TOUR de TACO and Mike’s Bikes Rental Bikes
If you’re mostly interested in my review of Mike’s Bikes rental bikes, feel free to skip to the end. If you also want to hear about my taco bike ride adventure, keep reading.
I was recently invited to participate in something called TOUR de TACO here in St. Louis, Missouri. The organizer, Mike’s Bikes, maps out a bike ride between four local taco bars and participants get a taco at each stop. To be honest, all I really read was “four taco bars” and immediately accepted on behalf of myself and also signed up my boyfriend, Pedro, and his brother, Carmelo, who was in town during the event. I decided to ignore the fact that I haven’t done more than a casual bike ride since I biked across the Golden Gate Bridge many years ago and that my boyfriend never works out. We also don’t own bikes, but Mike’s Bikes shop has rental bikes, so it all seemed like a perfectly whimsical and fun Sunday activity.
The night before the event, the route was posted. It was 18 miles long.
I’ve made a huge mistake.
I stared at the map as I sat in a recliner, eating sour straws, and thought, “I have completely over committed. None of us are ready for an 18 mile ride.” We all sat in shock, debating whether or not we should bail. I had a vision of 100 professional cyclists, all geared up like it was the Tour de France, and then the 3 of us, dressed in t-shirts and old sneakers, huffing and puffing, struggling to pedal our rented bicycles. It was pretty discouraging. However, my love of tacos is strong, and I decided we would at least try it.
The rental bikes were way nicer than I expected
Mike’s Bikes offered a pretty sweet discounted rate of $10 for bike rentals for the TOUR de TACO. I loved the cheap price, but I was expecting to get the rusty, back-of-the-store rejects. We were all pleasantly surprised to find that the bikes were super nice. They had 7 speeds, which were easy to change, a comfortable/lightweight design, and they even came with bells. Pedro, Carmelo, and I used the bells a lot throughout the ride as a way to check in with each other, which is definitely not what those bells are for. However, we later found out that other riders thought we were group leaders signaling to participants, so at least some people appreciated our overzealous bell ringing.
During the ride, a girl rode up next to me and complimented me on my bike. She was surprised to find out it was just a rental. I spoke with some Mike Bike’s employees afterwards to make sure the bike I had was the one they rented on a regular basis, and they assured me that the near $500 bike I was riding was a standard rental bicycle. I’ve rented bikes in several cities, and I’ve never gotten one as nice as this one.
Leg 1: I’m doing it! I’m riding! I’m basically a professional!
The first leg was from Mike’s Bikes to Mission Taco, which is about 6 miles. The ride was mostly flat, and everyone was really pumped up, so it felt deceptively easy. At some point during this leg, Pedro had a bicycle malfunction and my heart was warmed by how many fellow participants stopped to help fix the bike chain so that we could all continue on our very important taco journey. Gone were my fears of being surrounded by elitist cyclists. I arrived at Mission Taco full of a sense of camaraderie and false confidence.
The line for tacos at Mission was a bit of a disaster, so I consoled myself by spiking my orange juice with tequila that I had stashed in my bag. I figured 1800 silver tequila paired well with an 18 mile bike ride. I slammed back two tacos; fish and chicken al pastor. The taco included in the ride (fish) was only all right, but the chicken al pastor was worth paying for out of pocket. Satisfied with our tacos and tequila, we hopped back on our rental bikes and took off for stop number two.
Leg 2: Nope. Hills are hard. I’m an amateur at best.
Nothing knocks your bike riding confidence down like some inclines! This leg was also around 6 miles, but the number of small hills make it feel longer. I managed to ride the whole way through without walking my bike up any of the inclines, but I felt a little more fatigued when I arrived at Taco Circus. I was pleased to see that Taco Circus had set up a much more efficient Taco Buffet, which meant I could quickly build a taco and plant myself in the grass with a cold beer. This place had the added bonus of a wide variety of homemade salsas. This stop had the best tacos and salsa of the day and I made a note to come back to Taco Circus to gorge on chips and salsa at a later date.
Leg 3: I have found my tribe.
By this time, the participants seemed to have organized themselves into groups: Actual bike enthusiasts, Amateur cyclists, People who enjoy casual bike rides, and People who are mostly here for tacos and beer. We fell in between the casual bike riders and beer and taco lovers. We rode amongst them, trying to stay close enough to people who were smart enough to bring a bluetooth speaker so that we could listen to music. At one point a girl rode up next to me and said “I like your shirt and everything about you.” I don’t know who she is or where she is now, but I hope we run into each other again so we can become friends who occasionally ride bikes between taco bars together.
The third stop was Atomic Cowboy, which had a nice outdoor patio and plenty of water coolers for bottle refills. I loved the location, but the tacos were by far my least favorite. I had some more tequila, refilled my water bottle, and took off for the final stop.
Leg 4: I’m really sad this is over.
The final leg was short, and I found myself wishing it would last longer. As we pulled into Burro Loco, we were greeted with cheers and applause, as if we had done something more impressive than eat tacos all day. It was glorious. Here, I indulged in some delicious queso dip, and was awarded with a giant margarita trophy.
TOUR de TACO Verdict: Perfect taco to riding ratio
I started the day terrified that I wouldn’t be able to handle all 18 miles, but at the end of the ride, I wanted to keep going. Mike’s Bikes did a great job of spacing out the stops in a way that never kept you on the bike long enough to start feeling overly fatigued. You were always close to a taco stop and a beer, which is a really great feeling. Even Pedro, who is not very physically active, had an absolute blast and immediately wanted to know when the next event would be.
Mike’s Bikes Rental Bikes: Highly Recommended
To be clear, I am under no obligation to review/recommend Mike’s Bikes, as my invite was for only the Tour de Taco. I paid for my rental bike. However, I was impressed, and wanted to be able to share a bit more about the shop.
The rental bikes and the service that came along with them were excellent. During my travels I’ve rented bikes in several cities and the bikes are usually pretty lame. The bike shops tend to lead you to a stack of old, clunky bikes, and the employees don’t offer much more than a waiver to sign. Mike Bike’s employees were kind and encouraging. They also made sure that we were paired up with bikes that matched our heights, and waited for us to do a test ride so that they could adjust the seats.
One of my biggest complaints about St. Louis is that it’s hard for visitors to get around without a car. However, with a high quality bike, one could easily see a huge portion St. Louis. Clearly, Mike’s Bikes is knowledgable about the area, and I am sure they would be able to accommodate any tourists who wanted to explore the city solely on rental bikes. They offer daily, weekend, weekly, and extended bike rentals for reasonable prices. I personally hope to visit them again, whether it be for a self-guided tour or another one of their events.
As for TOUR de TACO, I will most definitely be back next year!