February 7, 2021 § 8 Comments
Methods to Winning, LLC, is one of the first bike racing teams in the world founded by blacks for the promotion of blacks in cycling. I called up one of the four founders, Ken Vinson, and talked with him about MTW.
Seth Davidson: What was the motivation for founding Methods to Winning?
Ken Vinson: Our motivation was to have representation in the telling of the story of our athletes, Rahsaan Bahati, Justin Williams, Cory Williams, and Charon Smith. It was unique because we had someone from each generation. 20s, 30s, 40’s, and 50s. That’s a lot of cycling history and there’s a lot to delve into.
Seth: What is Methods to Winning?
Ken: It’s what I perceived to be three of the top African-American cyclists that were around when I came into the sport. They were operating on three separate islands and I talked to them about the leverage of unity and coming together in telling our story and in order to negotiate better endorsements, to attack the industry as a single sum of riders as opposed to as individuals. We came together for that purpose, to try and work together, to have unity and leverage with the purpose of representation in a sport where we have always felt like raisins in milk, and to show the younger generation that there are people in cycling who look like you and that you can do this, too.
Seth: What do mean by tell the story?
Ken: Typically when you are the first at something, or alone, the experiences that one can have that are different from everyone else. Rahsaan being the first black kid from an African-American family with an African-American upbringing in a completely white sport. Something as simple as music, something as simple as “How do I communicate that I like this and not be ostracized because I like something different and be deemed ‘not a team player’?” Those things were important. The other thing was to be able to show kids that this is an alternative to what’s commonly perceived in the inner city. Basketball, football, track and field, rap, and drugs. Here’s a sport that you can do, that we have the ability for if we can get over the cost barriers, and there are people already in it who look like you with your background. Methods to Winning was a way to figure out how to operate within a community that had none of us in there. For me, I saw Rahsaan like Nelson Vails, a pioneer. And of course we always heard the criticism that “You don’t ride in the Tour,” but people don’t understand that they experienced culture shock, ostracism, and no means of communication, that existing processes didn’t work well in Europe, understanding and integrating different cultures.
Seth: What is significant about telling “your” story?
Ken: We’re looking for opportunities to be the ones sharing our story through various media. As you know with our bike racing movie project, “Chocolate Rockets,” the story was getting hijacked. With a story it’s either us telling it from our experiences and pespectives vs. a white person telling us how they perceive our experience. I don’t need you to tell me how you perceive my experience; I can tell you exactly what the hell I experienced, ok? That’s important because with a person telling their own story, if the listener wants to hear them and provide the platform, we can provide the nuance, the detail, the motivations, the hopes and dreams vs. what you perceived it to be. That is dramatically important to us, and Methods to Winning was planned so that Justin and Cory and the younger guys could go off to attack the pro arena; now they have a UCI-registered Pro Continental team. We’re trying to tell our story and create an environment that benefits everyone, we’re trying to give the sport a cool factor to attract people who come from where we come from. Baseball among blacks was deemed slow, hot, and played in the summer, so not many blacks comparatively go into the sport. Cycling has those appearance issues, you have to wear tights for example, we have to get over some things to make it cool. Justin and Cory, starting with Rahsaan, put their flair on clothes and bikes, changing the environment around the races and events. If you let us lead, this is what we can do.
Seth: What was the initial reaction to the formation of Methods to Winning?
Ken: Someone sent an email saying “How arrogant for you to say that you know how win.” I responded, “Well, these guys have won quite a few races, I think they know a thing or two about winning.” But I was pretty hot at first.
Seth: Would that have happened if you’d had a white team made up of riders with as many wins under their belt?
Ken: No. The perception is that when blacks come together it is to exclude everyone else. That’s never been the case. You can look at any movement, MLK, even Malcolm X, who turned the corner and was more inviting of people who wanted to see good for everyone. Coming together means elevating ourselves but not at the exclusion of you. The perception is exclusion and an attack on white people. Not all whites feel that way but some do. Our teams have always been diverse, we have done that on purpose. There was one time early on when we talked about having a team of black riders only but we were shooting it down as we talked it through. That’s not who we are. We wanted talent but talent doesn’t know any one color. The reception of Methods to Winning has been okay but we’ve had issues. You try and help sponsors shine with social media content showing the products you receive, but even so with that we got a lot of negative comments from accepting sponsored high end bikes/shoes/clothing because of the pricing, of Rapha clothing, for example. They expected us to affect the pricing. We still get that today.
