World cup winner: A conversation with Anthony Freeman

February 25, 2021 § 5 Comments

Anthony Freeman is a lifelong competitor. The minute you see him on the bike, you know he’s serious about what he’s doing. No big surprise there–he’s a national title holder and world title holder in BMX racing. Getting to the top of any sport is hard, but maintaining the passion and intensity your entire life takes something else entirely. Anthony spoke with me about his history as a bike racer and openly discussed race and racial issues as they affect cycling and the world at large. His heartfelt and thoughtful approach deserves careful consideration. Here he is, in his own words.

Seth Davidson: Tell me about your background in BMX.

Anthony Freeman: I started racing in the early 80s. When I got to high school I walked away from the bike, got a car and got involved in other activities. That didn’t go so well so I picked up the bike in 11th Grade and focused on racing BMX and getting out of my community. It allowed me to travel the world. Four years later I won the national title and my life changed. I was having a great life, I retired from pro BMX in 1998 and have done a few amateur races since then.

Seth Davidson: What role did your race play as a BMX racer?

Anthony Freeman: There were a lot of popular BMX racers who were black. Steve Veltman was on the Wheaties box, and he was black. He was highly inspirational for young black BMX riders, and seeing him inspired many of us to race. Along with Steve there was Anthony Sewell, the first indoor BMX world champion in 1979, that was when BMX titles were held in major arenas. Rennie Roker was an actor and would sponsor major BMX races in the late 70s and early 80s, He ran JAG BMX, and there were guys like Tommy Brackens and Turnell Henry. These guys were from Compton like Rahsaan and Charon, they inspired us. They’re 60 now, I’m 48, they were very inspiring not just because they were black but because they were dominant. Black/white didn’t matter to me, I was just racing bikes. In the late 80s to 90s as I became more competitive I encountered a few racial issues in the Midwest and down South but not on the West Coast. We stayed at hotels, and BMX tracks were in cities with few blacks so when I would do warm-ups early morning and nights there were huge concerns with racism. Seeing a teenager riding a high end bicycle led to interesting experiences.

Seth Davidson: For example?

Anthony Freeman: Police pulling you over, flipping your bike over to see the serial number, asking how can you afford this bike, how can you have an earring and a pager, they only considered drug dealing as a way blacks could make money. I had money at a young age as an actor to fund myself so that I could have cars, jewelry, so I had problems with police and people questioning how I was able to afford such things. In 1993 I won the national title and 1994 I won the World Cup title.

Seth Davidson: How and when did you segue into road riding?

Anthony Freeman: In 1988-1989 my local shop, City of Bicycles, in Inglewood on the opposite corner of where George Turner’s Penuel Bicycles is now, I was working there from the age of 8. James Stallworth was from Chicago and George Turner and I were friends with him; he was owner of the shop. I began learning about all disciplines but MTB wasn’t on the scene yet. James was the team manager of JAG BMX so James was the one who told me it would be optimum to get a road bike and work on my spinning. I got a Nishiki, multicolored with aero bars, I’d do the Donut and get my butt kicked. I was really muscular and had no endurance. Road riding didn’t last long because I allowed my peers to influence me not to do it because of Spandex, which didn’t work in my community, so I walked away from it.

Seth Davidson: And you picked it back up?

Anthony Freeman: In 1995 I was at the highest level of BMX, and MTB became the big thing and BMX riders were transitioning to MTB; I got a Bianchi Campy Record bike. I’ve been riding on the road ever since.

Seth Davidson: What are your favorite rides?

Anthony Freeman: I like the Donut Ride because it’s most challenging and I always get dropped! And I like the challenge and it makes me feel like a road racer. Next is NPR because it’s in my home city, I’m from Inglewood.

Seth Davidson: What’s the vibe like on the NPR?

Anthony Freeman: When I was doing it heavy, like 2004, it was called the Pier Ride and I got serious about going hard on the training rides. Then it was all positive, no negativity, but I wasn’t really a contender. It took ten years before I became a contender where I could be one of the dominant riders and that’s when I started to hear chatter, people trying to discipline actions I was doing even though I was only mimicking what they were doing and I saw the difference between what some are allowed to do, where you could see the complaints from white riders against black riders. That became a real problem. It wasn’t until two years ago there were so many black riders who were dominant that the racism kind of became less outspoken. There have been moments here and there, emotional conflict, but it’s a sport, people are intense, it’s dangerous, I have to let things go. Whites are concerned about blacks, well, blacks are concerned about whites, and we need better communication. We love bikes just as much as white people do.

Seth Davidson: Why do you think people go from supportive to hostile?

