7 Best Group Bike Rides in Metro Phoenix

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For those who prefer the bike lane to the HOV, there are plenty of group cycling rides criss-crossing the metro area. Each began with the goals of combating car-centric culture and, more often than not, pounding a refreshing pint or pitcher. Here are the top seven regular rides around city streets.

See also: Phoenix Bike Share to Launch in Early 2014

7. Critical Mass

Now found in 325 commuter cities worldwide and spawning everything from arrests and deaths to bike lanes and new laws, Critical Mass started it all. The brainchild of San Francisco bikers in the early 1990s, Critical Mass was designed to create conversation, and a traffic jam, to raise awareness about the issues facing two-wheeled transportation.

On the final Friday of every month, the Valley's version meets at Steele Indian School Park in Phoenix at 7 p.m. for an hour-long joyride to watering holes like The Duce and Rose & Crown. These days the ride amasses around 50 enthusiasts and while the event may be "Critical Mass" in name only (the subject of many a conversation in Facebook forums), for four years it has proved a crowd-drawing good time.

6. Loops Phoenix and Loops Tempe

If you're looking for a one-stop shop for diehard bikers, it would be State Bicycle Co. With two Valley locations in Phoenix and Tempe, each of which boasts an impressive array of pre-created and custom frames, the company is a perfect launching pad for those fresh off training wheels and seasoned cyclists alike.

In addition to sponsoring numerous bike events in each respective city, the crew hosts Loops, a twice-weekly group trek: Mondays at 7 p.m. at Civic Space Park, and Wednesdays at Tempe Beach Park, also at 7 p.m. Rides last between 10 to 20 miles, or one to three hours, and tend to keep a steady, even pace ideal for beginners and those looking for a social ride.

5. C.R.A.P. Ride

Marketed as Tempe's "original social bike ride," the Car Resistance Action Party (an excuse for the obvious acronym) meets every Tuesday at either Tempe Beach Park for a 7:45 p.m. kick-off or Tempe's Front Porch for a pre-ride brew at 8 p.m. The low-stakes ride began in 2006 and tends to round out between 12 to 15 miles. Traditionally, the route ran from Tempe Town Lake along the Greenbelt into Old Town Scottsdale, but these days the destinations are beer havens like O.H.S.O. and Papago Brewing Company.

4. Women's Rides

These non-competitive, female friendly rides vary from weekly to monthly events. The Wednesday Ladies Ride, sponsored by the Arizona Bicycle Club, takes cyclists through the Phoenix Mountain Preserve from Fourteenth Street and Peoria in the early evening, lasting from 5 to 7 p.m. Also held by the ABC, the Saturday Women's Ride takes place at 6:30 a.m. on the first Saturday of every month, beginning at Granada Park off Twentieth Street and Maryland and lasting for 12 to 15 miles.

3. Heavy Thursdays

Graphic designers and entrepreneurs Terrence Patrick and Victor Vasquez have had a busy year. The duo opened a brick-and-mortar extension of their successful online retailer, The Heavy Pedal, in the warehouse district downtown, and has gained international recognition as a biking brand that means business. But every week the two get back to their roots -- er, pavement -- with Heavy Thursdays.

Both men used to participate in Lux Ride, a predominately fixed-gear following that started at the central Phoenix coffee shop a handful of years back. This route is designed to reach a broader audience and changes weekly, clocking in between two- to three-hour marathons. Beginning at 8 p.m. cyclists typically bisect Phoenix, extending as far eastbound as Scottsdale or Tempe. Each ride starts, and ends, back at the Heavy Pedal warehouse, where bikers can re-hydrate with booze, water, and post-ride snacks. 2. Bear Claw Run

Carb up, cyclists. This Sunday morning joyride starts in the early hours of 6:30 a.m. (May, June, September) to 7 a.m. (April, October) off the Skunk Creek Trail in Peoria. The 15 to 20 mile ride crawls at a pace hovering around 10 miles per hour, encouraging entry level riders to cruise through quiet streets in a group setting. The leisurely morning ends at New York West Bakery for pastries and coffee, so if rising with the birds is your thing, why not try it on a bike?

1. Kokopedalli No-Drop Rides

Designed for beginners and those getting back in the saddle, this weekly outing takes over the East Valley. At 9 a.m. on the first and third Sundays, the route starts at Chaparral Park in Scottsdale. The crew meets up at Kiwanis Park in Tempe on the second Sunday and Desert Breeze Park in Chandler on the final Sunday (also at 9 a.m.), offering plenty of opportunities to get accustomed to your wheels and riding with others.

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