Bikes, Breweries, & Beers
Summertime means long hot days – and great conditions for cycling. And what better way to end a post-work, sunset bike ride than with a cold beer? Enter NYC Bike & Brew, a social cycling group with a self-explanatory name that’s growing in popularity.
“It’s a social club for bike and beer lovers in New York City,” Bike & Brew founder Justin Johnstone told me. “We basically just bike to breweries.”
Every Tuesday, between 20 and 40 of the group’s cyclists rendezvous at a pre-determined meeting point somewhere in Brooklyn, Queens, or Manhattan. Things kick off at 7pm with a pre-ride huddle, where the ride leader briefs the group of assembled cyclists with an overview of the route and what to expect from the ride. Routes always vary, but they all have something in common: every ride ends with a beer from a local brewery or beer-focused establishment.
Routes in previous weeks have ended at breweries in Bushwick and Ridgewood, including KCBC, Evin Twin Brewing, and Queens Brewery. More recently, the group ride ended at the Brooklyn Beer Garden on Wyckoff Avenue. Bike & Brew rides aim to be as accessible as possible to riders of varying skill levels, with the routes averaging about 10 miles, and generally travel at a casual 12mph pace. Rides typically take about an hour from start to finish, followed by a relaxed social hangout.
“Every week I try to mix it up, I also try to make sure that whatever route we do that week, is pretty different from the week prior,” in terms of geographic location, said Johnstone. “I’ve tried to make every ride a bit different, but we always meet at a park.”
Like other groups, such as the long-standing Social Cycling NYC (AKA Thursday Night Social Ride) and the trans, non-binary, queer, and allied cis women-friendly NightCAP (Cyclists Against Patriarchy), NYC Bike & Brew rides together as a pack, ensuring a kind of safety in numbers. Riders ahead of others will call out “POTHOLE!” when they spot stretches of cracked road. Others shout “CLEAR!” as they zoom through lights clear of oncoming cars.
The weekly rides operate with a system of volunteer roles, each of which has specific responsibilities; first, there’s the ride leader, who navigates the group from the front; then the ‘point drops’, who stop and signal to other riders where turns take place; and finally the ‘sweep’, who stays at the tail end of the pack and ensures nobody is left behind.
“These are ‘No Drop’ rides and we want to make sure everybody who comes along makes it to the destination. The sweep makes sure nobody gets lost,” explained Johnstone. “Without this core community of volunteers, these rides wouldn’t be possible.”
The consistency of the weekly rides, route variety, and community bonding over shared love of bikes keeps riders coming back – Nikos Stathopoulos, cyclist from Bushwick, estimates he’s been on around 25 rides since 2021.
“A lot of these people are pretty good friends of mine now, it’s my most regular social outing every week,” Stathopoulos told me. “The routes take me to places in the city I wouldn’t go to that often, and I get to see a lot of the city that I otherwise wouldn’t during and after the rides. We go through some pretty cool areas.”
Bike & Brew encourages anyone interested to attend. “There’s safety in numbers, when you’re surrounded by 30 – 40 other folks, there’s a level of empowerment on the streets,” said Johnstone. “Come out and experience a group ride for yourself, because it’s a lot of fun.”