.Santa Rosa’s ‘Taco Tuesday’ Bicycle Rides Swell in Size

Each Tuesday around 5:45pm, bicycle riders of all sorts gather at Santa Rosa’s Humboldt Park. 

Half an hour later, the group begins a slow, winding ride around the city, passing through the McDonald neighborhood to Courthouse Square, ultimately arriving at Sebastopol Avenue to share a communal, outdoor meal from the taco trucks at the Mitote Food Park. On the way home, participants can stop at Yogurt Farms on Mendocino Avenue for a frozen dessert. 

Juan Chavez, a Santa Rosa resident, started the weekly Taco Tuesday ride last spring with friends, including Chad Hunt, as a means of getting out of the house following the most stringent pandemic restrictions. The two men bonded over their shared passion for stretched custom bikes—the bike-equivalent to low rider cars, these bicycles are lower to the ground and often feature fancy paint jobs, rims and accessories like cup holders. 

“I’ve been bicycling for a long time, but my bicycling isn’t like your traditional Sonoma County bicycling, where it’s a mountain bike or a road bike,” Chavez said. “I fell into the custom stretch bike world—as I call it, ‘the bike life’—and I’ve just been running with that and creating monstrosities of bikes [ever since].”

When a rider doesn’t have a bike or just wants to try out a custom bike, Hunt offers them one from the “lending library” in his garage.

Despite the organizers’ roots in custom bikes, all types of riders and bicycles are welcome at the Tuesday rides.

In the beginning, turnout was around 25 per ride. After the event was covered in the Press Democrat last summer, attendance swelled to about 50 to 60 people per ride. Then, on May 31, Santa Rosa’s event won in the attendance category in the inaugural “Taco Tuesday Showdown,” competing against similar events in Oceanside and Riverside. 

“Normally we have one or two trucks [at the Mitote Food Park], depending on the size of the crowd, but I told [them] we’re going to get 120 to 140 riders. That was my guess. When I saw 240 plus people show up, I was floored,” Chavez said. 

Indeed, the turnout shattered the group’s previous turnout record of 87 at one ride last summer. A Facebook group for the ride now has over 830 members, with 100 joining in the past week.

With increased attention, warmer weather and local schools out for the summer, Hunt, the group’s co-founder, expects to “average more than 100 riders all through the summer.”

Taco Tuesday Trophy - Juan Chavez
On May 31, the night of the “Taco Tuesday Showdown,” the Santa Rosa Taco Tuesday Ride had over 240 participants. Photo courtesy of Juan Chavez.

Amy Loukonen, a longtime bicycle advocate and a member of the Sonoma County Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, has helped support the group behind the scenes for the past year. She first attended a Taco Tuesday ride last summer and immediately found the inclusivity and accessibility of the events appealing.

“It’s sneaky exercise. You’re having such a good time that you don’t feel that you’re getting exercise. The route was chosen specifically so that it gives a nice tour of Santa Rosa while also [using] roads that have less vehicle traffic,” Loukonen said. “We do have such a wide range of ages that ride with us, and that’s part of that diversity. Diversity in bikes, diversity in people, in backgrounds, ages and economic status. The diversity is there.”

Bike riders aren’t the only ones who enjoy the event. In the winter months, dark nights offered an excuse for attendees to festoon their rides with colorful light displays, drawing even more attention from people watching the group cycle past. Some residents who live along the route have even made watching the parade a part of their weekly plans.

“We have a group of older folks that literally put out lawn chairs and wait for us because they know we’re coming by,” Chavez said.

Unsurprisingly, the group has also drawn attention from local bicycle advocates. On Saturday, Chavez received the “Bike Champion of the Year” award from the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition. 

“Juan has inspired hundreds of people throughout Sonoma County to come together on bikes and build a joyous and diverse community. His steadfast dedication, his willingness to support the creative efforts of others, and his hopeful outlook toward the future are just some of the reasons Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition chose to honor Juan Chavez as Bike Champion of the Year,” the Coalition said in an announcement of the honor.

Chavez is grateful for the overwhelming support from riders and supporters alike. 

“I just want to say thank you to everybody for accepting us and allowing us to come through their community and be a little loud but still be respectful. You know, just having a good time,” he said.

In his acceptance speech at the Bicycle Coalition dinner, Chavez said that the weekly ride “is the best time you can have on a Tuesday evening in Sonoma County.”

After experiencing the endearing combination of comradery, exercise and good food the Tuesday night rides offer, it’s hard to argue with him.

The Taco Tuesday bike ride is held every Tuesday at Humboldt Park, 1172 Humboldt St., Santa Rosa, at 5:45pm. The event is only canceled for rain. You can find more information in the “Santa Rosa Taco Tuesday Ride” Facebook group.

Will Carruthershttp://www.wrcarruthers.com
Will Carruthers is the news editor of the Pacific Sun and North Bay Bohemian. Email tips to [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @Carruthers_W.
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