Crashing the Crash

One of the craziest and most infamous rides in Los Angeles is the Marathon Crash Ride. It is held in the wee hours of the morning before the L.A. Marathon, when the marshals have closed off the city roads for the run the next day.

Thousands of bikes take over the streets for a few short miles, and it is epic. Joann Zwagerman, friend and Big Orange teammate, led a crew out to the Crash Race for the third year, and was kind enough to share this report:

“This was my third year doing the LA marathon bicycle crash ride. The first year, 2016,  I organized about eight people. It was drizzling, foggy, cold and damp. We were late because we had some mechanicals and the feeder ride we latched onto dropped almost their whole group. We adopted them and towed them to the start. We missed the start and had the entire road to ourselves. The whole experience is seeing the mass. Different people, different ages, and everyone on different types of bikes. We were still blown away by being able to ride eight abreast down the middle of Hollywood Boulevard with not one car around us.

“The second year, 2017, we met at The Kettle in Manhattan Beach and there were about sixteen of us. This year, we were in front of the entire group, dodging fixies and breathing in fumes from the police cars that were pacing us. It was stop-and-go and we didn’t really get to see what I felt this ride was all about, which is the people. Not being able to see the critical mass behind us was a huge missed opportunity. Who cares about being in front unless you’re racing? Not I!

“I had actually decided not to do the Crash Ride this year. Actually, until Friday night, I had forgotten I was organizing a feeder ride to the event. Thank god that someone who doesn’t do social media texted and asked me what the plans were! That is so Franzi Utter, the sweetest, cutest woman ever, asked me to do it again because she missed it last year. How could I say no to that girl and her pretty face? Of course I was in. I put out a Strava event on the FDR Facebook page and we had about twenty-five people show up at 1:00 AM at The Kettle.

“Five people were late and had to chase. All but one of them made the feeder ride and the others met us at the start. JP Seal rode all the way down from Santa Monica and was right on time! Pointy fucking sharp people! I will wait on most rides but not on a ride that leaves at 1:00 AM.

“As we rode down Vista Del Mar, I noticed that a young man, sixteen years old and about my son’s age, had the smallest rear light I had ever seen. As a mother hen, I yelled at him, “Turn your light on!”  Then I got nervous. He reached back and was not keeping a straight line. I told him to please wait until we got to the bridge so as not to crash out fifty people. I yelled at the group to stop at the bridge. “What is your name?” I asked. I have memory issues so I already knew I would never remember his name because it wasn’t Bob or Steve or Jack or any one syllable word. “I will just call you Child,” I told him. “You will be known to me as Child for the rest of the night. Now turn on your tiny little goddamn microscopic light.”

“It was dead, of course, not that it would have made any difference given its tininess. I gave him one of my three honking 100-lumen taillights and felt confident that he had a proper light, as the people behind him were wincing. His dad thanked me and then we were off. I rode behind Child the entire way east and lectured him about the importance of lights, not just at night but also in the day. Justin Okubo, who I also call Child because I have another child his age, told Child II to try and get used to my motherly lectures. He said that I treat him the same way even though he isn’t a child anymore, he is 19! Lol! I told Child II if he promised to ride with this light on in the day, it would be my present to him. So he promised. Hope he’s not a little liar like most 16-year-olds making promises to strangers.

“Funny thing, this year, my new pointy-sharp attitude was not appreciated. We were an hour and a half early! We had no mechanicals, no flats, and a bit of a tailwind. That’s what you get for being on time–you get there early. We ended up waiting in the freezing cold for 1.5 hours. We found a Fatburger with no bathroom and that just wouldn’t do. I and another went searching for a more suitable establishment with flushing privileges. We found a 24-hour Subway that was warm and had bathrooms. We waited there until 3:45 AM. I’m sure they loved us.

“We rolled out and instantly started shivering, and it was going to get even colder as the night went on. Heading towards the start, even before we turned the corner, we could smell the reefer and hear all the people. Over a thousand strong and we were approaching them head-on. It was an amazing sight, one that if you’ve never seen before, you should. It’s not like any other bike ride. Not everyone was in a kit or wearing a helmet, by a long shot. There were so many different kinds of bikes. If I could have taken more photos, I would have, but I can barely drink from my water bottle let alone take pictures while I ride, let alone do it in the midst of a thousand stoned crazy people on bikes.

“This is a ride where I would never not have both hands on the bars at all times. There were all-skill sets and no-skill sets, and they were all mish-mashed together. There were people who were high and reckless, and I didn’t want to be crashed out. Amazingly, I didn’t see a single person die.

“I made the speech beforehand so everyone knew what to expect. If you wanted to ride in the front you were welcome to, but you’d miss the view and all the cool outfits and bikes. If you wanted to ride in the back, you were free to, but there might be carnage. All the points I touched on above were discussed.

“I decided to ride in the middle with my German girl, Franzi. We’d all meet at the end of the ride, and I begged everyone to be careful. Franzi and I had the perfect spot. We saw the sea of critical mass in front of us. We smelt the burning rubber and reefer of fixies going downhill, we saw people dressed in next to nothing while we were wishing for skiwear, and we rode handlebar to handlebar calling out hazards and not letting anyone wheel chop us. It was perfect except for the cold, which hit 40.7 at the low, in other words, it was horrible.

“The marshals seemed to have shortened the course this year; it was over quickly. We regrouped and headed back to the South Bay. We had all planned for breakfast but everyone just wanted to go home and get warm, or at least get to a point where they could feel their teeth again.

“The next day I felt as I had the year before and the year before that. I felt like I had pulled an all-nighter, but instead of having done it at work or over a pile of books, I’d done it on a bike. I was groggy and in a fog most of the day. Will I do it again next year?  I say no right now but I probably will. In 2019, though, I’ll take more photos and wear a puffy coat!”

If you’d like to read the article from LA Weekly last year, here it is:

And if you have some time to kill you can watch this video from Joey Cooney, it’s here:



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6 thoughts on “Crashing the Crash”

  1. I’ve already been asked to do it again so it looks like it’s ON for 2019!!! Thanks Seth!

  2. If you like rides like this… Come up north and check out the San Jose Bike Party. 3rd Friday of the month, wheels hit the street at 8:00 pm. Summertime numbers in the low thousands. All kinds, great spirit. Dwarfs all other organized riding around here.

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