Anthony Freeman: If society teaches that there is a dominant race, and you’ve been taught that, once something counters that teaching no matter what it is there can be some pushback. Endurance sports for African-Americans, we are pushed into a box of only being capable of fast twitch efforts as if we can’t develop slow twitch ability. If that’s the standard applied to the so-called African-American athlete, if that’s what you believe, then to see something different takes time for you to change your philosophies about human performance. We are human and we can develop fast and slow twitch, but you were never taught that we were human.

Seth Davidson: What do white people need to know about racism?

Anthony Freeman: They should understand that it exists and has always existed. When something is different it is going to drive at the idea of, “Is it equal to me, greater than, or less than me?” Those are your three choices as a human. It’s what this country has been built on, there is a so-called inferior race, black, if white people could understand that this is something that has been taught and this is based on the idea of white superiority, if you understood the value of so-called black people and what they have done and do today, if you could only understand how we play a huge part of this country being what it is. This means us being taken advantage of, excluded from education for hundreds of years, so whites can take advantage of that ignorance, build wealth for their families, and then not realize that your great-great-great grandparents stole from mine and that’s why we’re different. The reason why wealth is so great for Caucasians is because so much has been stolen for hundreds of years from blacks. Let’s deal with that reality, please.

Seth Davidson: Is that theft going on today?

Anthony Freeman: Absolutely, yes. Nothing has changed. It looks different but the idea of taking advantage of the so-called minority group is happening every day you see it primarily with sports and entertainment. So sports and entertainment where so-called black people generated a lot of wealth for the country, feeding millions of people, creating wealth for people outside their communities, so when you have athletes making 200M, well, the owner is making billions. We feel like we’re getting money because that one athlete is making a lot but he doesn’t understand the concept of feeding his village, his community that made him what he is. You don’t see the money coming back to the communities that built these athletes. When I won the World Cup title I went to Canada and there was only one mixed kid and 30 Caucasians in this class I was teaching. So I said, “I’m going back to black communities in Inglewood and give back to my community.” You give Anthony Freeman $200M, he will build facilities in areas where blacks are a big part of the population. Things are still sort of the same. It looks like they are getting worse. Facilities are going up but blacks are getting pushed out. I’m seeing more white people in Inglewood.

Seth Davidson: After George Floyd there was a lot of engagement by whites, was it sincere?

Anthony Freeman: Yes, but what drove them to be sincere? There was a pandemic; black men have been slaughtered on tv for years. It couldn’t have been a “wow” situation. Middle class whites were already having problems. The inner city blacks couldn’t pay their rent to the white landowners. Then George Floyd happened and blacks were pissed and this prolonged the idea that whites wouldn’t have their rent paid, that blacks couldn’t buy their junk, the economy was going to shit. Was it really sincerity? Whites already know racism exists. They are educated and learn about racism. They go to college and take courses in political science. It’s no surprise to most whites that racism exists. Because the pandemic was going on there was concern about where this country is headed.

Seth Davidson: What needs to happen for there to be meaningful change?

Anthony Freeman: It’s pretty much, it starts with politics. You have to get people in politics who are dedicated and who have proven to be in support of black people. I’m not talking about businesses you have in the  black community. What about the guy in the parks and rec department, the guy who was at the YMCA for the last fifty years who has seen all the changes in the community? When we can see those people brought in you will see change. My parents and I have coached and have always been about our community and I’ve been inspired by others. As long as we’re not involved in the political process it’s going to be difficult for the people who don’t have a voice. If you’re doing the work in the community, you’re not on Wall Street. So there needs to be more support for finding people who are dedicated to the work to bettering our community, not those who are taking money from the community. If you’re making money off blacks and not giving back you are part of the system causing serious oppression and discrimination. I’d like to see whites together with blacks who have been active and supporting their community, not making money from it.

Seth Davidson: How can we increase the number of black kids on bicycles?

Anthony Freeman: Economics is big. Money is big and the driver of people in this nation. If there is something, whether a bike or a book, if there is hope that it can feed your family, people will want to do it. If you only show basketball to kids, their focus will be there. If black kids see Lance and the $20M he was making, black kids will be inspired. Same with tennis and Serena Williams. Something that will take care of people and their family, people who are thirsty for making a basic living. That’s how you inspire them to get involved with the bike.

Seth Davidson: You belong to a predominantly white bike racing club. How has that experience been?

