seriously regrets missing one Halloween ride a few years ago. It was a rainy, cold night. But, Bike Party still went on. The event led cyclists to a party with live music at the Congressional Cemetery.

"I saw the video of everyone coming into it and it was just something otherworldly and I realized that only in D.C. and only with Bike Party could you ever have that kind of experience."

Along with exciting themes, music and clothing, the party ride also brings out some very inventive bicycles.

Event founder Lia Seremetis, a California native, says the creativity of the riders is always wonderful. Over the years, she has seen all kinds of bikes on Bike Party, including a penny-farthing and a one-wheeled vehicle called a unicycle.

In addition, every month, she says, a group of people on rollerblades take part and bring their own disco ball.

"So, it just...never ends. People are truly amazing."

Some that take part in Bike Party do not use any wheels at all, says Los Angeles native and dog lover, Marla Larrave. She was excited to see a four-legged participant on a recent ride.

"And, there was a dog -- a little dog that was running the whole time alongside all the cyclists with his human. That was super cute."

Dance to the music

Larrave met Skeels through Bike Party and says the event is her favorite thing to do in DC.

"You know, I've got friends that I've made at Bike Party and then their friends become my friends too."

Longtime Bike Party volunteer Danny Lesh stands next to his
Longtime Bike Party volunteer Danny Lesh stands next to his "sound bike" -- a speaker system that he built himself and attached to his bike..

About halfway through every Bike Party, riders stop at a park. They set down their bicycles and talk, laugh, make new friends, eat, drink, listen to music. And, of course, they dance.

Larrave loves the musicality. She says last month's ride took the group to a park filled with Japanese cherry trees.

"It was just beautiful riding through the park and seeing all those trees."

Then, Brazilian music began to play and people danced by the trees.

It takes a village...

Seremetis was sad to leave behind the big group bikes rides from her hometown of San Jose, California. So, in 2012, two years after she moved to D.C., she started the D.C. Bike Party.

She says, as free-spirited as the ride is, event volunteers work hard to make sure it operates smoothly each month. It is all volunteer-organized. About 30 people put the event together to make sure it is safe and responsible.

"I like to say that we take having fun very seriously."

Bien Duggan says there is a special connectedness among those in the bicycle community around the world. A few years ago, he spent 14 months on a bicycle tour through South America. On many nights, cyclists opened their homes for him to stay the night.

Bien Duggan says he feels a similar sense of unity on rides with the Bike Party.

He says it offers "...a sense of community and a good reminder that the whole city isn't just suit-and-tie and that's a really great feeling."

I'm Alice Bryant.

Alice Bryant wrote this story for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.


Words in This Story

adventure - n. an unusually exciting experience or activity

theme - n. the particular subject or idea on which the style of something, such as a party or room, is based

costume - n. the clothes that are worn by someone who is trying to look like a different person

otherworldly - adj. seeming to belong to or come from another world

Rollerblade - n. an in-line skate

disco ball - n. an object that reflects light directed at it in many directions

amazing - adj. causing amazement

super cute - expression. going beyond the normal range of cuteness

reminder - n. something that causes you to remember or to think about something

suit-and-tie - adj. describable as formal, serious and professional