whitney guenther

The excitement on a child’s face when they finally receive their first bike doesn’t seem to fade for some people. Bicycles of every shape, size and color can be seen peddling through the streets of downtown by bicycle enthusiasts of all ages.

Some become very involved in the festive spirit.

The first Thursday night of every month is home to the Thursday Night Bike Happening. The ride, which is not sanctioned or promoted by anyone, is a word-of-mouth event and an opportunity for members from the surrounding communities to come together and enjoy a few laps of fun, this month with an ’80s theme, said rider John Altman of San Luis Obispo.

We do it “because it’s a sense of community and fun,” said Scott Okeefe, 49, of Los Osos. “I’m into electrical vehicles so that’s why I’m here. It’s fun, it’s great.”

Cal Poly student Jensen Hovsepian,a senior civil engineering, said he learned about the event through a friend a few years ago and now tries to attend on a regular basis.

“From what I understand, the event began almost six years ago when a few men got together and went for a ride around town,” Altman said. Usually anywhere from 200 to 300 people come out every month to enjoy the ride, but “this month we’ll have 300 because schools in and it’s bike month and the weather’s good.”

Many people, mostly high-schoolers and older gather at Mission Plaza to enjoy two laps of nothing but “carefree community fun.” After the laps, some of the riders gather in a separate location for other events including bike sumo.

During bike sumo the riders make a small arena-like area with their bikes. Two riders do almost anything possible to eliminate the other rider by making them touch their feet on the ground.

“I’ve never competed in it (bike sumo) because if you ever saw it, it’s terrifying. These guys do wheelies into each other. They go crazy and kick each other. It’s quite dangerous. If you’re a first timer they’ll go a little easier on you, but they get quite aggressive,” said Cal Poly alumnus, Mike VanMiddle, 22, from San Luis Obispo.

Since December 2005, the group that calls itself Los Cajones Locos, has been dressing up in Speedos and holiday costumes for the event. March’s attire included pink Speedos, bunny ears, noses and bandit masks, which are a must, said rider and Cal Poly alumnus Brian Mahoney, 24, of San Luis Obispo.

“It sort of all started in my bedroom. We came across red Speedos and it all started Dec. 1 – red for Christmas,” Mahoney said. “This month is Cinco de Mayo. We’ll come up with something festive and we’ll do it again.”

“This is my first time,” said another member of the group, Daniel Abbot, 25. “I got roped into this. They knew I did crazy stuff in the past. They needed a fifth so I filled the gap. I’m going out in style.”

People begin to gather at the Mission around 9 p.m. and the event kicks off around 9:30 p.m., after the streets have been re-opened from Farmers’ Market. “The plaza’s just wall-to-wall packed,” Altman said.

The event “is a way for people, or students in general, to interact with people they don’t know,” said Patrick Smith, a horticultural landscape design major, who attends the event regularly. “There is something energizing about that, about people who don’t know each other coming together and having fun in a positive atmosphere.”

The Los Cajones Locos boys are not the only ones who dress up for the event. “There are many people who wear costumes and dress up,” VanMidde said. “There are some pretty cool looking bikes as well.”

This month’s ride takes place one day before Cinco de Mayo. Although the theme is ’80s, “we have a few tricks up our Speedos this month,” Hovsepian said.

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