Do you remember your first bicycle? How about that moment when you finally mastered the delicate art of balancing on two wheels, and all of a sudden, the whole world opened up? Well, maybe not the whole world, but at least the two streets over to your BFF’s. On the second Friday of every month, The Mobile Social aims recapture that feeling with a group bicycle ride around the streets of Atlanta. After a little exploration, the whole gang ends up at a local restaurant to continue the fun. For this week’s Friday Five, WellATL rode tandem with Johanna Smith, leader of The Mobile Social, to learn more about this party on two wheels.
Fresh air. Exploring your own city. Exercise. Socializing. This is a really great idea. How’d y’all come up with it?
The evolution of The Mobile Social was gradual and actually first sprang up as a reaction to the increasingly aggressive Critical Mass rides at the time. The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition wanted to organize a ride that would follow the rules of the road to send the message that cyclists were positive people with respect for cars and laws, so they organized a ride called Courteous Mass.
The inaugural ride drew about 30 people, then fewer and fewer until the same people were showing up each time. It was then that Jeffrey Wisard, a volunteer who had been helping with Courteous Mass, came up with the idea to rebrand the ride. Luckily, he has expertise in branding and marketing. What Courteous Mass lacked was some sort of cohesive ending and an identity as a social, fun ride that was open to all. He also found that local businesses were willing to provide specials for the promise of advertisement and patrons. The Mobile Social soon replaced Courteous Mass. Local bars and restaurants continued to be receptive, and more and more people began to show up. And here we are!
We meet at Woodruff Park at 6:30 p.m and usually roll out around 6:45ish. Right now it’s a little chilly and dark by the time we start, so come dressed for the weather and bring your blinkies! We ride between eight and 10 miles at a relaxed pace (it helps with the “social” part). We may get separated at traffic lights or on hills, but we have plenty of ride leaders to make sure no one gets lost or left behind. Our hope is to highlight new routes or parts of the city each month and to show some love to local businesses. When we finish, there are usually drink or food specials at our business of the month. People hang out, share food and drinks, and are generally friendly and fun. It’s a great time!
Confession time: I’m not really plugged in to the cycling community. What’s bike culture like in Atlanta?
We have a little of everything here in Atlanta. Atlanta is fortunate to be close to some great mountain bike and cyclocross trails as well as some roads that make for great long road rides. We also have a growing bicycle commuter population who ride to work (or to the bar, or to hang out with friends, etc.) as an alternative to driving. Honestly, there’s a group for every type of cyclist here in Atlanta. Groups like SoPo Bicycle Co-op encourage self-sufficiency in bicycle maintenance while BeltLine Bike Shop and WeCycle allow kids to earn bikes by completing community service projects and bicycle education in West Atlanta neighborhoods. There are rides that appeal to different types of cyclists almost every night of the week that start in different bike shops and neighborhoods around town, which is great. As far as policy and advocacy go, though, The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition is doing a great job. They’re very active in encouraging all types of cyclists to make their voices heard during policy decisions — for example, the bond referendum that will come up for a vote on March 17. ABC is also heading a campaign for “Livable Lee Street,” which is pushing to have a complete streets plan for Lee Street added to the referendum. They’re a great place to start to find out more about what’s going on in the city.
We get all four seasons in Georgia… sometimes all in the same day! What’s the best way to prepare for a ride in the ever-changing weather?
Layers are your friend! My go-tos for cold weather are warm socks, a scarf, a good pair of wind-blocking gloves, and a jacket that can block the wind or rain. If I think it might get colder than it is when I set out for the day, I’ll carry a bag with an extra fleece jacket. A pair of leggings for under your jeans is also good if you think it might get freezing. The key is to be comfortable but versatile – I normally just bike in the clothes I’m going to wear wherever I’m going. If you’re looking to start biking around town and are wondering what to wear, The Spindle is a great place to start. They specialize in cycling-specific clothes that don’t look like cycling-specific clothes.
For those lacking two wheels in working order, what are a few of your favorite local businesses to buy a bike or tune up your old clunker?
Atlanta BeltLine Bicycle is a great place to start for getting an old pair of wheels fixed up or if you’re looking for a used bike. I’ve also taken many bikes to Loose Nuts Cycles in Grant Park and Snyder Cycles in Poncey Highland. If you’re looking to learn how to fix up your bike yourself and just need access to tools and parts, check out SoPo Bicycle Co-Op. It’s a good feeling to know that you can fend for yourself if you have a mechanical issue while out riding.
You’ve biked and socialized around much of our city. Any hidden gems you care to share? How about the best watering holes for thirsty bikers?
One of my favorite rides of all time, the Annual Seersucker Social, always ends with a picnic in Oakland Cemetery — very accessible by bike and a great place to hang out and enjoy some sunshine. I actually met my husband on that ride! Also a fan of Elliott Street Pub, Noni’s, and The Pullman, to name a few places that have always shown us some love. Check out “Past Rides” on our website to see other businesses that support cycling in Atlanta.
Be a part of the ride with The Mobile Social on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.