When it comes to modes of transportation, bikes are pretty much killing it. The hipper, skinnier cousin of the car has been a fashion statement since its introduction in the 19th century, and it's one of the few human-powered vehicles. That basically means it's a tool for socialism, which Americans love! I mean, right?
While fixies helped solidify the bike as more than just a form of transportation, subcultures of cycling enthusiasts have emerged, taking things to the next level. From jousting cyclists to the denim-donning Chopaderos (who will be riding dirty this September in New Belgium Brewing's Tour de Fat), these biking clubs aren't interested in your average Sunday jaunt through the park.
If you've ever been to Pride (or any liberal arts college on a sunny day), you've probably seen your share of bare ass cradled by a well-worn bike seat. It's easy to take part in this tradition whenever the spirit moves you, Step one: remove clothes. Step two: ride bike. But true enthusiasts gather for the annual World Naked Bike Ride. This event has taken place in at least 70 cities around the world dating back to 2004. Its purpose? Organizers seek to demonstrate the vulnerability of cyclists on the road and to protest oil dependency. And presumably to feel the sweet, sweet wind beneath their crotch.
If you've ever thought, "Biking is cool and all, but you know what would make it even greater? Lances made from PVC pipes!" this is the trend for you. It's just like regular jousting, but instead of riding a horse, you use a custom bike. Cyclists can mount everything from two-wheelers with 12-foot forks to bikes made from four frames spliced together. Some riders have even made bike steamrollers, which they use to crush beer cans. Participants test their bravery, courage, and bone brittleness by racing toward each other with plastic lances clutched beneath their armpits. In New York, the Black Label Bike Club and C.H.U.N.K. 666 organize events like Bike Kill. Anyone can take part in games like bicycle polo, food fights, and the Whiplash — an event where two "knights" are tied together with rope and pedal away from each other until someone falls. The winner gets to bequeath a rose upon the most beautiful lady at the joust, thereby naming her the Queen of Love and Beauty. JK, but that would be awesome.
Patch-wearing cyclists that look especially good in denim have formed an outlaw bicycling club with chapters in North America, Europe, and beyond. Legend has it that the first Chopaderos formed their club while drinking beers and working on a Schwinn Pea Picker Danimal from Mexico. They come together to talk chops, drink beer, and of course, ride their custom bikes. Want to join? In each potential member, they stress the ability to blow minds, wear vests, and not be an asshole. But they're more than just a group of bike-riding beer-lovers who all happen to own the same skull patch. They also give back to the community through fundraising and toy drives. And they take a pretty mean selfie, too.
If you're a like-minded bicyclist looking to roll with this ragtag bunch, you're in luck: wannabe Chopaderos can join them and New Belgium Brewing at the Tour de Fat bike parade on September 27, 2014. It'll be off the chain (that's bike humor, guys). Shine up your helmets, strap on your kneepads, and hydrate with a cold Fat Tire (it matches your denim vest perfectly).
Nandita Raghuram is a freelance journalist living in Brooklyn.
Photo provided by New Belgium Brewing.