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Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Friday Afternoon Club Unlimited: happy hour on wheels

Bike group hauls the keg and the party

By Jeff Terich
sg-jeff Have keg, will travel.

Friday-afternoon happy hour is one of the greatest of America's traditions. There's little more satisfying than crossing the finish line of a long work week, loosening the necktie and having a round of beers with friends, colleagues or fellow local barflies.

But, suppose that, instead of driving to happy hour, you ride your bicycle. And instead of going to a bar, you take it with you. That's the concept behind Friday Afternoon Club Unlimited (F.A.C.U.), a group bike ride and keg haul started by Jeremy Curran.

The idea is simple: Curran loads a keg of hoppy beer onto his BOB trailer, which he pulls ("Ben-Hur-style") loaded with cups, ice and some stereo speakers. And he and about 30 other cyclists take a 30- to 45-minute ride to a new location each time. At the end of the ride, the participants get their own bike-friendly happy hour.

Curran, a self-described "38-year-old man-child" who runs a warehousing company specializing in outdoor equipment, says he initially got the idea from a similar club in college.

"We used to have a club at Whittier College called F.A.C.U. — basically just a Friday-afternoon keg club," Curran says. "We'd get just, like, a keg of, like, Bud Light—some cheap, nasty beer—and anyone could come. It was three bucks per person, and it was just kind of cool. So, I took that concept and spun it and made it into a new thing."

In past years, similar rides have been organized by Pizza Port in Ocean Beach and Tiger! Tiger! Tavern in North Park, with a slightly different approach. Their rides involve more kegs and potentially more people and conclude inside either bar. F.A.C.U. is more of a DIY operation, with riders getting the added benefit of paying a "suggested donation" of $5 for a bottomless cup.

"You bring me a crisp $5 bill, I give you a cup," Curran says. 

F.A.C.U. events are part of the Urban Bike and Social Club, a local cycling community that Curran started four years ago for the sole purpose of getting more people in the city interested in riding bikes. However, it took a lot of patience and persistence on his part before the club began to take off.

"I started with a Taco Tuesday ride," Curran says. "I wanted to get people out, and I wanted to get a bite to eat. It was crickets at first. I didn't know what I was doing.

"Slowly, it garnered some traffic," he continues. "I picked up some really steadfast followers who started coming every week, which was even more than I could handle. It slowly evolved. We're gaining 15 members a month."

As of now, the Urban Bike and Social Club has close to 1,000 members, about 25 percent of whom are regularly active, Curran says. And for this summer, at least, he plans to organize around one keg haul per month. However, there are lots of other events in the future, from the recurring Taco Tuesday ride to outdoor movie nights.

Curran is passionate about cycling, but he's not so much an activist as an enthusiastic spokesperson. As he says, the way to grow the biking community in town is simply to show people how much fun they can have. 

"My mission was to entice more people to do things they'd normally do in their cars," Curran says. "Like go to a bar, or go to a restaurant, or socialize with your friends. But you'd do it on a bike.

"I think people in the bike community, sometimes, get so serious about their agenda that they forget it's about getting more people out on bikes and having a nice time," he continues. "If you got people out on bicycles and showed them how to have a fun time, whatever you were doing, you were naturally going to create a demand for bicycles." 

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