Anthony Freeman: Originally I wanted to ride for Bahati and was just getting back into the sport and didn’t have the budget to spend on the kit and equipment. So I started working with George at Penuel, had some issues, and David Holland suggested I write a letter and I joined Big Orange. At the pinnacle of my BMX career, in that season I had two options: Go with GT Bicycles, or James Stallworth, and he said he would match their offer and let me pick up sponsors so I rode with James. So I’d never really got that chance to ride with a white BMX team, I stayed black the whole time. Riding with Big Orange was just a thing where I thought it would be good for me to convey the ideas of a knowledgeable athlete from the black community who knows how to train, eat, and prepare for cycling—it was me giving information about how we compete and get close to those outside my community who have a plethora of information for me. I chose the white college because I couldn’t get into the black college! I feel like in the black community we are limited to our access to information despite the Internet. So riding with Big Orange, in my opinion the top cycling club in SoCal, I felt it was important to integrate myself into the more elite community so I could bring that back to my community and help us build here.

Seth Davidson: Has your relationship with the club been a good one?

Anthony Freeman: Yes. Because I have dealt with some extreme situations with the black-and-white circumstances. I haven’t had problems. I feel respected.

Seth Davidson: Where does your passion come from?

Anthony Freeman: It may have something to do with sports having always been the way out of the hood, so to speak, so being black and athletic is not strange, it is an attainable thing to be extremely athletic and black, based on what we see on TV. Trying a sport that has a fewer number of blacks in it feels like you have a better chance. So going to a dominant white sport you feel superior until you get your ass dropped and you realize there’s something different. I’m buffer, I got more muscle, my background is BMX they can’t beat me, and then you get beat and you learn different things about the human body, slow twitch muscles, and that began my journey. I’m always looking for something to learn and improve, I love to read and study and grow, which comes from getting beat so many times on the road.

Seth Davidson: To what do you attribute your steadiness in the group? You aren’t easily intimidated in the pack.

Anthony Freeman: BMX, football, basketball, and martial arts are all full-on contact. BMX especially. I’m not afraid of contact whatsoever. And traditionally cyclists are 5-8, 150lb. white guys so I’m not that concerned about a 150lb. white guy compared to a 6’8 210lb. black guy, going through him for a bucket. I work hard to become an optimal athlete and do my homework so believe me I have been preparing the entire week, so that by race time I am super calm. There is no pressure. It’s the second race of the day, maybe, that’s difficult, but I’ve been rewinding all sorts of scenarios, rehearsing situations so that if they occur it’s not a shock to me. I try to ride with an open spirt. When you get rigid and focus on one thing you miss a lot and you’re not as calm. If you relax, don’t force things, that helps me maintain a lower blood pressure, lower heart rate. On top of that I’m very efficient with my breathing which is key also to sustaining calmness in the heat of the moment. There’s no doubt when you are a world title holder your confidence goes way up because you have at one point in your life been the best in the world. Doesn’t matter the sport. You have been the best in the world so you carry that confidence the rest of your life. I know that I don’t know everything and that drives me to constantly read and study and be interested in different people and areas, and the more I grow the more I realize I don’t know much at all.

Seth Davidson: What would you like to see happen in the next ten years in race relations in the United States?

Anthony Freeman: I’d like to see a solid focus on the health of every so-called race of people in the country and how to make it better for them as individual groups, we are all genetically different and we need to do the research for each racial group to understand what each group needs for an optimal life. And focus on each group and apply economics to that and understand that certain people have been deprived of the knowledge to be optimal in economics and teach them how to be optimal.

Seth Davidson: Thank you.

Anthony Freeman: You’re welcome.

END


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More All Clubs BBQ love

August 13, 2019 § 1 Comment

Among the sponsors who have generously donated to this year’s All Clubs BBQ and South Bay Cycling Awards, Big Orange Cycling has been a part of the festivities since the beginning.

In addition to being extremely well represented in a number of award categories, that is, one category in especial, Big O has repeatedly broken new ground in its approach to promoting cycling. And I’m not just talking about kit design.

Big Orange was one of the first clubs to adopt bike safety as an ongoing and integral part of its club operations–not as an informal emphasis on safety, but by using instructors and a proven curriculum to protect its members on the streets of LA. In conjunction with Cycling Savvy, Big O continues to lead in its approach to safe use of urban roadways.

Among other innovations, Big O is the perhaps the only club in the history of cycling to welcome Brad House with open arms. It was a sad day for cycling in the South Bay when this titan of something left the sunny skies of SoCal for the arid, windswept steppes of Dallas.

In addition to structured rides every weekend that calibrate with the off-season in racing from July through May, Big Orange promotes rider education and has been a key entry point for countless riders who have gone on to become successful racers on local, state, national, and international levels.

For another year, Big Orange puts its money where our mouths are and has donated generously to help promote unity, diversity, and community in cycling.

Thank you!