Seth: Why is Lance not expected to decrease the cost of Nike shoes and Justin is?
Ken: It’s perceived that we came from nothing and now we have to lower the prices for everyone.
Seth: What about Steph Curry? Same expecations?
Ken: No. These things are perceived as cool but no one expects these guys to lower the price.
Seth: Why is Justin being criticized, then?
Ken: Short of racism, I don’t know. Since George Floyd, in trying to understand things in the era of Trump, there is a lot of subliminal privilege that people don’t understand they have, implicit biases they don’t know they have, and Trump touched on and brought those out of people and that plays a part in people seeing these guys get all this product that, in their view, they may not have “earned.”
Seth: How does Methods to Winning play in with Black History Month?
Seth: It seems like there’s a double standard. Black rides are denied the opportunity to ride during that tiny window of opportunity you have to groom a Pro Tour rider, and then when the door is shut, they’re criticized for never riding in the Tour, for only riding “domestic US races.”
Ken: Since Major Taylor, one of the things we’ve done through the Bahati Foundation is identify a chronology of cyclists of color. There was Major Taylor, there were some black women who did the first major group rides back in 1929, rode 250 miles, then there was Nelson Vails. We’ve been trying to identify riders of color up through Rahsaan. He wasn’t in the world tour but if he’d had the support and resources, could he have been? If he’d had the resources, where would he have been? And for Methods to Winning, if we can get the support and resources, where can we go? That ties in with Black History Month, if we can get equal support, equal laws, equal equal equal, where can we go? We make the sport better. As human beings we enhance the world if we have a fair opportunity.
Ken There’s a video of Justin talking about being in Europe and always being viewed as angry. You’re correct.
Seth: Where is Methods to Winning on its trajectory?
Ken: We said that in 3-5 years we wanted to use contacts first between Charon Smith, Rahsaan Bahati, and Justin Williams, and then with Cory Williams and the Nsek brothers. We started an academy team to identify young talent to fill the gap so that when they don’t cycle out of the training scene at 18/19 because they have nowhere to go. Imeh Nsek was the first rider, and through Rahsaan’s contacts we got him signed with the Arola cycling team in Europe, but then his father died and he returned to the the US. While there he won races. The next rider was through our activities at the Eldo race series, Nigel Desota. His pro contract with Nordisk came through Methods to Winning. He’s in his thirrd year as a pro and doing exceptionally well. Given the opportunity we can have success. The other thing was to go out and find sponsors through Rahsaan and Zwift. Justin formed Legion LA and got the funding to really do what we think the next step is: Produce a team on the Pro Conti level with the goal of seeing talent get picked up by World Tour teams. In 2021 we have an elite pro team with a UCI license, and of course we have the old farts racing around here doing masters racing. Our next step is to try and get the talent on the Pro Conti team seen, and maybe on the World Tour, while putting on events that we’d like to see, events where some of the major world talent will fly here to race. We have dreams.
Seth: How are you adapting to covid?
Ken: Lots of Zwifting and riding in smaller groups. Individual training has continued because of our work ethic. We’re excited to come out of covid and show what we can do if we have the opportunity to race.
Seth: There’s been a big shift from USA Cycling to BWR-type mixed racing events. How will Methods to Winning react?
Ken: The Belgian Waffle Ride is unique and an excellent opportunity to expose hackers to pro riders. Like our MVMNT rides where the fast guys ride with the slow guys. When I was at the BWR, after the ride everyone mingled. Those events are huge and we’re building a relationship with Michael Marckx on Circle of Doom. BWR is legitimate, good, and here to stay. For Methods to Winning, we have people who are now doing more MTB, ‘cross, and that’s through Ama and Imeh Nsek via Imperium Coaching. Ama won the BWR’s Wafer ride a couple of years ago.
Seth: What are Methods to Winning’s plans for 2021?
