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  • Eric Rowley
  • Sun May 13 2012
  • Posted Aug 25, 2011
By Eric Rowley at Juice

Central Iowa is now a place with bona fide bicycle bars.

Spots like the Cumming Tap, Orlondo’s on Park, Mullet’s and Saints Pub & Patio cater to members of Des Moines’ growing bicycle culture.

Biking in Des Moines has gradually become more prominent, with 300-some miles of bike trails in the area, plus the arrival of bicycle lanes on Ingersoll and Urbandale Avenues, with discussions for more. And then there’s the Des Moines Bicycle Collective, a nonprofit downtown that helps recycle and refurbish used bikes and was also instrumental in establishing the Des Moines B-Cycle bike sharing program.

But in the last few years, and especially now, social events that bring together hobbyists, hardcore and hipster bicyclists are thriving. The annual ArtCrank fuses bikes with art, with local artists creating bike-inspired posters for sale amidst a bike-inspired fashion show. Last year’s Urban Assault Ride scavenger hunt was the biggest inaugural UAR ever for the 10-city, New Belgium-sponsored event. Year two is this weekend, beginning at Mullet’s.

New Belgium also sponsors monthly Fat Tire Fun Rides, a steady stream of cyclists that travel from el Bait Shop to other Iowa bars.

Joey Leaming, 28, commutes from his home in Beaverdale to downtown year round and last year started Death By Cycle (ridedeathbycycle.com), a group of night-riding friends who meet up at IngerDahls each Thursday and ride to bars downtown. The group does exert themselves, but if they just wanted exercise they wouldn’t start biking at 10 p.m.

“We go down to Fourth Street and usually stop at The Lift,” Leaming said. “It’s a good night and a nice stress reliever from the week. We have little races here and there, but it’s definitely social. That’s the main focus.”

The expansion of the trail system has changed things for bars in smaller communities. Before the Great Western Trail was paved in 2000, The Cumming Tap was just another charming, small town bar. Now you’ll see dozens of bicycles lined up outside on a summer night. Scores take the trip to the Tap for Tacopocalypse tacos on Tuesdays, then for steak nights on Wednesday.

Bicycles are popular everywhere. In Des Moines, they’re building a hot culture.

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