Last year Slow Roll Buffalo turned out to be a big hit, with hundreds of cyclists gathering together to take to the streets of Buffalo.
This year, Slow Roll is going to be all that and more. According to co-founder Anthony “Tone” Caferro, Buffalo’s Slow Roll was so successful in 2014, that the grassroots community support has been steamrolling ever since. This past weekend, Tone, along with Co-founder Seamus Gallivan, and six other Buffalo Slow Roll activists, headed to Detroit to participate in the “season opener” that attracted over 3000 cyclists. The Buffalo contingent was allowed to ride in the front of the pack, in order to get a glimpse into the operational aspect of the massive undertaking.
I spoke to Tone about Slow Roll Buffalo, as it relates to the Detroit counterpart – an event that he tells me has become the glue for community building in that city (where Slow Roll was founded). “It’s less about cycling, and more about getting to know the person riding next to you,” says Tone. “Our mission in Detroit was to learn the ropes, because as the Buffalo ride gets bigger, we want to ensure that we interact positively with the community. At this point, Slow Roll Buffalo is the second largest of its kind. Last year was a pilot year for us – this year will be a growth year. Slow Roll is doing great things in Detroit – there are now offshoot cycling businesses, and people are coming together in ways that had never happened before. One of the groups that rides along with Slow Roll is called GMoB – Grown Men on Bicycles… it’s a bunch of older guys who feel comfortable riding with Slow Roll because of the slow pace that is set.”
Talking to Tone, it is clear that Slow Roll Buffalo is destined for great things. Not only is he learning from his buddies at Slow Roll Detroit, he also has a lens into the future, so that Buffalo can prepare for what’s to come. Tone understands that the Buffalo grassroots movement will most likely need to be structured much the same way that Detroit is currently. “The “roll” in Detroit is military style,” Tone points out. “Now that they are so big, they have squad leaders, corkers, sweepers, mechanics… and as of this year the City made them register at the start. That was a bit of a nightmare… when the City realized what it would take to get 3000 people registered before the noon start time, they threw their hands into the air and just let everyone ride. We will see what they come up with next time.”
As Slow Roll Buffalo comes into its own, we will see how everything flushes out. In the meantime, I have spoken to business owners who have already experienced the benefits of seeing hundreds of cyclists roll up to their front doors (Resurgence Brewery was the largest at 450). While speaking with Evan Thompson at HandleBar Pub recently, he told me that the surge of customers was beyond what they expected. When you consider the long-lasting effects of introducing that many new customers to an establishment, the benefits are priceless.
Last year, the youngest Slow Ride Buffalo participant was 6 years old. The oldest was 85. Buffalonians have already embraced the movement, much the way the community initially did in Detroit. “Slow Roll got really popular when the founder appeared on an iPad commercial,” laughs Tone. “After that, 100 cities asked to join. We were lucky to get in early because we’re friends with the founding members. There is a wait time for cities to get in on the action, because the “roll” has become so popular. There’s even one in Sweden. What started with a “bike nerdy crew” in Buffalo, has become an event series that will see 25 “rolls” this summer, hosted at different venues each week, with a half dozen routes. The “roll” is for people who want to ride. A lot of people stick around for the after party, which is great, but it’s not necessarily about that. It’s about getting people outside, enjoying the company of others, breathing the fresh air, and feeling good. We want it to grow, but it’s more important that people have a good time and enjoy themselves. We don’t know where we will be at the end of the year. We will gauge it then.”
To learn more about Slow Roll Buffalo, including the entire schedule, details, and code of conduct, be sure to visit SlowRollBuffalo.org. Or call 716-873-2151 for more info. Also see Facebook for updates.
“This is not an eleitist thing – this is for everyone.” -Tone Caferro