The guy in front of me is driving a lowrider blaring music out the back, but this isn’t East LA.
The lowrider is actually a tricked-out bicycle adorned with flashing Christmas lights and a trailer (designed to carry children) for his sound system. And despite his clown wig, this guy is hardly the wildest-looking pedaler in the bunch. More than 200 of these crazily clad bikers are tooling around town on festively lit cruisers and fixies in search of a few cheap drinks. It’s the fourth-annual Blinking Man, a Downtown cycling bar crawl.
Part of the draw might be the event’s attitude. “It’s just a laid-back way for people to enjoy the nice weather on their bikes,” explains organizer Graham Kahr. In addition to blinking lights, costumes are encouraged. But from the look of it, this crowd doesn’t need much persuading. Mr. Clown Wig is accompanied by riders in everything from lingerie and fairy wings to goggles and combat boots. References to Burning Man and its creative approach to fashion are inevitable.
Unlike that annual desert event, however, Blinking Man is a free happening that grew online. Kahr, a native Las Vegan and Zappos social-media guru, uses his Internet skills to get the word out and provide maps of the route each rider can download to a smartphone. “This way people can drop in and out when they like,” Kahr says.
The mass of riders flies by ecstatic newlyweds outside the Vegas Wedding Chapel on Third, lively picketers in front of Binion’s, curious tourists on Fremont and, unfortunately, a couple of bicycle cops. You’d think if anyone would be sympathetic to bike riders it would be bike cops, but not so. They threaten citations for blocking traffic before eventually riding off, defeated, perhaps, by the prospect of having to issue 200 citations.
Luckily our run-in with Johnny Law is a minor blip in an otherwise flawless night that includes beer at the Fifth Street Pub, pizza at Pop Up and mid-street chatter in front of the Lady Silvia. The original plan had the night wrapping at Commonwealth, but one look at that place, crammed to the gills and manned by beefy security guards holding velvet ropes, sends us all packing. Instead, we end up back at the night’s starting point, the comfortable Huntridge Tavern. Coming full circle has a kind of poetry to it, a turn of the wheel, a circuitous route that puts me right back where I began but with a fuller stomach, a broader smile and more people to call friends—with or without costumes and blinking lights.