END


More All Clubs BBQ love

August 13, 2019 § 1 Comment

Among the sponsors who have generously donated to this year’s All Clubs BBQ and South Bay Cycling Awards, Big Orange Cycling has been a part of the festivities since the beginning.

In addition to being extremely well represented in a number of award categories, that is, one category in especial, Big O has repeatedly broken new ground in its approach to promoting cycling. And I’m not just talking about kit design.

Big Orange was one of the first clubs to adopt bike safety as an ongoing and integral part of its club operations–not as an informal emphasis on safety, but by using instructors and a proven curriculum to protect its members on the streets of LA. In conjunction with Cycling Savvy, Big O continues to lead in its approach to safe use of urban roadways.

Among other innovations, Big O is the perhaps the only club in the history of cycling to welcome Brad House with open arms. It was a sad day for cycling in the South Bay when this titan of something left the sunny skies of SoCal for the arid, windswept steppes of Dallas.

In addition to structured rides every weekend that calibrate with the off-season in racing from July through May, Big Orange promotes rider education and has been a key entry point for countless riders who have gone on to become successful racers on local, state, national, and international levels.

For another year, Big Orange puts its money where our mouths are and has donated generously to help promote unity, diversity, and community in cycling.

Thank you!

END


Zwift steps up again!

July 29, 2019 § 5 Comments

Zwift’s Social Impact Division has made a very significant financial contribution to support the All Clubs BBQ and 7th Annual South Bay Cycling Awards. This the second year that Zwift has sponsored the event. Last year they provided what was by far the most popular attraction, a Zwift cave where riders could test their legs to win a prize. Naturally, several hundred cyclists wanted nothing more than to flog themselves senseless on a huge TV screen to see who was strongest.

This year, in addition to the same flogging station, Zwift is donating money to defray the cost of food. As with last year, the first 100 plates of barbecue are free, keeping with the event’s long tradition, stretching back to the beer hall days at Naja’s, of giving back to the cycling community. It’s gonna mildly suck if you’re #101 in line, but all the more reason to line up early! And the full plate of loaded grub is still only ten bucks … you can hardly eat at Mickey D’s for that anymore.

Our list of cash sponsors keeps growing: From Origin Cycling Wear, Race for RP, Major Taylor Cycling Club, Velo Club LaGrange, Big Orange Cycling, Kristie Fox, and Methods to Winning, this community based event, only in its second year, is coming close to being completely funded by outside sources thanks to cash sponsors and to the volunteers who are making it happen.

The most rewarding aspect of the support being given by Zwift and our other sponsors is that they are literally asking for nothing in return. They simply believe that diversity and community and fellowship are in and of themselves worthy goals, and they want to support unity, moving forward together.


END

Zwift steps up again!

July 29, 2019 § 5 Comments

Zwift’s Social Impact Division has made a very significant financial contribution to support the All Clubs BBQ and 7th Annual South Bay Cycling Awards. This the second year that Zwift has sponsored the event. Last year they provided what was by far the most popular attraction, a Zwift cave where riders could test their legs to win a prize. Naturally, several hundred cyclists wanted nothing more than to flog themselves senseless on a huge TV screen to see who was strongest.

This year, in addition to the same flogging station, Zwift is donating money to defray the cost of food. As with last year, the first 100 plates of barbecue are free, keeping with the event’s long tradition, stretching back to the beer hall days at Naja’s, of giving back to the cycling community. It’s gonna mildly suck if you’re #101 in line, but all the more reason to line up early! And the full plate of loaded grub is still only ten bucks … you can hardly eat at Mickey D’s for that anymore.

Our list of cash sponsors keeps growing: From Origin Cycling Wear, Race for RP, Major Taylor Cycling Club, Velo Club LaGrange, Big Orange Cycling, Kristie Fox, and Methods to Winning, this community based event, only in its second year, is coming close to being completely funded by outside sources thanks to cash sponsors and to the volunteers who are making it happen.

The most rewarding aspect of the support being given by Zwift and our other sponsors is that they are literally asking for nothing in return. They simply believe that diversity and community and fellowship are in and of themselves worthy goals, and they want to support unity, moving forward together.


END

A star is born!

October 16, 2018 § 19 Comments

Nothing very interesting ever gets into my inbox. But somehow, against all odds & filters, THIS DID!

For starters, if you read this love grenade and didn’t laugh there is something wrong with you. Not wrong as in “you had a bad day” but wrong as in “you are an incurably pompous jackass and probably a smelly, molded over asshole as well.”

Yeah, you.

The greatest bicycle kit controversy ever

No sooner had this awesome seal letter hit the Internet than its author, the infamous SB Baby Seal, began receiving calls to his cell and text messages galore from the Big Orange board. He did what anyone with a brain does when such notifications arrive, that is, he ignored them and kept working.

