Every Thursday at 9 p.m. on the corner of 900 South and 900 East, something unusual happens: hundreds of people gather informally on their bikes for a weekly ride around Salt Lake City.
It started as an event called An Evening in the City with Naresh, where two friends decided they were going to host a ride around the city, and has since grown into the 999 Ride (SLC).
“We really didn’t have any plans, we just got people together and went riding,” said Skylar Hoellein, an original 999 rider. “The first ride was about 10 of us and we rode around the city and the route we rode is still used today called the original 999 route.”
Hoellein’s friend Naresh Kumar reached out to him after leading a ride for the Outdoor Retailer Show and wanting to start something similar.
“We were a really good team for putting something like this together,” Hoellein said. “We specifically made it a point to have no expectations for what it is and let it be whatever that night wants to be.”
Their idea was to host a ride that anyone with any skill level could enjoy.
“The cycling community can be a little pretentious and intimidating,” Hoellein said. “We really wanted to break that stereotype down and just let people know that they can go for a bike ride without wearing spandex and being super fit.”
Hoellein and Kumar made that their core rule and even taught one girl how to ride a bike before they went out.
This philosophy attracts people from all walks of life, drawing crowds of up to 200 people during peak season, according to Tristan Palola, a Spanish and Latin American studies major at Westminster College.
“The crowd is generally hipster, and the funny thing about it is that there are so many people that go — especially during the height of the summer after sunset when it’s not hot out,” he said. “There are so many bikers that it usually takes up the streets and kind of blocks off traffic.”
The majority of those riders tend to be students, according to Jack Graham, an art major at Westminster.
“It’s mostly younger people,” he said. “People from the [University of Utah] and Westminster, but you also see a few older people.”
Some consistent attendees bring modified bikes to entertain other riders.
“Its cool to see people’s homemade bikes,” Graham said. “Some people have stereos, some sit two bikes high and it’s funny to watch them ride.”
Palola, who has only been to the 999 Ride a handful of times, said the large group of bikers gets mixed reactions on the streets.
“Some people are really pissed, and the people who are really nice are probably the people who own a bike or who have biked before,” he said. “But generally speaking people are usually pretty friendly.”
Winter is coming and the 999 Ride is slowing down, but there are usually still a few people who ride religiously every week. To be part of the action, show up on 900 South 900 East on Thursdays at 9 p.m.
Correction (updated at 10:06 PM on Nov. 20): A previous version of this article implied the 999 Ride happens less frequently than it does. The ride occurs every Thursday at 9 p.m.