Winooski Bike Gang

In April of 2021 the Winooski Parks and Recreation Department sent out a call for volunteers to lead a weekly bike ride.  I was one of three people to volunteer.   Astin and Kristine also responded.  Astin is a social worker and Kristine teaches high school math.  We were given the title of ‘Bike Ambassadors.’ We decided to meet every Wednesday at 5:30 in  front of Monkey House which is on the Winooski traffic circle.  That first year we averaged about 10 riders per week.  Kristine gradually expanded out online presence and started posting our bike routes.  Astin was very good at welcoming new riders into the fold.  

A group of cyclists standing near the \During our second year of riding our numbers increased and we started offering two  rides.  The Party Ride has a moderate pace and we made it a no drop ride.  That means  we made sure nobody was left behind.  The Business Rides were longer and went at a faster pace.  The terrain was often more challenging.  We  started the tradition of having a raffle after the last ride of the year.  Many people contributed items for the raffle. Participants got one raffle ticket for every ride they took during the spring and summer and also one ticket for every item they brought to the raffle. 

Last year our numbers  exploded.  On nice days we had up to 50 riders.  We invited new Ambassadors into the group which we  called The Winooski Bike Gang. I started leading all the Party Rides and learned how to use Ride with GPS so I could plan and post routes.  Through our WhatsApp postings other people started offering rides and letting people know about  bike events.  We began meeting  behind Winooski Wheels, a new bike shop on West Canal Street.  We also expanded the kinds of rides we do. We have had cookouts, scavenger hunts, visits to a museum and  ice cream rides.  In the warmer months we often stop to swim.  

Astin left the group last year and now Kristine and I are the main organizers.  We  continue to offer weekly rides from mid-April until the end of September.  Other Ambassadors keep the weekly rides going into November.  I am very excited to be part of a group that runs smoothly with a minimum of bureaucracy.

I know that many friendships have formed because of this group.  I have made a couple of great friends myself.  A sense of community is central to what we are trying to do.

During the evolution of this group we have had to deal with various issues.  The rapid increase in riders was a challenge.  Leading a group of 30 people on a ride is very different from leading a group of 10.  I have had to develop my skills as a ride leader.  We have had to make sure that the party rides had at least one sweeper.  A sweeper rides at the very back of the group and makes sure no one is left behind.  We have  had to help with flat tires and other mechanical difficulties.  I have led  a few rides that I felt were not organized enough and I have learned from those experiences. 

Recently the Ambassadors met to plan for our new season of rides.   We have all kinds of rides planned and sponsorship from both Monkey House and Four Quarters.  We are  considering offering a ride on Friday. We continue to be sponsored by the City of Winooski. In our announcements before the rides we will be more intentional about welcoming newcomers and going over the conventions and rules for group rides.  We want to be a safe and considerate group of riders.

Our first ride of the year will be on April 17th.  We meet at 5:30 PM behind Winooski Wheels.  As always we will offer a relaxed Party Ride and a more challenging Business Ride.  For more information and to see the routes ahead of time, you can follow The Winooski Bike Gang on WhatsApp, Instagram or Strava.  We try to get the rides up by Monday of each week.

Peter Burns

About the Author: Peter Burns is a long-time bike enthusiast, and one of the original year-round bike riders in the greater Burlington area. In addition to writing about walking and biking, Peter teaches a variety of bike workshops. He also works at a group home for people with psychiatric disabilities, teaches classes for the Vermont Humanities Council, teaches swimming at the Burlington YMCA, and is a regular host of Storytelling VT.  You can contact Peter at heatofhistory @