That’s when the pressure ratcheted and the phone calls began arriving at his place of employment, and, well he had to take them.

It seems that Baby Seal committed two pretty egregious infractions:

  1. He made fun of the Big O 2019 kit, which could hurt sales.
  2. He betrayed the trust and confidence of the club’s private FB group users by copying and pasting unattributed snippets of their comments about the kit, then sending it out in an unauthorized email.

So, let’s review.

There was actually a living, breathing, sentient human being who thought that you could make fun of this:

kits

Yeah. Because these designs are so, uh, serious?

How do you make fun of Green Jizz v. Orange Nutter? Answer: You don’t have to. They are already so juiced up with lobotomy that words, like these ones, are superfluous.

And by the way, these kits weren’t created by a person. They were created by a committee over several MONTHS. If it never occurred to anyone that these were the goofiest fucking things ever to curse the eyes of man, then shame on you twice: Once for not knowing, and twice for proceeding anyway.

The great Facebag betrayal of 2019

With regard to the “betrayal” of the “confidence” of those on Facegag who had an “expectation of privacy” that their “private comments wouldn’t be shared,” I offer you the following legal analysis: Bwaaaaaahaaaaaahaaaaaaa!

You really think anything on the ‘Net in general, and the ‘Bag in particular is private? Did you not read the 42-page EULA that goes along with your Facebook registration? Do you know what the “share” button does? Is this the first time you have ever taken the Internet out for a drive without Dad in the passenger seat? Can I sum FB’s policy up for you?

We can freely monetize and use everything you write or post, including all private data you don’t even know that you are submitting to us.

More juicily:

You are a complete fucking moron if you think Facebook is a private forum. Yep, you.

So to recap, the kits are garishly, over-the-top ridonculous, and no, yimmer-yammer yip-yap on Facebag isn’t attorney work product that’s protected by the attorney-client privilege. WHO KNEW???

All hail the First Amendment

Baby Seal’s newsletter achieved its aim. It pissed off people who think their opinions are beyond criticism. It made people laugh. It garnered a couple of new members for our team, Big Orange, who predictably liked the kit and proved the adage “There is no bad press (although there is unquestionably bad taste).”

And of course it drove a few sales for the Bike Palace. How do I know this? Because immediately after reading it I drove down and bought an inner tube and a Bike Palace t-shirt. You can have my First Amendment when you pry my dead, sweat-soaked Bike Palace t-shirt off my back.

Like the shrunken pricks who send me outraged cancellation emails saying “You made fun of my favorite children’s charity even though it is actually a scam that harms sick children!” or “You don’t wear a helmet which makes you a child molester!” the people who got skewered by Baby Seal deserved it.

Take a deep breath and be thankful that there are still people out there who aren’t afraid to poke fun at the smelly turd you piled onto your plate and tried to tell everyone was actually a filet, and don’t forget to shop Bike Palace or to join my club Big Orange, which despite the occasional stick wedged up its butt, is still a pretty awesome club.

END

———————–

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A star is born!

October 16, 2018 § 19 Comments

Nothing very interesting ever gets into my inbox. But somehow, against all odds & filters, THIS DID!

For starters, if you read this love grenade and didn’t laugh there is something wrong with you. Not wrong as in “you had a bad day” but wrong as in “you are an incurably pompous jackass and probably a smelly, molded over asshole as well.”

Yeah, you.

The greatest bicycle kit controversy ever

No sooner had this awesome seal letter hit the Internet than its author, the infamous SB Baby Seal, began receiving calls to his cell and text messages galore from the Big Orange board. He did what anyone with a brain does when such notifications arrive, that is, he ignored them and kept working.

That’s when the pressure ratcheted and the phone calls began arriving at his place of employment, and, well he had to take them.

It seems that Baby Seal committed two pretty egregious infractions:

  1. He made fun of the Big O 2019 kit, which could hurt sales.
  2. He betrayed the trust and confidence of the club’s private FB group users by copying and pasting unattributed snippets of their comments about the kit, then sending it out in an unauthorized email.

So, let’s review.

There was actually a living, breathing, sentient human being who thought that you could make fun of this:

kits

Yeah. Because these designs are so, uh, serious?

How do you make fun of Green Jizz v. Orange Nutter? Answer: You don’t have to. They are already so juiced up with lobotomy that words, like these ones, are superfluous.

And by the way, these kits weren’t created by a person. They were created by a committee over several MONTHS. If it never occurred to anyone that these were the goofiest fucking things ever to curse the eyes of man, then shame on you twice: Once for not knowing, and twice for proceeding anyway.

