- Seth Gehman flaunts his freedom in Bend's Freedom Ride. Courtesy of Nate Wyeth Photography.
The Fourth of July Freedom Ride is one of those annual Bend institutions going for over a decade—somehow without any central leadership or organization. But over the last few years, the Freedom Ride became less about celebrating American independence and shifted into something else entirely. Here's a peek into the rides happening this July 4 and why you might wanna join in the fun.
The OG Freedom Ride
As drunk, high and close-to-naked as humanly possible
The OG Freedom Ride begins at Bend's Pioneer Park and works its way through downtown, ending up at Columbia Park. Over the last few years the biggest changes have been a shift to a much younger crowd that's as drunk, high and as close to naked as humanly possible. Obviously that's not everyone, but walking through Pioneer Park last year before the ride started, it was easy to lose count of the number of man thongs, body paint and empty PBR cans.
As someone who has lived next to Pioneer Park for almost a decade, I love watching the people slowly congregate in the park and then take off like a flock of drunk birds. There were a few years where the amount of litter left behind made my blood boil, but last year the park was almost spotless after the majority of the group took off.
Since the Freedom Ride has started skewing younger, other smaller rides have sprung up for people looking to celebrate without all of the shenanigans.
Pre-dom to Freedom
Sleuthing skills required to find it
Another new branch off of the Freedom Ride is the "Pre-dom to Freedom" ride, a precursor to the OG Freedom Ride. Samuel Benjamin Newman, from Bend Cruiser Ride, explains the difference between the two: "The largest differences between the rides are two factors. First: Music. We have prepared the most American playlist you can imagine. Then we turn it to 11 while we ride bikes. It's truly not bad. Second: The Pre-dom ride is an actual bike ride with a route, planned stops and some interaction with the organizers. The freedom ride has a larger scope. It is fun because of the sheer scale of the number of people and bikes together. I will say it is much less of a bike ride. More of a bike scoot."
According to Newman, "The route is classified above top secret," so if you want to get in on the fun, it's time to put your detective skills to work.
But does Bend even need multiple Freedom Rides? Isn't that just more pockets of people spread over more space? Newman explains the reasoning why: "There are two separate rides now for the fact that people want to ride. The Freedom Ride is great, but might not offer everyday cyclists a chance to ride with fewer people. The Pre-dom to Freedom ride aims to honor a community ride that provides enough room to ride comfortably. The Freedom Ride can get a little cramped and because of that (at some points) ceases to be a ride."
There is something uniquely American about riding a bike with friends and strangers to celebrate our country's freedom. "There is no better way of celebrating the freedom we have in the country than on your bike," says Newman. "The amount of wind in your hair, coupled with the fun factor of the many, many people make the Freedom Ride a mega spectacle for people watching, Bend, Oregon, culture, cool bikes and cold beer." It doesn't get much more American than that.
Pre-dom to Freedom meets at Noon at Bend's Columbia Park.
Brian Potwin's (the education coordinator for Commute Options) Independence Ride started and ended at private homes, but picked up people as it went. (Secret location TBD).
Rob Landauer's "Anti-Freedom Ride Freedom Ride" has had some success over the last couple years as the event for people not looking to disrupt the roadways. (Unconfirmed ride, you gotta know someone for details).