On Saturday morning we dropped down the hill, quickly hitting 45 mph, each bit of velocity ramping up the cutting edge of the sharp wind that knifed through all the layers I’d carefully amassed. There wasn’t a lot of conversation en route to the 5th MVMNT Ride, but then again with me, there never is.
I’ve been told by people who know that I don’t talk much. It’s not as if there’s anything important or deep going on between my ears, but riding is a great time to shut up. Most of the bad things that can happen on a bike are prevented by silence and observation.
In fact, I recently told a guy who is working hard to improve his cycling that the two most important things are to shut up and watch. When you rode with Fields, you knew to shut up. First, you didn’t want to embarrass yourself. Everyone was listening, and memories were prodigious. Second, people didn’t talk a lot. It’s not that bicycling was serious business, but falling off your bicycle was. Third, there was the Man Code. Men in Texas are taciturn. Period.
Racers, start your vocal cords
Of the many great things about the MVMNT Rides for Friendship, Unity, and Diversity, perhaps the best is the slow speed. Fact: The slower you go, the less serious you are. And the less serious you are, the more you talk. And the more you talk, the more people you meet.
Cycling’s perfect chat zone is between 10 and 13 mph. Anything less than that and you might tip over. Any more than that, falling off starts to hurt.
We had gotten a marvelous break from the rain and cold of the last few months; it was a “chilly” 55, but sunny and windless.
I couldn’t believe how the ride has swollen. The final head count was upwards of 150 riders, and with each ride these events have become, bit by bit, more diverse. A few people even drove over from the West Side to join; a solid 20-mile haul through nasty LA traffic to enjoy conversation, new scenery, and the chance to trample a racial barrier or two.
Everyone who pays attention knows that the USA is a racially segregated nation, and Los Angeles is the poster child for this crime against humanity. Where you live is largely determined by the color of your skin.
Study after study shows that social barriers are reinforced by physical separation, and it makes sense. How can you relate to people with whom you never talk or interact?
With each iteration of this ride, more and more people are accepting the invitation to get out and share physical space with others, to get out of the cycling cocoons in which they normally pedal, and most especially to slow down and talk.
Helmets and pine needles
I didn’t talk with a lot of people, but I did spend most of my chat allotment with Tyra Lindsay, a woman who approached me about my bare head and wanted to know why. An hour later we were still talking … I can’t say I convinced her, but then again I wasn’t trying to.
What I was trying to do was have a conversation, one of those tennis games where you volley an idea, the other person sends it back over the net, and each side does their level best to keep the volley going, no one looking for the kill shot or the crazy topspin or the drop shot over the net.
In the process I learned she was from Alexandria, Louisiana, with lots of family in Marshall, just a few miles from where I spent my summers in the piney woods of East Texas. We shared memories about the smell of the red dirt, the wafting aroma of pine needles crunching beneath our feet, volleying, volleying, until we reached our destination at the Korean Friendship Bell, dismounted, and took in the view.
Afterwards we assembled at The Bike Palace in San Pedro, where we descended like locusts on the donuts and coffee before heading home.