I'll be honest, when I heard about what the owners of CycloSocial Co.
wanted to do, I thought, in theory, it was a great idea. A “party bike” that took up to 15 of your closest friends, co-workers, drinking buddies, and random strangers on two-hour tours around some of the trendiest, hippest (dare I say), coolest neighborhoods in town – this was something San Antonio was lacking and it was just the thing to capitalize on our ever younger-skewing, ever more upwardly mobile and ever more health conscious city.
There was no way it couldn't be a huge success and there is no way it couldn't be an absolute blast for anyone who partook. Now with that said, to be 100 percent transparent, I had my reservations about participating. Mind you, this had nothing to do with the concept. In meeting with the owners, Rafael Veraza
and Juan Leon, they related to me their experiences with similar bikes. Veraza
had experienced a tour in Nashville (which germinated the idea for the business) and Leon had seen similar bikes in Europe.
Now, for me, civic pride said we – San Antonio – were just as good as any city in Tennessee or Europe. So, again, in principal, I supported the idea. The problem I had when I was offered a ride recently on a CycloSocial tour was the simple fact that I am not what you might call “in shape.” The idea of cycling for two hours kind of gave me the cold sweats at night. However, I am dedicated to the craft and open to new experiences – and, as a fan of all things beer, the idea of starting out our tour at Freetail's Tap Room in Southtown appealed to me.
CycloSocial has several tours open to them. All go through some of the hippest and trendiest areas of town, including The Pearl, Dignowity Hill, Downtown, Midtown, and this aforementioned tour of Southtown I was about to embark upon.
On the day of the tour, I was going to be part (I was incognito at the start; I didn't want people to know I was on any type of assignment so I could get them acting natural
; that didn't last though, as I will discuss) of a group celebrating a birthday party. We met at Freetail and, as part of the tour, we got discounts and samples everywhere we went. I cashed in my free sample for a Piñata Protest to kick the evening off; it would not be my last drink.
As we boarded the bike, we were given some simple ground rules (don't jump off the bike, don't take drinks off the bike, and drink every time anyone waved at us) before we headed off for our first destination, Bar 1919. Let me be frank at this point, pedaling a bike, even with nine other people, is hard. For those who've never been, this bar, located in the basement of the Blue Star Arts Complex, is everything you envisioned a speakeasy from back in the '20s looked like. After a jalapeño infused shot, I ordered an Aviation cocktail.
After the gin started flowing, I got to know my fellow riders a little better. We started playing the type of six degrees of separation that can only happen in San Antonio. I met someone I had actually “met” before for a story. I met an engineer, a fellow UTSA Roadrunner, someone who lived in Africa, and a man who would turn out to be our DJ on the bike for the rest of the evening.
It was a good time at Bar 1919, but pedal on we had to. Our next stop was Dorćol Distilling Company. This was a spot I had been meaning to check out for a while, especially since they unveiled their HighWheel line of beer earlier this year. Dorćol offers up some great cocktails, all made with rakia, aka Balkan moonshine, theirs made with plenty of apricots.
Let me tell you, after two or three of these drinks, everyone you meet is your new best friend. I had two, probably three, of their Hemingway daiquiris
. It was at this point that my new friends found out my “dirty secret” of why I had crashed their party solo style. Still, they were intrigued and soon we were all chatting it up. I talked about the state of journalism with one new friend. I talked about the goals of CycloSocial with the owner and our driver for the evening, Rafa. I talked beer with some fellow patrons and homebrewing with another of my fellow riders.
On our ride back to Freetail, my legs sufficiently lubed by rakia, beer, and gin, the singing got kicked up a notch. Journey, Pat Benatar, Hall and Oates, Rihanna, Bruno Mars, Pharrell, Queen — it was all played and we all sang at the top of our lungs through streets of Southtown. Greeted by waves from pedestrians and honks from drivers, it all added up to a great evening. I want to give a special shoutout to CycloSocial's de facto waiter and tune master, Jesse. He was the one who put the bag of tortilla chips next to me and my riding neighbor. They came in very handy, soaking up the booze on the ride home.
I regret my earlier apprehension to this ride and totally recommend it to everyone involved. At the end of the night, I had some great drinks, sweated my rear end off, and made some new pals. Do yourself a favor; grab a group of your closest friends and book one of these tours as soon as you can. You won't regret it.