Meet the Mild Riders, Spokane’s chillest (and only) scooter gang | Arts & Culture | Spokane | The Pacific Northwest Inlander
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Erick Doxey photo
The Mild Riders zip through West Central Spokane.
Whizzing through West Central Spokane on the back of a scooter, the wind whipping around your face, offers a new perspective to getting around town.
Unobstructed views and the euphoric feeling of zooming through the air at 30 miles an hour are familiar sensations to anyone who rides a bike — pedal, electric or gas-powered — motorcycle, or, heck, even a lime scooter or a skateboard.
On a recent unseasonably chilly Monday evening, I’m tagging along with the Mild Riders for their one-year anniversary ride to see what the local “scooter gang” is all about.
Founded last year by Spokane artists and scooter enthusiasts Tiffany Patterson and Ruben Villarreal, the Mild Riders are a small but passionate group of scooter owners who meet for weekly rides starting at Value Village north of the Spokane Arena.
By definition, a scooter is a two-wheeled transport with a floorboard to place your feet, versus the straddle-style seat of a motorcycle. Forming a friendly local scooter gang — by all accounts the city’s first and only such congregation; North Idaho, meanwhile, has the Two Percent Scooters—was a long dream envisioned by both founders.
“We lived close to each other knew over in West Central, and each other beforehand just from the local art scene,” Villarreal says. “But then we would see each other around on our scooters, and I was like, man, it would be so cool to start a little scooter gang.”
Both artists had been riding for several years prior to the Mild Riders’ inception. Villarreal bought his cherry red, 2009 Honda Metropolitan scooter not long after he quit drinking, and realized how much money he’d saved by not going out to bars.
“Somehow it got in my head, and I was like, ‘Oh my god, a scooter would be so fun’ — summertimes in Spokane, zipping around,” he says. “So I found one on Craigslist from a retired firefighter in Coeur d’Alene.”
Patterson also discovered scooters during a significant period of transition, after going through cancer treatments and ending a long-term relationship. Her first scooter, “Darla,” is a 1980s-era, cotton-candy pink Honda Elite she bought for just $250.
“I started immediately commuting on her all the time,” Patterson recalls. “And I’d see Ruben, and he told me about the scooter gang [idea] and I was like, ‘We totally need to do that!'”
“I don’t know how I came up with Mild Riders,” Villarreal says. “We’re just taking it easy, not going too fast. Chill. Mild Riders.”
Any and all scooter riders are invited to join the Mild Riders Mondays at 6 pm — updates on weekly rides are posted on the group’s Instagram, @mild.riders.spokane. Getting the word out and recruiting riders has been a gradual but steady process. Weekly rides have seen anywhere from a couple to more than a dozen riders show up, depending on the weather.
“The first ride that we did, I made flyers and we posted them everywhere and we somehow got it onto some motorcycle forums,” Patterson says. “So there were all these, like, sport bikes that showed up. And we definitely had a Harley guy who was kind of playing it cool and then just left immediately once we started.”
Since many scooters in the group have a max speed of 35 to 40 miles per hour, the group picks routes that are less trafficked by cars and usually offer scenic views. Recent rides have taken them up north to the Little Spokane River area along Rutter Parkway, and south around the Latah Valley. Last summer when the region experienced a record-breaking heatwave, the Mild Riders met after dark and made a pit stop at Boulder Beach in the Spokane Valley to cool off in the river.
“We’re just cruising the whole time,” Villarreal says. “Some of the rides we’ve been on have been so awesome, finding and exploring roads around town that I never knew were here.”
To become an “official” member of the Mild Riders, Patterson and Villarreal came up with a short list of initiation tasks, inspired by quirky rites of passage for other scooter gangs in the Pacific Northwest, and even hardcore motorcycle gangs.
The first requirement is having a cup holder on your scooter.
“The first time Ruben and I were riding together, we pulled up at a stoplight and he just like, pulls out a LaCroix and cracks it open and takes a drink and puts it back,” Patterson says. “And I was like, ‘this is magic,’ so we decided one of the rules to becoming a patched member is that you have to have a cup holder.”
Other prerequisites include owning your own scooter, doing a non-romantic good deed for a stranger, and, once you’ve been given a fabric patch with the group’s logo, it has to be sewn onto something like a jacket or bag.
“I really wanted some of those traditions because when I went to Portland and saw scooter culture — which I didn’t know existed before then — I was like, ‘holy shit, this is amazing, how do we not have this?'” Patterson says.
“I just think Spokane doesn’t know what that really looks like, and for the most part [we] kind of got skipped over with scooter gangs. And we pass people on scooters all the time,” she continues.
Riding in a staggered pack through town, the Mild Riders definitely turn heads and get plenty of waves, honks and hollers from onlookers marveling at the group’s novelty. The gang’s members themselves are a diverse mix, too, in their backgrounds and their style of scooters, from sporty-looking to retro-inspired models, even some that more closely resemble motorcycles or dirt bikes.
For the most part, Patterson and Villarreal say they’ve not had many issues, personally or as a group, with inconsiderate drivers. They do, however, encourage fellow scooter riders to remain cautious in heavy traffic. Riding in a group offers more visibility as it’s hard to miss eight or so scooters in pack formation.
“There’s a lot of kindness just in general, riding scooters,” Villarreal says. “Everybody’s pretty kind and welcoming and it’s fun.”
“You absolutely cannot have a bad time riding a scooter,” Patterson says. “I think if people tried it once, there would be a lot more people on scooters.” ♦
Mild Riders’ Weekly Scooter Gang Rides • Mondays at 6 pm • Free • Starts at Value Village • 708 W. Boone Ave. • Instagram: @mild.riders.spokane