Story and photo by Scarlett McCain Denton Live Fall-Winter 2015

“Can I get a hell yeah?”

He stands on the brick flowerbed by the UNT Language Building and punches the sky.

“Hell yeah!”

The crowd standing with their bikes mimics their leader. There’s a familiar spirit in the air – like a sporting event.

Then, with a leap, Bubba, the leader, comes down from his throne and is absorbed into the group, shaking hands all around.

He has one last announcement, though it comes without the manic energy of before – a five minute warning. Call your friends, text them, send smoke signals. Let the stragglers know to get here before it’s too late. Several phones whip out to answer the call.

Tuesday Bike Nights gather riders of all levels each week by the UNT Language Building at 9:30 p.m. It’s for those who are still figuring out how the gears work, those who have ditched their vehicles in favor of a greener form of transportation, and anyone else wanting to pedal.

They set off on routes around Denton that vary each week, anywhere from three to eight miles. Sometimes the riders will stop for a break at a gas station or the playground at Eureka Park. The ride usually finishes around 11 p.m. Riders gather at the square afterward for socializing if they haven’t cruised home.

A regular attendee since 2014, Casey Carroll first spotted the group on the square. He investigated, found their Facebook page and joined in the fun.

“Regardless of where I was and how comfortable I was with bikes, they were welcoming,” Casey said. “It was a community thing that is really easy to be a part of.”

Even bicycle shop owners participate, including Sprockets co-owner Sipo Thao.

“We started doing the Tuesday night ride with the social group, and that was pretty fun,” Sipo said. “It’s a good bike community.”

“The city I was from, Weatherford, didn’t really like cyclists,” Sipo continued. “You’d get stuff thrown at you.” He chuckles, “Yeah, Denton’s a little more bike-friendly.”

Sprockets shares space with NV Cupcakes on Hickory Street next to Hypnotic Donuts and Cultivar Coffee.

“This is my favorite bicycle shop in Denton,” regular customer Aldo Ruiz said. “Sometimes I like to finish my rides here and fix things that need to be fixed on my bike to keep it really solid. There are great people working on bikes here, and they will just help you out, help you get it fixed.”

The other bicycle shops were doubtful about the premise: a shop that sold used bikes? No one would want to spend money there. Other businesses laughed at them for the idea, but Sprockets is a success. For college students, buying a bicycle for $200-$300 is a much more appealing option than shelling out twice that or more for a new bike.

“There’s less of a gap between our customers and ourselves,” longtime employee Brandon Dupre said. “We let customers work on their bikes. We try to keep our business close to the needs of the customer.”

Sprockets expands their inventory based on customers’ needs rather than just sticking to a set business model.

“This has turned into the bike shop that we wanted to have here in Denton five or six years ago,” fellow employee Randall Minick said. “There just wasn’t one at the time. But if this had been here five years ago I would’ve been shopping here the whole time.”