Over 2,500 bike riders turned out to ride with pro cyclist Tom Danielson and actor Patrick Dempsey at Ride On, Tucson. An event best described as the 40-mile El Tour de Tucson combined with Cyclovia Tucson.
Spandex-clad racers, riders in tennis shoes and jeans and kids all showed up for a chance to ride with a celebrity, pro cyclists or just to enjoy the streets without cars on them.
The ride was the brainchild of actor Patrick Dempsey, pro cyclist Tom Danielson and Bicycling magazine Editor Peter Flax. They worked with local cycling advocates to make the ride happen in three short weeks.
“Our big idea was that we wanted to get people out in a safe environment that is different than a fondo,” Dempsey said. “You don’t have to have a lot of experience, but we want to have a nice place to celebrate cycling.”
The “Grey’s Anatomy” actor brought his family out to ride with him.
Danielson, who is currently suspended from professional cycling because of doping, said he envisioned the event as a way to get people to fall in love with cycling like he did.
“You can give people bikes all day long, you can tell people how great cycling is, but if you give them an experience they never forget, they are going to stay with the sport,” he said. “They are going to preach it to other people and they are going to join it and that is what we are doing here.”
Flax said Bicycling magazine is trying to reach out into other aspects of cycling and events like Ride On, Tucson are just one way they want to do that.
“We are a 52-year-old brand so people have a lot of ideas about what we represent,” he said. ”We think that a growing part of our space is people that commute to work, people who ride to the coffee shop or the farmers market or people who that don’t ever wear spandex, but still love riding bikes.”
Duncan Benning, the ride’s associate director, said he was pleased with how the event came together especially given how little time they had to organize.
He said there were 1,000 people at the start, but another 1,500-2,000 people joined the route throughout the day.
Benning said Dempsey’s presence was the curve ball in the whole thing. He said they weren’t sure how many people would come just to see him and not really be interested in riding bikes.
Yesterday’s ride was a sort of test to see if the trio’s event can be replicated elsewhere. Dempsey said he’d like to see more of these events throughout the United States.
“Today is an experiment quite honestly,” Dempsey said. “We’ll see what worked and what didn’t work. We’d like to do more events in communities that have an infrastructure in places, but need a little more energy and visibility. If we could do six events a year around the country following the weather around, we’d like to be able to do that.”
Did you make the ride? What did you think? How did it go?