Y ou can hear it echoing off the buildings of downtown, through the alleys and across the Green. It rings off the arches of the Temple Street Garage, sounds faintly through the windy corridor of Federal Plaza and bounces off the stony, glassy facade of the Yale University Art Gallery.

Woo! Woohoo!

It’s the unmistakable sound of people having fun, on the Elm City Party Bike. The revelry is in the drinking, the camaraderie and the pedaling, not the speed. The fastest the Bike has ever been recorded going, co-owner Christian Bruckhart says, is a white-knuckled 16 miles an hour. But that’s pretty speedy for a covered 15-seater bicycle, and as I discovered, even half of that feels pretty fast while aboard.

sponsored by

Made in New Haven

My fellow pedalers, hailing from Durham, were celebrating a birthday. The driver, in our case Bruckhart, steered the ship and supplied the ice. The partiers, meanwhile, brought a cooler of suds and hard seltzer, plus a pizza and assorted snacks. When Bruckhart and Billy Provenzano, the former’s assistant and cousin, rolled up to the corner of Temple and Crown, where the riders had been instructed to gather, there was some nervous shuffling. With a sleek and narrow silhouette, the 20-foot Party Bike didn’t seem big enough to fit all of us, not to mention the cooler and the snacks.

Six seats, each with a set of pedals beneath them, line either side, facing inward across a narrow bar, which has cupholders and USB chargers. At the rear, a rumble seat cozily sits three non-pedalers. Wonder of wonders, the cooler went into a panel beneath the floor; purses and bags went into an overhead shelf; and as soon as someone synced a party playlist to the Bike’s built-in Bluetooth speakers, all trepidation dissipated. “Your pedaling will move the Bike,” Bruckhart told us—battery power is available for propulsion if riders get exhausted—and pedal we did.

The Elm City Party Bike is the product of a partnership between Bruckhart and local historian and architect Colin Caplan, who has also written for this publication. Bruckhart had been looking for a fun side business to complement his more serious role as a New Haven police officer, while Caplan was already running a complementary business: Taste of New Haven, which offers food and drink tours on foot. After years of planning, the Party Bike finally hit the streets just in time for St. Patrick’s Day 2017, becoming the first of its kind in New England.

At first, expectations for the Bike’s reception were kept low. “If we could do five rides a week, from May to September, we’ll at least cover our costs,” Bruckhart remembers thinking. But demand is such that they now coast through downtown 15 to 17 times a week, as downtown residents can attest thanks to all those passing woo!s. The Bike, Bruckhart tells me, will roll the streets as long as the weather lets it.

For now, the Bike runs even when it’s raining, and Bruckhart says people don’t mind—and even tend to enjoy—getting a little wet. Later, while pedaling for my life, I would understand why: It’s a workout.

On the ride, Bruckhart, who was driving, told us our destination was “wherever you guys want to go.” Downtown was our oyster. All around were bars and restaurants to stop at, many of which had specials for Bikers like us. While our journey was laissez-faire, more specialized excursions are also offered, including a historical tour, a cocktail-making class on the go and even a ghost tour hosted by a medium.

During the course of our two-and-a-half-hour ride, we would trace a meandering path across the city, stopping at Three Sheets on Elm Street, Christopher Martin’s on State Street, The Beer Collective on Court Street and Temple Street Grill near Temple and Crown, where we’d started.

It was a beautiful evening, August heat easing into cooler September. Heads turned from inside restaurants and pedestrians watched open-mouthed as the Bike coasted past. Moving at a pace a little faster than a jogger and a little slower than a normal bicycle, both runners and lone cyclers tried to race us, and I’ll admit it: As the Bike’s speakers blasted the theme from Rocky, I found myself turning into the wind and yelling, “Woo!”

Elm City Party Bike
Pickup: Corner of Temple and Crown Streets, New Haven (map)
Pricing: $35 per person, or $30 for military, emergency, educational and healthcare personnel; $450 for the whole Bike; advance registration required
(888) 971-3272
Website | Ride Schedule/Booking

Written by Anne Ewbank. Photos 1-2, featuring Billy Provenzano and Christian Bruckhart, respectively, by Anne Ewbank. Photo 3, of the Bike being driven by Colin Caplan at the 2017 St. Patrick’s Day Parade, by Dan Mims.

Tags: , , , , , ,

A California native and world traveler, Anne came to New Haven for graduate school and discovered that New England is as cold as everyone said it was. She loves reading books, playing guitar, exploring new towns and taking road trips but only as long as she gets to pick the music.

Leave a Reply