Ken: Race-wise we are trying to figure out a way to focus on the academy team to develop a diverse group of talent. It has been a challenge to find 18/19 year-olds, and we’ve started thinking about reaching an even younger audience. That’s why we’re working closely with the Bahati Foundation to plant the seeds to sprout the talent. We’ve thought about developing a pump track where kids can ride their bikes and get familiar with bike sports at a much earlier age. Of course in 2021 we’ll have a masters team and continue to try and put on events, including the Eldo race series if Long Beach City will permit it. We suffered a fatality at the end of 2019 and then with covid we’re hoping the city will permit the event for 2021, pushing back the start until late April or possibly May. It depends on covid and the racing calendar. We’re also looking into races at the velodrome, as well as e-racing on Zwift. We’re not sure what the world is going to allow; covid is with us for the foreseeable future.
Seth: Do you think there are structural racial barriers to achieving your goals?
Ken: I’d like to see us with more of a voice in the licensing body. USAC has contracted with EF Cycling to visit historically black colleges to recruit new riders of color. Really? We already have Nelson Vails, Rahsaan, Cory, Justin, Charon, Ayesha, Tanile, why isn’t USAC finding the top African-American talent and asking them to come speak to these crowds? We’ve been contacted by no one. Again, it’s USAC saying to blacks, “We want to tell you how to do it,” rather than having someone who looks like these kids and has the same background as these kids going out there and talking with them. We can do the job far better than they ever could. USAC got Reggie Miller as a spokesperson, but he’s a name from the NBA. Why wouldn’t you get Nelson Vails or a top African-American cyclist? Those things present challenges.
Seth: Does Methods to Winning face racial issues that white teams don’t face?
Ken: Here’s a scenario. There aren’t a lot of blacks in the local LA sport cycling scene. So you have a black guy who is vocal, perhaps there is an argument, and because there are only a few of us, whites assume that the few blacks they know are the moderators for everybody else who is black. We deal with that, being lumped together, and it doesn’t feel very good. If I have an issue with a white person I don’t have a white godfather to go to, and there’s no black godfather. White guy has a problem with a black guy, work it out with him. You’re both adults. What does it have to do with me?
Seth: Do you think that 2020 has affected race relations in the cycling community?
Ken: At first blush yes because I believe that if you can change one person then that’s a bonus. Some people only count change if the number is larger than one but in my personal experience there are several people who sought me out and we had frank and difficult conversations. President Trump motivated and brought an undercurrent to the forefront and that forced a lot of people to have conversations, facing the divide in the road or the elephant in the room. 2020 has opened communications that didn’t exist before, or it has made them more truthful.
Seth: What is it about Ken Vinson that makes Methods to Winning such a mission?
Ken: I was born in 1966 and am a child of the teachings of diversity and multiculturalism, that diversity strengthens us. I grew up with parents who taught us to hold our heads high and be proud of ourselves. Look past the people who treat you poorly to those who don’t. My high school was predominantly black, my college was mostly white, and those experiences were studies in diversity. Then I spent 26 years working in multi-level marketing and that forced me to interact with everyone. I appreciate people and believe in diversity and multiculturalism. I think we are stronger together and we need to be able to listen. An example is law enforcement. You see how whites are treated by law enforcement and a completely different outcome derives with people of color. That is just one thing that reflects that we have to listen and talk among each other, which in my opinion means white people listening to us and believing what we’re saying. In a lot of cop encounters we end up dead. The last four years we had someone who said “American First” at the exclusion of diversity and multiculturalism, it spoke to white people who felt threatened. MAGA spoke to us as exclusion whereas we seek to use the platform of cycling by taking prominent African-American cyclists and using their notoriety for social engagement that benefits cycling and our communities as a whole. MVMNT rides where people pedal through communities they’ve only seen on the news. Cycling interaction, people breaking bread, the All Clubs BBQ, everything we do at MTW is to try to bring people together.
Seth: Thanks, Ken!
Ken: My pleasure.
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November 17, 2019 § 21 Comments
There’s nothing worse than going on a ride that is advertised as Type A only to find out that it is Type B.
Actually, I don’t care how rides are advertised. If it’s too slow I can always go faster, and if it’s too fast I can always go slower.
The problem occurs for most riders when the ride is too fast, the rider wants to go fast, but physics and physiology and fitness result in what’s known in the business as “getting dropped.”
