Who are the Hamilton Glowriders?
I had the opportunity to rent a Hamilton Social Bicycle and explore the city at night with the infamous social biking crew, the Hamilton Glowriders. There is no cost associated with riding in the group, and I was surprised to discover that some of the most inspiring people of Hamilton are the city people that share their stories of having a fun idea and building cool shit. Not everyone has the resources or the inclination to start their own business, and for new-comers to the city it can be difficult to know where to start. The citizens who contribute the most to this city are the people that foster vibrant online communities that bring people together, and inspire others to do the same. Tyler Roach, one of the founders, is one of these positive minded, supportive forces that help make the city a cool place to live. We sat down for an interview after a ride.
We’ve had a lot of run-ins with the cops. And every single one has been wonderful.
– Tyler Roach
An interview with Tyler Roach
Justin: Hey Tyler, can you tell me a little bit about the history of the Glowriders?
The glow riders started as an idea. This is the fourth summer, so it would have been 2012. It was a rag tag group of 12 founders for the first summer. We were experimenting with different Glowrider ideas of when and where to ride, figuring out an image and brand for the glow ride to prepare for an October art glow ride. It was cold and the glow sticks didn’t work.
The Glowriders originally started on a subreddit for Hamilton. The first batch of glow sticks were gifted by one of the moderators from r/Hamilton to help launch the Glowriders.
Justin: Cool, so tell me more about the Glowriders’ relationship with reddit? What advice could you give to other groups who want to gain the success and exposure that you guys have managed to reach. Everyone in Hamilton seems to recognize the Glowriders. I’ve personally been on a ride where I have witnessed people tweeting about the crew as you were riding. You must have the best PR guy in town. How did this happen?
— Laura Parker (@LaCaParker) September 27, 2015
Tyler: Well it helps being friendly with the community and being recognized by people who you have met and had existing relationships. Using Facebook, Twitter, and word of mouth as exposure to grow your group organically. Word of mouth has probably been the most effective. Does that answer your question?
Justin: Cool, so why r/community?
Tyler: It was the first community group I joined when I moved to Hamilton, and it was a large part of the success of the Glowriders.
Justin: That’s amazing. So how many current riders were on that original summer crew?
Tyler: I think we started with around a dozen people. As far as I know, everyone has come back or been involved in some capacity. In many ways they are the original gangsters of the group.
Justin: Gangsters? What the hell are you talking about Tyler?
Tyler: The Glowriders is a bike gang, we take this very seriously. We try to build harmony for all road users, and encourage a fun safe place for people to ride their bicycles. We’re here to spread good cycling vibes and promote healthy commuting in Hamilton.
Critical Mass: Glowrider CBC shoutouts
Justin: Let’s talk about some fame: Tell me about being featured on the CBC and what did that mean for the glow ride?
Tyler: We were featured in the 2012 Fall Edition of Hamilton Magazine. But the spring of this year, we got a shout-out on CBC Hamilton for “What to do This Weekend” and that just blew up. New people found out that there was a gang of people being fun and silly on bikes and they joined in.
— CBCHamilton (@CBCHamilton) June 21, 2015
Justin: What about the police? Have you had any run-ins?
Tyler: Unfortunately yeah, we’ve had a lot of run-ins with the cops. And every single one has been wonderful. They have been supportive of our gang and what we’re trying to do for the city. We’ve had officers tell us this is great for the city, and it’s been good. We’ve been spreading good cycling vibes in a lawless land, and its good.
Justin: Have the bike police ever joined in?
Tyler: No unfortunately they have not. But we would love it if they could some day. As long as they are willing to get turnt up.
Bars of choice
Justin: What are the bars of choice for a typical glow ride?
Tyler: We always plan the rides down Augusta street. It’s a fun way to end the run, and you get lots of cheers and encouragement from people on the patio. Augusta street has always been a good place to end. Lots of people can pick a bar they want. The Glowriders were actually founded on the back patio of the Winking Judge. That is where we gathered and talked about how ridiculous this whole idea is. That’s where we decided on a name: The Hamilton Glowriders. So the Winking Judge will always be a favourite for some, and it will always be our post glow ride home. But..
Tyler: The Celiah House threw a great party with drink specials tailored to the Glowriders for our last ride. That was pretty cool. They even had bicycle parking in a secure bike corral.
Justin: Are there any famous nicknames of Glowriders?
Tyler: We don’t keep records of that.
Justin: What about your favourite SoBi bike?
Tyler: Top of mind, “Turn down for what”
Justin: Could you describe your favourite glow ride? The most memorable one over-all.
Tyler: Probably the first one of this year. The glow rides doubled in size, and I showed up to the park when I’m normally the first one there. But there was already 15-20 people waiting before me, and I thought, Wow, that’s more than half than regular. And more people showed up, and it created a movement and made the rides even more fun.
— Courtney Sanderson (@CourtneySarah86) July 26, 2015
Glow Riders in 2016
I had the opportunity to ride with Tyler on the last ride of the 2015 season. There was a full moon and the city was mild in temperature so the ride didn’t feel like a lot of effort. I was curious about the future of the glow riders, and what we should expect for next years’ round of monthly glow rides. I asked Tyler a few more questions before we ended our interview.
The Future of Hamilton Glowriders
Justin: So Tyler, what’s in store for next year? What can we expect from the Glowrider crew?
Tyler: You can expect that we will be more turnt than ever. Last summer I went to the Toronto Bike Rave, which is a one night only affair in Toronto. It was a glow ride on steroids. There were so many people I couldn’t believe it. Being surrounded by that many cyclists made me realize it wouldn’t be terrible if the Hamilton Glowriders built a crew to get more people out during the summer, doing something active. Enjoying themselves.
Justin: That sounds like a pretty cool plan. How do we sign up?
Tyler: Ah, to be determined for now. You can check out our Facebook page where we are most active. Facebook.com/HamiltonGlowRiders. Eventually before next season we will complete our website upgrades, a mailing list, and other ways to stay in touch with the Hamilton Glow Riders.
Justin: Thanks Tyler, what does a Glowrider do in the winter?
Tyler: A Glowrider is still riding their bike hopefully. But glow sticks don’t work well in the cold. Winter is a time to refuel, refocus, and find the new amazing set of glow lights for the next summer. Hmm. I don’t know if I like that answer. Can I change it?
Photos courtesy of Don Gleeson.