Wishes: One WTF Ride

In the heart of Spring, on the precipice of summer, evening clings like silk fabric onto the last vestiges of sunlight. For the first time in these lengthening days, golden rays of sun spill onto the enthusiastic faces arriving for the monthly Women/Trans/Femme ride. Light cascades into the shop through the roll-up door, casting vibrant warmth upon the concrete.

With just thirty minutes until seven, the weekly WTF Workshop is drawing to a close. In Community Tools, one person wraps up the issue of a sliding off chain. The placement of the ride directly after the Workshop — our empowering weekly space for women, trans people of all genders, and femmes to shop, learn, and build community — offers opportunity for any bike adjustments before riders embark. Richly felt monthlong, the beating heart of our WTF community pulses in acute serenity at the WTF Ride, which departs at 7 PM on the last Monday of each month.

As the sky’s Spring hues yield to the comforting embrace of night, the group gathers in a circle outside the shop. Tonight, it’s a mid-sized gathering; twelve people lean casually against their bikes, readying themselves for the ride ahead. Playfulness and sincerity blend as the round of introductions commence. We exchange names, pronouns, and bike wishes.

This is the theme of tonight’s ride — wishes. Some wish to get into mountain biking; others wish to bike more for fun rather than to commute. Some share their bike mechanics wishes. In the soft glow of dusk, there’s an equal mix of familiar and new faces; seasoned WTF riders mingle alongside those experiencing our monthly ride for the first time.

Tonight, our WTF Coordinator Lee leads the ride; following the theme, they introduce night’s plans and safety structures. Close in hand with fun, safety takes precedence. Warnings of “car back” or “car front” are to be echoed. We’ll begin by riding south towards the Wishing Shrine near the Convention Center, then head east through downtown, before circling back towards the shop. All WTF Rides are no-drop and party-paced, and this one is flat and fun, with only gentle hills, equalling just over seven miles.

The rides are always open to community ride leaders, entrusted with the task of planning and leading the route — sweep riders, who follow in the rear with patch kits — and safety riders, who ensure a smooth journey by blocking traffic at intersections. Tonight, our Education Coordinator Oma is the safety rider, and the sweep rider is Ted, a dedicated community volunteer at BICAS. As we set off down 7th Ave in the direction of the Wishing Shrine, the night illuminated by red bike lights and golden street lamps, we are in very capable hands.

In crisp quality from Lee’s phone, and open to song requests throughout the night, playlist selected for the ride matches the evening’s energy. Loud enough to resonate in our souls yet soft enough for conversation and community among riders, it’s hard to imagine our psychical selves do not soar as our hearts.

With each pause at an intersection, shielded from the traffic by Oma’s fluid movements, the design on our matching spoke cards becomes visible on our stationary wheels beneath the street lights. Crafted to fit snugly between spokes, these cards bear a design of a candle artfully overlaid with the WTF logo, whose colors inverted, pale white upon deep black. On the back of these is a small printout of the ride’s route.

The weather is perfect for this kind of party-paced biking — comfortably temperate in the depth of dusk, with tranquil air that rushes refreshingly past our ears as we pedal forth. Each breath of the peaceful evening air invigorates us. A slight detour presents itself in the stopped train downtown, but Lee easily re-navigates, leading the group towards the main destination by a different path.

Is there a more interesting place to ride than Downtown Tucson? The streets are smooth, and a myriad of alternative paths weave through them. Through the steep descent of 4th Ave that passes beneath train tracks, we’re swept in an exhilarating rush when momentum propels us back up the incline. Between smooth red brick, light dances delicately upon rocks beneath the surface of rectangular pools; like a gossamery eclipse.

None are left to fall behind on any WTF Ride. Ted keeps an eye on the rear of the group, and Oma blocks traffic on her bike at each busy intersection. At the first stop, Lee checks at the if the pace is alright for everyone.

This first stop is the main destination — El Tiradito, the Wishing Shrine.¹ Bathed in the gentle, flickering light of countless candles, the shrine appears illuminated in the spiritual energies of those who left them. There is a tangible connection between the living and the departed, woven through incomplete wishes and fervent prayers. Lee passes around candles and shares the history of the shrine.

Erected in memory of a couple, whose affair between mother-in-law and son-in-law, ended in a brutal death at the hands of a jealous husband, the story differs greatly across versions. In the centuries since, this consecrated ground evolved into a sanctuary where people to pray for the souls of those who would not be prayed for in Catholic churches. As we lay our candles at the shrine to make our wishes and remember the fallen, their spirits stand beside us.

Prayer is profoundly personal and individual. Wishes can be the same. The smoke lifts both to the heavens, and the garden is explored; spending ten minutes to honor this sacred place. Once a vibrant neighborhood, this part of town was demolished to make way for the Tucson Convention Center. In making El Tiradito a historical landmark, this shrine at least was protected.

In the spirit of wishes, as we prepare to set out again, Lee checks in if everyone feels safe riding through the University of Arizona. Like at many universities, where students nationwide² are being subjected to police brutality intended to crush open solidarity with the occupied people of Palestine, there is an ongoing encampment on the U of A campus. With clear consensus, and we ride on.

The structure of group rides is inherently an easygoing community space; conversations start and pause organically as bikes glide alongside one another in narrower or wider paths. There is no pressure to speak yet there is plenty conversation to be had, sparked by the changing environment or the familiarity of communal connections.

Surely, snatches of cordial conversation float through the air as our group makes its way towards the university, passing beneath the spectacular bridge that spans over Broadway. On other rides, we have biked across this bridge, exploring the paved paths that wind through this part of Tucson. On this journey, we stick to the the paved ground that runs parallel to the road.

The energizingly impassioned beats of Mr. Capone-E’s “Free Palestine” grace our playlist as we approach the campus. May their wishes, voices, and decisive action continue to exert pressure our government and the UA president which openly support the ongoing genocide. As we ride past, we send our own wishes of power to the Palestinian people facing atrocities both within and outside Gaza.³

These wishes also towards the protesters at UA, who have since been attacked by the police with tear gas and rubber bullets, especially the four who were arrested (all since released).

After U of A, our path veers back towards our shop where we started. Northward is a slight incline, but these streets are smoother than air. Perhaps we truly are flying, free from the constraints of the planet’s gravity. The gentle breeze tousles our hair and dances off our helmets. A few people announce their intentions to depart before returning to BICAS; heading back to their homes on this side of town. As we ride north along Mountain Ave, they depart on different side streets, and filled with the hopes and wishes of the night.

The very end of the final hill that BICAS is perched on is the steepest part of our journey. Some pedal harder, pushing themselves for that final stretch. Others take it easy, savoring these last moments of the group ride. Together, we all pull to a stop by the door.

Lee opens up the shop, offering access to restrooms and water before each person heads on their own homeward journeys. The ride has left us all invigorated, and the palpable sense of community and positive energy radiates between us all. Some begin the ride home together — our paths diverge, until each of us are at our nighttime destinations.

The WTF Ride is every last Monday in the month. We gather at 6:30 PM and depart at 7 PM! All women, trans people of all genders, and femmes are welcome! The theme of May’s ride is Spring Fling.

¹ El Tiradito, the Wishing Shrine return to text

² Bail funds for protesters at encampments (regularly updated, does not include UA) return to text

³ Palestine donation links return to text