Yesterday Ken Vinson put on one of his amazing MVMNT Rides. If you’ve never done one of these, you should! If your area doesn’t have one, you should start one! MVMNT Rides are slow rides where people talk for 20 miles or so, reach an interesting destination, then chat and enjoy fellowship on the way back.
Ken took us to the bike museum at Velo Pasadena. Hrach Gevrikyan has the best bike museum I’ve ever seen, and he recently added a bike with original wheels and tires that was owned and raced by Major Taylor. More than a hundred of us pedaled leisurely out to Pasadena to enjoy the coffee and snacks offered up by Hrach and his lovely wife Nevrik.
When it came time to leave I raised my hand and said, “I’m taking a different route back. It will be fast paced.”
A lady asked “What’s your average speed going to be?”
“I don’t know,” I answered, “I don’t have a speed thingy.”
Another guy asked, “About? Can you give me an about?”
“I’m going to go about as hard as I can,” I said.
I’ve been riding at a steady commuter pace all week. I like to go slow most of the time. Let me rephrase that: I have to go slow most of the time.
But once or twice a week I like to put in a hard effort, and the 40 miles home along the river bikeway, no traffic, howling headwind, level as a Flat Earther’s dream, well, it doesn’t get more perfect than that. Plus, I had to get home to make pasta.
Out of the assembled crowd, five people joined me.
One of them turned around after about two minutes as we were sailing downhill with a tailwind. A second guy came up to me with a panicked look on his face while we were still in Pasadena. Earlier in the ride he’d told me that he owned forty bikes.
“Are we going back to the parking lot?”
“What parking lot?”
“Where the ride started?”
“Where are we going?”
“Far from there.”
Forty Bikes whipped the world’s fasted u-turn I have ever seen. That left Ventoux, Maxissimo, and B Ride.
I’ve ridden with Ventoux several times. He is from France. Rides a shitty bike. Has one tattered kit. Straps an i-Phone as big as a large-screen TV onto his handlebars. Wears a visor on his helmet. Has deep-pile shag on his legs. Is in his 40’s. Rides hundreds of miles a week. Is one tough motherfucker.
I’ve ridden with Maxissimo a bunch. He’s a regular on the Flog Ride. Earlier this year he got a wild hair and rode from SF to LA on a lark. He loves, absolutely loves, to ride his bike. He is from Italy, has a modern steel Cinelli, and wouldn’t think of anything except Campagnolo. He expects to go hard when it’s time to go hard, and let the chips fall where they may.
I’ve ridden with B Ride only a couple of times. Always easy and conversational and slow. He had been up at the front all the way to Pasadena and was champing at the bit to get in a workout.
We turned off onto the bike trail and I said to them, “Okay, motherfuckers. 40-second to 1-minute pulls.” Then I took the first one.
By the second rotation, Maxissimo and B Ride were in trouble. A couple of rotations later Ventoux and I were by ourselves, which kind of sucked because we still had 30 miles to go. Did I mention the headwind was howling?
We passed a bunch of people, some of whom tried to hop on. One dude was back there forever until I drifted next to him. “You gotta take a pull.”
“I’m pretty tired.”
“No free rides. You’re strong enough to sit, you’re strong enough to pull.”
“I’ll give it my best.”
He then refused to pull through, so I let a gap open and he came around me to get on Ventoux’s wheel. Ventoux took a hard pull then slowed so much that Sitter had to come through. Thirty seconds in he was weaving, and after a minute he was draped on the bars like a melted piece of cheese.
Then he was gone. “I just didn’t want him hanging around for free,” I said.
“You were doing 27.7 into the wind,” Ventoux said. “I’m not sure that was free.”
We got back to PV and had the best-tasting mocha frap ever. Ventoux, because he only had 130 miles so far, with 45 to go, accompanied me on the vicious finishing climbs up Basswood-Shorewood. “You do this every ride?” he asked.
“It must be character building. Or breaking.”
We parted company. I got home, cleaned up, ate, and sent texts to Maxissimo and B Ride. “Hope you guys didn’t die. Great riding with you.”
Maxissimo immediately replied. “Great riding with you!”