The great Facebag betrayal of 2019

With regard to the “betrayal” of the “confidence” of those on Facegag who had an “expectation of privacy” that their “private comments wouldn’t be shared,” I offer you the following legal analysis: Bwaaaaaahaaaaaahaaaaaaa!

You really think anything on the ‘Net in general, and the ‘Bag in particular is private? Did you not read the 42-page EULA that goes along with your Facebook registration? Do you know what the “share” button does? Is this the first time you have ever taken the Internet out for a drive without Dad in the passenger seat? Can I sum FB’s policy up for you?

We can freely monetize and use everything you write or post, including all private data you don’t even know that you are submitting to us.

More juicily:

You are a complete fucking moron if you think Facebook is a private forum. Yep, you.

So to recap, the kits are garishly, over-the-top ridonculous, and no, yimmer-yammer yip-yap on Facebag isn’t attorney work product that’s protected by the attorney-client privilege. WHO KNEW???

All hail the First Amendment

Baby Seal’s newsletter achieved its aim. It pissed off people who think their opinions are beyond criticism. It made people laugh. It garnered a couple of new members for our team, Big Orange, who predictably liked the kit and proved the adage “There is no bad press (although there is unquestionably bad taste).”

And of course it drove a few sales for the Bike Palace. How do I know this? Because immediately after reading it I drove down and bought an inner tube and a Bike Palace t-shirt. You can have my First Amendment when you pry my dead, sweat-soaked Bike Palace t-shirt off my back.

Like the shrunken pricks who send me outraged cancellation emails saying “You made fun of my favorite children’s charity even though it is actually a scam that harms sick children!” or “You don’t wear a helmet which makes you a child molester!” the people who got skewered by Baby Seal deserved it.

Take a deep breath and be thankful that there are still people out there who aren’t afraid to poke fun at the smelly turd you piled onto your plate and tried to tell everyone was actually a filet, and don’t forget to shop Bike Palace or to join my club Big Orange, which despite the occasional stick wedged up its butt, is still a pretty awesome club.

END

———————–

Does bicycle education work?

January 18, 2018 Comments Off on Does bicycle education work?

I cannot believe I am sitting here writing a blog post about bicycle education. If there is anything more boring, I don’t know what that might be. Oh, wait, yes I do: Uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance and how it can protect you on your bike. That’s way more boring.

But like the Santa Ana wind dryness of insurance blather, bicycle education blather is a matter of life and death. It is dorky and requires you to slow down and pay the fuck attention, spend some time doing something other than shopping for bike porn. Like taking the time to buy and charge and put on front-and-rear lights, it’s well-spent time.

I sat down with Gary Cziko, bible-thumping evangelist for Cycling Savvy, but the testament wasn’t written by a bunch of goat herders out in the desert, it was written by people who have a lot of bicycling and traffic engineering experience when it comes to staying off the grills of Rage Rovers. Cycling Savvy uses various instructional paradigms to allow riders to ride anywhere. Streets, sidewalks (where it’s lega), you name it. Although lane control is the default technique, the idea behind bicycle education is that people ride bikes all kinds of places for all kinds of reasons, and there should be a way to address their riding with sensible, practical, safe techniques.

Increasing bicycle education

Gary is now in his fifth year of teaching as a Cycling Savvy instructor. The number of actual courses and actual people who have been through his courses is shockingly low; more about that later and why it’s less important than you might think. After about 13 courses and upwards of 130 participants, I asked Gary what he thought the biggest obstacles were to increasing bicycle education in Southern California.

He didn’t miss a beat. “Two main problems, those who think they don’t need the education because they don’t ride on streets, and those who think they don’t need it because they have a lot of experience.”

Gary knows about that last part. “I was an edge rider for years but Cycling Savvy makes it easy and safe and it decreases the risks.”

“How are you going to expand that?” I asked.

“Cycling Savvy wants to exapnd. We have two online courses but need additional funding to market the curriculum. We’ve hired our first full time administrative employee, an associate executive director. We’re looking into partnerships with charity rides, SCNCA, USAC, and affiliation with clubs, much as we’ve done with Big Orange. We’ve worked with Sean Wilson at SCNCA to develop a complete skills system, from racing to training and riding on the road.”

Still, with only a few courses having been taught, along with a few hundred people who’ve taken the online courses, I wondered if Gary was optimistic. Dumb question. It’s Gary, folks.

“I’m encouraged by getting cyclists in the full on-bike training, not just the classroom, where we work with riders of all skill levels to teach them how to surmount challenging situations. What’s encouraging is that people are changed and enthusiastic and they want to share with others. The Cycling Savvy curriculum started in 2011 and reached 18 states in 3 years. But we need increased funding for courses that reach families and kids, courses for fondo riders, and of course for e-bikes.”

