SXSW Adventures: Bike Hugger Mobile Social Ride

Getting Directions on the Mobile Social RideAs I mentioned, I was in Austin last week at SXSW. While there, I had the good fortune to participate in the Bike Hugger Mobile Social Ride and BBQ. Anne and I are fairly regular participants in Seattle-area cargo rides and so I thought it would be fun to check out the dynamic of a mixed tech-texas hybrid event.

The day dawned like any other in Seattle. Wet, cold and dark. It wasn’t actually raining so I was raring to go. One problem:  we weren’t in Seattle and the Austinites aren’t quite used to gray skies and wet roads. Though roads dried by the time morning SXSW sessions finished, it  was only their 3rd day of rain since summer or something.  I’m thinking this had to have an impact on the number of riders , yet the turnout was impressive (somewhere between 100 and 150) anyway.The ride was a roughly a 10-mile loop around Austin, (oddly, if you look at the route on Bikely, the outline looks uncannily like a line drawing of Lance Armstrong swinging a hammer), taking in a few sights and a couple bridges.

After meeting at a park near the convention center, we rolled out, only to pull over a few blocks later for complimentary coffee and croissants at the already legendary Mellow Johnny’s (thanks Erin!) Wow. What a way to make some out-of-towners feel welcome!

I like to think I’ve evolved out of shiny road-bike dorkdom, but damn! I couldn’t help but gawk at the legendary machines hanging from the rafters. Sweet.

Byron kept us on task and got us back on the road in good time. We settled into a very crowd-friendly pace  but poorly timed lights still managed to split us into sub groups. It would have been cool to remain in a mass crowd , but to everyone’s credit when lights turned red, riders stopped. Maybe next year the city will step up with a police escort!

Our post-light cluster of riders got a little lost, then made up for it by detouring past some cool human-powered sculptures. When none of the locals volunteered to lead us out of the wilderness,  Galen fired up his ninja nav skills (+cue sheet) and routed us back to the conference center. Fears of missing the start of the BBQ necessitated chopping the capitol loop off the end of the route — a good choice, considering how fast the beer went!

The BBQ itself was great, with almost a carnival feel. Open to both the Mobile Social riders and SXSW pass holders, this free intersection of bikes, beer, and beef drew quite an eclectic crowd. The almost embarrassing pile of swag included tons of Crumpler, Ibex (I won a sweater), Xtracycle (won by Elliot from Austin on Two Wheels), a Madsen, a Gary Fisher Simple City, and at least 100 pair of socks (and that’s just what I remember….). I think there must have been three Bakfiets worth of prime goodies, and at least 300 attendees eager to take some home!

All in all, a great afternoon, followed by a  colorful after party at Mellow Johnny’s (more on that later).

Huge props go out to Bike Hugger. I can honestly say I wouldn’t have bothered to score a bike (thanks again, Elliot!) had I not wanted to participate in the Mobile Social. And then once I had the bike, Austin opened up to me in way impossible via car or foot. Thanks for that!

Mobile Social Coming To Seattle in May

If this whet your appetite, I should mention Seattle-area folk have a chance to try a Bike Hugger Mobile Social on their own. May 3 the Hugger team is pulling out the stops for another ride, this time in support of the Event Apart conference. See the site for RSVP info. I had a good time in Austin and hope the entire Car Free Days clan can do this ride together.

Hey! Check out more mobile social ride photos on in the Car Free Days Photostream

– Tim

2 responses to “SXSW Adventures: Bike Hugger Mobile Social Ride

  1. Kendra and I want to be adopted into the Car Free Days Clan – at some point, it seems like you should be responsible for us, Mr. Pusher Man!

  2. Oh, come on, it’s just a bike. Go ahead, take one. It won’t hurt. All the cool kids are doing it.

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