This made me happy. Shelled early and left to fend for himself in the wilderness, Maxissimo knew the rules and sounded happy to have been on his bike.
I never heard back from B Ride. But a friend did forward me a reproachful screenshot from the Stravver in which I was described as “Seth Every Ride a Race Davidson.”
That’s not true at all. I told everyone I was going to go as hard as I could. I never promised anyone a bottle, a blankie, or a diaper change. But I kind of like the sound of it anyway.
October 21, 2019 Comments Off on The Greatest
Those who fail to remember their history are doomed to be bike racers.
Because bike racers, at least in the U.S., have zero knowledge of what went before them, to say nothing of the large public at large.
Did you know, for example, that the U.S.A.’s first world champion was an African-American bike racer named Marshall Taylor? Of course you did!
What you may not know is that Taylor’s bike, complete with original sew-up tires, was recently purchased by Hrach Gevrikyan. Hrach, in addition to running one of the finest bike stores in Southern California for decades, has also been a lifelong bicycle collector, so when the chance came to acquire Taylor’s “Pierce” bicycle, Hrach snapped it up and put it in his museum, Vintage Velo.
That’s right. Hrach has a museum, and on November 16 you can join the MVMNT Ride and pedal up to Pasadena to see the bike in person. I know I’ll be there.
The MVMNT Rides started two years ago when Ken Vinson got the idea that he was slow. This idea was confirmed every Tuesday/Thursday on the NPR. So Ken got to thinking, “If I’m slow, I bet a bunch of other people are, too!” Truer words were never thought.
As Ken looked around, he noticed that, fast or slow, cyclists had one thing in common: They didn’t talk much beyond saying, “How’s it going?” “Good, man, you?”
He also noticed that cyclists tend to do the same old rides over and over and over. The opportunities for experiencing new relationships and new communities were few.
As a result Ken created the MVMNT Rides. In addition to being slow, the rides take people all over L.A. at a leisurely pace and introduce them to parts of town they might otherwise not ride in at all, and the rides have been a huge success. It’s amazing how much people talk and laugh when they aren’t puking.
The next MVMNT Ride, on November 16, will be to see the Major Taylor racing bike acquired by Hrach and now installed in his museum. You can even learn your history beforehand by visiting the Major Taylor Association.
“The Pierce 28,” which is the name of the bike, was raced by Taylor in 1897, approximately five years before the invention of Strava. The Pierce 28, with its wooden rims, was designed, built, and given to Taylor by Burns Pierce, a close friend and competitor who was the son of George Pierce, a car manufacturer.
The ride departs in front of Sika’s in Leimert Park http://www.leimertparkvillage.org/venues—retail.html and follows a route to Sycamore Grove Park, where more riders can join the MVMNT. From there the ride goes through South Pasadena to Trader Joe’s, picks up more riders, and then proceeds to Velo Pasadena. For riders who are wondering how slow this ride is going to be, the answer is “you could probably jog it.”
From Leimert Park the entire ride is 42 miles, and should be completed in 72 days or less.
Please visit the MVMNT Ride page on Facebag and indicate that you’re going so that Hrach doesn’t suddenly have to accommodate 10,000 riders, which, because he’s one of the kindest people earth, he probably would.
See you there!
August 22, 2019 § 12 Comments
The hardest part of any awards ceremony is picking winners. A lot of time it is pretty squishy because the world famous South Bay Cycling Awards doesn’t exactly have a precise procedure, scoring system, nomination system, selection system, and etc. Still, every year we mostly manage to come up with winners who deserve what they’ve won.
This year the woman who won Best Young Rider was Zoe Ta Perez. She won the national time trial title this year and is a powerful force on the local racing scene, to put it mildly.
When I called her dad to tell him about the award and see if she would be able to accept it in person at the awards ceremony he said, “I don’t think so. She’s in Germany at the moment.”
“Okay,” I said, “no worries. We will drop it off the following week. What’s she doing in Germany?”
“She’s racing the madison at junior track worlds at the Frankfurt track.”
“Wow,” I said. “I hope she wins!”
On the day of the award ceremony, someone came up to me, breathless. “Did you hear about Zoe?” he said.
“No? What happened?”
“She won the world title in the madison with Megan Jastrab.”