With  5-10 courses planned for 2018, the need vastly outnumbers available resources.

Or does it?

The ripple effect

Gary agreed that more instructors, more classes, more online marketing are crucial. He also pointed out that by educating a few cyclists you can education hundreds more.

“There’s a ripple effect,” he said. “When we started the training in Big Orange, people were unfamiliar with it. Now, even though most Big Orange riders haven’t taken the course, every club ride has at least one rider who has, and those riders take the reins and make sure that the group is using Cycling Savvy principles. By changing even one or two people, you can affect everyone who sees this kind of effective riding and who then tries it out. Of course we need training for planners and transportation engineers, too.”

When I asked him about the dreaded PCH, Gary was emphatic that bicycle education has educated drivers, too. “There’s less honking. Motorists are used to seeing large groups of riders out in the lane. Cyclists are less hesitant to use the full lane when it makes sense. One study found that there is more honking the farther you are to the right, which makes sense because they see you from a long way back and can adjust when you’re in the lane. But with edge/gutter riding they don’t see you until the last second.”

Getting your club educated

If you belong to a bike club and you don’t have a club-wide bicycle education plan, now is the time to get one. Cycling Savvy offers online courses and in-person instruction depending on the area. The courses are cheap and can save your life. Importantly, in our own neck of the woods, the Palos Verdes Peninsula, there anecdotally seems to be a lot less hostility than a couple of years ago; I chalk part of that up to the effect of people being more assertive and educated about where and how they cycle.

No matter how much you know or how experienced you are, these classes will open your eyes.

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About SouthBayCycling.com: This the all-things-cycling blog about cycling in the South Bay and cycling in Los Angeles, maintained and authored by me, Seth Davidson, Torrance-based bicycle lawyer, bike racer, and personal injury attorney.

“Common” sense

December 4, 2017 Comments Off on “Common” sense

We held the final stage in our club’s first ever Galactic Championship bicycle racing series on Saturday. The results were impressive: 52 out of 267 club members signed up to race. There were also a fair number of members racing cyclocross who couldn’t attend, so the total number of Big Orange Cycling members who pinned on a number was probably around 62 riders, a record in absolute numbers and in percentages (23%).

Below are the stage results and the overall:

 

Careful analysis indicates that I got my butt kicked. Hmmmm.

But there were some other things that, if you have any involvement with a bike racing club, might be useful lessons. Here were the main ones:

  1. The best way to get people to race is to provide your club members with intra-club races where they can experience racing in a safe, supportive, fun, educational, social atmosphere.
  2. Creating these racing opportunities is the only way to combat the divisiveness of “racer” and “non-racer” factions within a club.
  3. When the board supports and participates in this kind of event, most especially by board members themselves racing, members who have never raced will show up and try out racing. Nothing speaks to credibility in bike racing like racing your fuggin’ bike.
  4. Everyone loves it. First-time riders gain massive confidence, experienced riders have a blast and mentor others, and your club can have a series of social events organized around your club’s mission: bike racing.
  5. Many members in Big Orange don’t understand that we are a racing club; they think we are a social club that has racers rather than a racing club whose social events are organized around racing. This doesn’t mean everyone races or has to race. But it means that clubs continually reinforce their racing mission by giving people the opportunity to race. Whether they take the opportunity is their choice.
  6. Many members can be encouraged to race by having club races and by giving members the opportunity to first volunteer and “check it out.” I spoke with one member who was unaware that in a time trial riders went off one by one. I spoke with another new member, whose wife DID NOT KNOW that we are a racing club, and he wasn’t entirely sure about what that meant, either, other than he “didn’t want to do crits.”
  7. Shoot for at least one series a year, two if you can swing it.
  8. Have a format that lets people showcase very different skills. We did: 1k TT, hillclimb, 10-mile TT.
  9. Use formats that exceptionally safe, like TTs and hillclimbs.
  10. Don’t allow aero equipment! It will let everyone feel like they had a level playing and not that they were the losers in an arms race.
  11. Tell your new members explicitly that you are a racing club and that you will be encouraging them to race. Not hassling or pressuring, but encouraging through role modeling, education, and annual intra-club series opportunities.
  12. Most racing clubs have no problem recruiting non-racers. But your mission should be to give them the opportunity to race.
  13. I met so many people!!!!!
  14. Sponsors should be urged to show up and help out at club races. They will get to meet their customers, learn about bike racing, take pictures, and understand the value of their sponsorship.
  15. Set a number or percentage for members in 2018 to pin on a number. You’ll never hit a target you don’t aim for.
  16. Don’t be surprised if your event turns out to be the best bike racing you’ve ever done in your life.

