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!
March 11, 2019 § 8 Comments
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.
March 8, 2019 § 2 Comments
Tomorrow is the first MVMNT Ride of 2019.
It leaves at 8:00 AM from 736 East Del Amo Boulevard in Carson, in front of the Buffalo Wild Wings.
The ride will be about four hours long and it will be slow. People will talk. Learn each others’ names. Not sprint for KOMs. Have a good time. Hopefully talk trash, at least a little.
The ride goes to the Korean Bell in San Pedro and finishes at The Bike Palace, where riders will be treated to sugar and caffeine as well as a chance to meet, shake hands with, and kiss the signet ring of JP “Baby Seal,” the legendary cyclist, pillow baby, ex-newsletter-ist, #socmed magician, and most all-round nice guy on earth after the apocalypse.
What is a MVMNT Ride, aside from something that’s missing a bunch of vowels? Glad you asked! It is a ride designed to get people of all ethnicities together, to break down racial barriers, to soften stereotypes, and to realize that we are all human beings who share the same basic, most fundamental and primitive human need of all: TO RIDE OUR FUGGIN’ BIKES!
Hope you can make it, even if it means getting out of your favorite socioeconomic cocoon! Remember, it’s not every day you get to shake hands with a seal.
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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