In other words, what I’m trying to say, is that, you know, well, picking this young world champion for our Best Young Rider award kind of, you know, NAILED IT.
On Wednesday Ken Vinson and I drove over to drop off the trophy. We had her trophy and swag bag and were pretty pleased to have the chance to present her with her award.
She had been expecting us and met us at the door. “Here’s your trophy,” I said, reaching into the bag and pulling it out with a flourish. She beamed and I handed it to her.
That’s about the time that we both studied the plate glued to the base of the trophy, which said “BEST MALE RACER: JUSTIN WILLIAMS.”
“Um, uh,” I stuttered, but she didn’t.
“No problem! Don’t worry about it.”
“I must have grabbed the wrong, uh, you know, gosh, gee …” I looked frantically around for the STUPID and MORON signs that usually dangle off of my chin. “We’ll get it to you,” I said. “So sorry …”
She was so kind and understanding, and after a couple of seconds, so was I because Zoe probably doesn’t have much space left in her trophy case anyway, and if she does, it may well be reserved for the world road title she’ll be hunting down a couple of weeks hence in Yorkshire, England.
Ken and I gave her the swag bag, took a couple of pics, and left. The award couldn’t have gone to a more deserving #winner. I do need to work on the presentation, though …
August 18, 2018 § 7 Comments
Last Sunday we had the inaugural All Clubs BBQ sixth South Bay Cycling Awards at Eldorado Park in Long Beach. The two people who made this event happen, Ken Vinson and Kristie Fox, arrived before the sun rose to get things set up.
There was a guy sleeping on a park bench and Ken asked him if he would help out in exchange for a meal. The man’s name was Ben Millane, and not only did he help, he took ownership of his tasks and being part of the event. He did the leaf blowing for the entire area and helped clean the venue. He was kind and talkative, and seemed as excited as anyone to be there, maybe more.
Without being asked, he stayed all the way through tear down. He talked numerous times throughout the day to all kinds of people. As the final things were loaded up, Ben thanked Ken and Kristie, said he loved the event, then asked if it was a one time only happening. Kristie said the event would definitely be back next year and that she would contact him. Ben has a FB page, and wondered where he could get one of the cycling t-shirts made by Origin. Kristie said she’d get him one.
This kind of interaction between strangers is what the day was about.
Six years is longer than you think
At the end of the South Bay Cycling Awards last year I was pretty wrung out. We had gone from humble origins at Naja’s dive bar in Redondo Beach to a huge event at Strand Brewing in Torrance, each year bigger than the last.
But after last year it felt like the event had run its course. There are only so many times you can give out twenty awards of distinction in a small community before you really are simply recycling names. Instead of an organic gathering of friends we had become a choreographed event with moving parts, all of which had to be timed and integrated.
It was a big old hassle.
As we were tussling with the idea of what to do in 2018, or whether to do anything at all, we were invited to join one of Ken Vinson’s Movement Rides. I’ve written about that experience, but it brought home the fact that if our event was going to represent the broader cycling community, it would need people from those communities who had skin in the game. Our decision to merge the two events was a quick one that left us with little time to pull it off.
“Don’t worry,” said Ken. “If give me the green light, we’ll make it happen.”
Let the people breathe
One thing I learned is that it’s hard to step aside. It’s kind of painful to see that when you’re not there, there are plenty of people who can do it better, more efficiently, and more effectively. And while it was great to see so many people come to the fore and do fantastic things, it also drove home that when an event is identified with one person it sort of sucks the oxygen out of the room for everyone else.
Apparently I was a pretty big oxygen suck, because when I turned the keys over to Ken and Kristie a whole host of new people stepped up to make the event better than it has ever been before. It’s hard to single out any one person, but some things really stood out.
One of them was Jeff Prinz of CBR, hopping around on a bandaged leg as he organized kids’ games and turned the first half of the event into a genuine icebreaker. It’s one thing to get black and white and brown people into a single venue, but a whole other thing to get them to talk. Racial barriers are real and they don’t come down easily. Although physical proximity is the key, it’s sometimes not enough.
