If someone was to remake Marlon Brando's The Wild One in Boulder, Colo., the guys in the motorcycle gang would be wearing spandex shorts and riding bicycles. At least that's what one would expect, given the reputation of certain cyclists in the communities just outside this fitness mecca.
Boulder is a city that revels in bicycling. It has nearly 100 miles of bike paths, and seven out of every 10 residents own bikes. The shaved legs of world-class cyclists line up in grocery stores and health-food restaurants.
There is a dark side to Boulder's bicycling force, however, one that is experienced twice a week by residents of the nearby rural town of Hygiene. (Yes, they've heard every conceivable joke about clean living.) Throughout much of the year, on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, a group of often more than 100 cyclists streaks out of Boulder on a training ride that takes them right through the T intersection that is downtown Hygiene (pop. 265).
Bicyclists call this twice-a-week excursion the Bustop Ride—the name comes from a Boulder topless bar whose parking lot marks the beginning of the route. Just about every famous bike racer who has trained in Boulder has taken part in the Bustop, which offers anyone who shows up a chance to ride with bicycling's big boys and girls. "I heard about it before I moved here," says Scott Moninger, who rides professionally for the Coors Light team. "It's got top pros, good riders, and it is fast."
That it is. Riding inches apart, participants cover 40 or 50 miles in about 90 minutes, sometimes reaching speeds of 45 mph. Professional cyclists astride $4,500 bikes can be seen alongside teenagers whose determination and leg power often compensate for their less expensive sets of wheels.
The very qualities that make the Bustop Ride appealing to bicyclists drive the locals nuts. Boulder County residents claim that the cyclists take over the two-lane roads and refuse to let motorists pass, blow past stop signs and display a towering arrogance toward anyone not on two wheels.
"They're terrible, and they have a terrible attitude," says one woman who lives south of Hygiene. "They won't ride single file when you drive up behind them. I've been flipped off [given the bird] and called names I wouldn't call anyone." Ken Sadar, a farmer and volunteer fireman in Hygiene, says, "I've seen them not even get out of the way of a fire truck."
Under Colorado law, bicyclists can ride two abreast, but if a motor vehicle begins to overtake them, they must ride single file on the right side of the lane. Furthermore, bike riders must obey stop signs and traffic signals. But it's hard to do all that and make a good showing in the Bustop.
Jim Smith, a lieutenant with the Boulder County Sheriff's Department, has heard complaints about the Bustop Ride for approximately 15 years. Too many times, he says, road hogging and horn blowing have escalated beyond traffic offenses. "We've had bicyclists assault ed and motorists assaulted," he says.
The Bustop Ride is difficult to police because it is essentially unorganized. No bicycle club sponsors it. There are no leaders. People just show up at 5 p.m. and ride. Participants have no control over who takes part and whether he or she obeys the law. But because the ride is really an unofficial race, anyone who obeys the law tends to get left in the dust. Tickets cost cyclists only $16 and, of course, do not go on the recipient's driving record.