Bike Man Ray Strack on Cycling, Art, and Music in Fort Lauderdale

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In a party town like Fort Lauderdale, known for its three-for-one happy hours and beachy debauchery, Ray Strack stands out. 

As a bicycle advocate, he brings an active subculture to "Fort Liquerdale." He co-organizes nightly bike rides and monthly bike meetups like Critical Mass, a group bike ride that spun out of San Francisco in the early '90s and occurs locally in Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Strack and friends lead a group of cyclists on the last Friday of every month on a 15-mile pedaling, offering humorous banter, and philosophical points on how to grow Fort Lauderdale's progressive culture along the way. 

While he's serious about sharing the road and bicycle safety, he doesn't mind acting silly while doing so. He's often spotted wearing colorful bow ties and holiday-themed gear on two wheels. His larger-than-life personality and

zest for life is so infectious, you walk away wanting him as your

best friend. At 50-something Strack knows a bit about life, so it was time we chatted him up to share his perspective on Fort Lauderdale culture.

New Times: What do you like about living in a place like Fort Lauderdale? 

Ray Strack: I think Fort Lauderdale is a big, small town. It's big enough to have a good vibrant art and entertainment district. But at the same time, if you're actively attending events you end up seeing the same people. Fort Lauderdale is small enough where you don't feel like a stranger.

What's going on with Fort Lauderdale Critical Mass?

Critical Mass, when we started with a handful of people back in January 2011, it's really grown to a diverse group of different ages and interests. Last month's ride, 200 people came out. The ride is socially dynamic, people get out of the house, and turn off the TV, and actually do something together. 

What do you think about the local art scene?

I like FAT Village because it's local. I can get onto my bike and go. It means I can have a few drinks. I don't have to start a car. FAT Village obviously isn't going to have famous artists like Wynwood Walls would have, but there's a place for everything. There's also Sailboat Bend Artists Lofts, where you have to be a juried artist to live there. That's way cool. 

So do you ever head to Miami?

Sometimes for big events. Decentralizing is huge to me. I think people should strive to be positive and connected to where they reside. 

Do you ever check out any shows?

I'm an old guy. I listen to late '60s rockers to new acts. I go to Culture Room and Revolution for nationally touring acts. In the past year, we saw Johnny Winter, Leon Russell, Hot Tuna. Arctic Monkeys at Revolution, that show was incredible.

Do you like any local bands?

The Goddman' Hustle. I've seen them play and I'm a huge fan. Huge. 

Do you listen to music while you ride your bike?

No. I'm anti-headphones. I think a bike is not the time or place to wear them. Bike riding is such a sensory activity especially on the streets you have to be alert and aware. And you can't do that while you listen to music.

Other than Critical Mass, what else are you organizing for the bike community?

We started doing a second Saturday "fun, party ride" for four months now. Thirty-something riders come out. It's a rolling party, a party of bicycles similar to a pub crawl. Not for the meek rider; it's for a special breed. What I say is, if you come once, you'll know if you like it.

What would you like to see happen in Fort Lauderdale?

I'd like to see reduced speed limits, safe roads, and more bike lanes. East-west bound on Broward, Sunrise, Oakland, Commercial Boulevards are all very dangerous. Bikes are safe on roads with speed limits of 30 to 35 mph. 

What's up next?

There's a few bike charity food rides. Cranksgiving Miami (on Nov. 17), we're heading there with a bunch of 954 people. And in December, we're going to try to run a similar ride in Lauderdale called Merry Crankmas. There's bike polo on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. And night rides go on Monday through Thursday, with various coordinators. 

To stay in the Fort Lauderdale bike loop, visit ftlbikes.com or visit Fort Lauderdale Critical Mass on Facebook.  

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