Enter the world’s biggest game of musical chairs. Under Jeff’s direction the entire central area was converted into a game of 150-seat musical chairs, and this is where the barriers shook, crumbled, and fell. People diving for seats, laughing, bumping into each other, connecting as human beings over a simple child’s game … it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, made supreme by the fact that the child’s game was won, of course, by a child.
Let the people eat
Throughout the park, master cooks Harry McQueen, Patrick Barrett, Geoff Loui, and Jonathan Fraser cranked out the tantalizing smell of their pit creations, building to a fever pitch when the barbecue judging began at noon. Judges Sherri Foxworthy, Orlando Hutcherson, and Marvin Campbell did the hard work of eating the best barbecue imaginable, then trying to pick a winner.
And pick they did, anointing Patrick Barrett the winner’s laurels in a hard-fought contest. With heaps of non-contest meat also being grilled, people wandered through the area sampling, eating, and enjoying an amazing mix of camaraderie, community, and family. Shortly after noon Toni Smith and her Flawless Diamonds opened their food line and things got even more serious.
The first 150 people ate free; after that it cost ten bucks a plate for barbecue, cornbread, beans, and dessert. The Flawless Diamonds made sure that at this event, like every event they cater, no one goes hungry who can’t afford a meal. This too was a symbol of the day.
Let the people race
Around the corner from the stage, Zwift had set up a booth where you could strap into a spin bike and show your watts. The biggest wattage for the day, man and woman, each won a Zwift subscription along with a $1,200 indoor trainer. Competition was intense, to put it mildly. Zwift was one of many organizations who supported the event, including Race for RP, Velo Club LaGrange, and Big Orange Cycling. I’ve linked to the other sponsors in a previous post here.
The biggest race of all, of course, was the race of the people who showed up. It’s the first time ever, as was noted by keynote speaker Nelson Vails, that such a diverse community of cyclists has shown up to support, encourage, promote, and pay homage to the diversity of cycling. Award winners in 2018 made this event the most diverse one ever, and we didn’t even need an Oscars scandal to make it happen.
How did it happen? By doing the right thing for the right reasons with the right people.
After it was all said and done, we showed that people can work together, that unity is stronger than discord, and that the things we share as human beings that bind us together are infinitely stronger than the minor differences that people use to try and drive us apart. We showed that the first step to a better a world requires us to share the same physical space, that the second step requires a little bit of fun, and that the third step requires that we break bread together. The driving force for all of this, of course, is the bicycle, and anyone who doubts that bikes can save the world wasn’t at Eldorado Park last Sunday.
From volunteer photographers like Fred King to volunteer set-up hands like Ben Millane, from organizers like Ken and Kristie to the clubs who showed up in force, From Erick and Kurt on the sound to Peta and Rudy on the sack race, all I can say is that if you liked what you saw last week, well, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
June 9, 2018 § 1 Comment
My ride began at 6:05 AM this morning, nary a car on the road as I descended to PV Drive North. I made the left and drifted out of the bike lane on the deserted street.
Whatever drowsiness that remained was blasted away by a white pickup that had sped up onto my rear wheel and violently leaned on the horn. It was one of those loud, obnoxious, “Fuck you!” honks that are such a specialty of the terminally angry South Bay not-quite-rich-enough folks.
I met up with a gang of Big Orange riders at the Center of the Known Universe, and as we left Manhattan Beach a very angry white person leaned on the horn without let-up for a solid minute, letting us know that she wanted us off of her road. We waved when she finally passed, and wished her the nicest of days, although it was clear that the sight of twenty happy bicyclists had already ruined her entire weekend.
We reached the meet-up spot at La Tijera and La Cienega. A big contingent of the Beach City Cycling Club also showed up, as well as large numbers of riders from Major Motion, Methods to Winning, the Bahati Foundation, Penuel Cycles, a bunch of other clubs, and a large assortment of unaffiliated riders. In all there were well over a hundred riders.
The MVMNT Rides were started as a way to get together white, black, Latino, Asian, Filipino, and every other ethnicity on two wheels and pedal through urban Los Angeles on routes that many of us don’t often take. One of those routes is to Watts Towers, an extraordinary landmark by any measure, yet one that most L.A. denizens have never seen.
We owe a huge debt to Ken Vinson, Methods to Winning rider and engine who has done so much to get our communities talking to each other. Ken is the person who put the word out for today’s MVMNT Ride, and people turned out in force.