Our event went off because board members Greg Leibert, Grey Seyranian, Don Wolfe, Michael Barraclough, and Geoff Loui signed off on it and raced. Patrick Noll did the timing and all of the organization. Kristie Fox brought food, put up tents and chairs, arranged catering, and helped with all aspects of organization. My wife Yasuko, and Jay Yoshizumi, took tons of great photos. Chris Gregory made killer winner necklace awards. Delia Park, Jodi, Jason, Lauri Barraclough, Stephanie Nowak, Mark Maxson, Kevin Salk, Andrew Nuckles, Tom Duong, One Stop Windows and Doors who donated their parking lot for the race, Greg Leibert, Connie Perez, and many people who controlled traffic at the chicane. And of course the wonderful party that Geoff Loui again hosted at his beautiful home put an amazing cap on a great race series.

Check out these these 200+ photos courtesy of Yasuko Davidson!

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Making a difference

September 18, 2017 § 20 Comments

On Sunday I got up and rode to the Center of the Known Universe, where about a hundred fellow lizard collectors had gathered to do the weekly club ride. We left CotKU in a rather unruly fashion, as might have been expected.

I hadn’t wanted to go because I was tired from the day before, and from the day before, and from the day before, all the way back to last Saturday. But it was going to be the annual club photo followed by a club video riding out on PCH. The photos and video were being shot by our club’s biggest sponsor, BeachBody Performance.

bbpl-products-energize

Every year they pour a very significant amount of money into our club. Not fake money, cash money. In addition to that, they provide the club with mountains of their energy/protein/magic powders. One of the mountains is free, the other mountain is at a greatly reduced cost. The total value of the real cash plus the powder mountains approaches six figures. For all I know, it exceeds it.

Our club, unaffectionately known as Team Lizard Collectors but affectionately known as Big Orange Cycling, cannot possibly generate six figures in sales for BeachBody. I know this because scientists have shown over and over that no organism is as cheap and tight-fisted as the serious avid recreational Internet-coached profamateur delusional hobby Cat 4 bicyclist.

What does BeachBody get out of it? For the last few years they have gotten this: A plague of brightly colored lizard collectors swooping through the streets of coastal Los Angeles doing what we lizard collectors do best, that is, have fun. Whether we are in Mallorca, Holland, France, Italy, Croatia, Japan, or home in Los Angeles, we are all oranged-up in our, er, distinctive kits (some of which, for a club called “Big Orange,” are inexplicably all-green), and we prominently display BeachBody’s logo and demonstrate BeachBody’s ethos, which is to go forth and have fun even if you look pretty silly doing it.

This sponsor has been directly responsible for the addition of countless riders into organized cycling. Our club offers skills training, urban riding skills classes, racing clinics, and a weekly club ride that focuses on getting yelled at for five solid hours by Dear Leader G3, which is probably the best simulation for bike racing ever. Some of our most highly talented new riders such as K-Sulk have learned to tell people to “Fuck off!” with the ease and practiced raised middle finger as if he had been racing for decades.

In short, without telling Big Orange what to do, BeachBody Performance has made it possible to expand programs and activities that popularize cycling and that make cycling safer. More fun. More safety. Healthier lifestyle. Have a nice day and here’s a wad of cash to go with it!

And although most people use BeachBody goodies and find them very beneficial to their fake bicycling careers, not everyone in the club consumes our sponsor’s replacement drinks, electrolytes, and radiator fluid. Some people, like me, drink water for the first hundred miles of every ride and bonk for the rest of it, suffering horrible exhaustion, cramps, diarrhea, logorrhea, vomiting, migraines, graphomania, and rectal dysfunction for a couple of weeks. It’s not because we don’t like the sponsored product, it’s because we are simply used to doing things the old-fashioned way, i.e. dumbly.

In the same vein, all riders don’t utilize all of the other sponsors’ services. For example, not everyone gets run over by a car in order to purchase a certain bike injury lawyer’s services. Not everyone replaces all of the windows (Nuckles), breaks all of the indoor plumbing (Penta), or purchases 300 pairs of socks (Torrence) simply to satisfy the sponsor. BeachBody doesn’t care. They only insist that we keep riding and that we keep having fun.

They continue to be a committed and genuine advocate for riding bikes in LA. They make a difference, and it’s appreciated. And as hard as it is for us to go out and ride our bikes and have a good time week in and week out, it’s a sacrifice we’re all willing to make. Thanks!

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PS: Don’t forget the Wanky’s. As if you could.

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