It took us over an hour to make the short 12-mile pedal because we stopped at traffic lights and because the pace was intentionally slow and conversational. In addition to enjoying the sights of the city we got to meet so many new people. Of course, throughout the morning people honked at us, but unlike the uptight South Bay people in their Rage Rovers, these were friendly honks accompanied with happy yell, thumbs up, and waves.
It’s something I’ve gotten used to riding with a large group in urban L.A. Half of the people shouting have bikes at home and wish they were with you, and the other half are shouting because they are stoked.
Watts Towers was amazing. I’d tell you about it, but you have to see it for yourself.
After the ride, there was a neighborhood barbecue put on by East Side Riders, which turned out to be an amazing end to an amazing day. I was unable to go, but friend and fellow Big Orange rider Kristie Fox went with Ken to the event. Here is her report:
“ESR is more than a bike club, and membership requires a mindset of giving back to the community and helping people in need. The BBQ and the people there reflected that. For the East Side Riders, bikes are transportation, not toys like they typically are on the West Side and in the South Bay, and that’s why the organization fights for bike lanes and other advocacy issues.
“John Jones, the head of the club, is a super charismatic person but totally unpretentious. You can feel how much he cares about what he is doing and how good it makes him feel just standing next to him. The BBQ had free food and drinks, mountains of hot dogs, sausage, hamburgers, pasta salad, potato salad and watermelon, all paid for by John and free to not only the club, but anyone in the community who needed to be fed this day.
“Everyone there was incredibly friendly and happy. It felt more like a family reunion than a bike club BBQ. Everyone smiled and talked, some came up and introduced themselves. There was a woman there from the MVMNT ride named Aso who does a lot of riding with ESR. She talked about riding, the people she has met, and how inspirational they are to her. There was no talk of carbon, watts, racing, teams, power meters, and the other garbage that gets bandied about by bike racers, but a lot of talk about getting away from gangs, getting kids away from gangs, and giving something back to help people struggling in their neighborhoods with real problems like no food, parents on crack, illness, and no health insurance.
“There is a group of women in the group called The Flawless Diamonds. They are some of the most genuinely kind, energetic and completely crazy women you could ever hope to meet. They go by names like MZZ. V, Snazzy, MZ. Vilvit, and Ms. Booty. They were there selling BBQ to fund their club that raises money to sponsor families in south central Los Angeles. They adopt families and children for the year and provide them with everything they need for school, food and help with academics. They pay for everything, that’s everything, folks, and make sure the kids have dinners for holidays and anything else they need for the year. The founder, Snazzy, told about one family they’ve helped where the dad was raising two very young children because the mom was a drug addict who left and was never seen again. These women pay for medical expenses for kids with serious illness like cancer, and they volunteer every single Sunday in Bellflower to cook meals for the homeless.
“Napoleon Moore was also there, an unforgettable, unmistakable legend of the cycling world. He rides a minimum of 100 miles a day, all over the city. He had ridden 100 on the way to the BBQ and was on his way to rack up a bunch more miles after. He talked about how ESR had changed his life and gotten him out of the gang mindset by allowing him the get outside the community. He said that before ESR he couldn’t ride his bike anywhere but on his own street because the other streets were claimed by different gangs.
“ESR did not follow a gang claim rule for membership, and riding with them allowed him to move around and through the community to the outside where there were no gangs. He said this was something he had never heard of before joining them. He talked about how kids are isolated and segregated by systematized enforcement of gang territories, which stunts them into becoming gang members. He said that ESR had saved him, and he does everything he can to get more kids involved with ESR and moved away from a life in gangs and drugs.”
Thoughts about the day
On the way back I was talking with Baby Seal. “Why does money make people so bitter?” he wondered aloud.
“It’s because people with money don’t have to interact much with other people. Every problem in life is a transaction. But when you don’t have money you have to talk with people, rely on people, deal with people, comfort people, listen to people, help people out. Karma isn’t a bumper sticker for your Rage Rover, it’s a way of life, helping people and encouraging people because you know that what goes around really does come around, and your turn could be right around the corner.”
A bunch of young guys standing by the bus stop whistled and waved, and we waved back.
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