|Nobody Walks in LA - (This article is written by Camryn)
Los Angeles' legendary sprawl can be a conundrum for those who yearn to travel through the city in the open air. Its beautiful
nearly year round here but everything is spread out so far that walking isn't a practical reality. The solution? Sure a convertible is
a "classic LA" extravagance but that’s not what I'm getting at. Of course I am talking about a machine much older and abundant
worldwide than the automobile: the bicycle. Long time Los Angeles cyclists may remember a time when bicycling wasn't much
of a viable option. I grew up in a time before there were bicycle racks on buses or any of the metro trains (aside from the
generally useless metro link trains). Of course at that time I hadn't any need to commute or any social engagements requiring
travel across the metropolitan area. When I entered my late teens, however, I saw racks on nearly all MTA buses and a rail
system that, although very limited in comparisons to other major cities, can get you closer to where you want to go. I quickly
learned that a bicycle and your legs could do the rest. Personally, I think buses are more trouble than they are worth. When I
am crammed into a packed bus I am overwhelmed with proletarian ephemera. The crying babies, singing drunks, and people
desperately clinging onto their "personal space" really takes its toll on me. It becomes painfully clear that to ride the bus we
have traded in that precious personal space for a seat to rest our tired appendages. And not only has your freedom of movement
been waived you've also paid a service charge of $1.25 for that seat, which you may or may not be lucky enough to procure. My
clausterphobia aside, the fact that I can usually catch up to busses riding my bicycle leads me to avoid sharing the sardine can
with my fellow salt of the earth. When I am out there on my bicycle I feel free. Free enough that I can be that crying baby, that
singing drunk or whatever variation of sane or insane I choose. And although I hope motorists see me on the road, they don't
really see ME while they are locked within their two tons of steel. For the most part they're locked in traffic, locked into the
melodies of todays hottest Jamz, locked in what MUST be very important phone conversations or whatever. We're all out there in
traffic togehter but I am alone on my bicycle. I guess a major difference for myself between cycling and riding a bus is that doing
the former I can (and do) have coversations or sing to myself. Loud. Try doing that on the bus and keeping up your facade of
Well don't feel too comfortable out there insane cyclist because at a surprisingly fast rate, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Indeed, in
Los Angeles there is a growing tribe of people who ride bicycles. And for many different reasons. Not only do people ride for
fitness or cheap transportation, there are those who ride for socio-political gratification, to gather socially, to play with others,
and even for those whom the bicycle plays a considerable part in their very identity. Its been called a sub-culture, a "scene", a
cult (see David Perry's book of the same name for an extensive history of the bicycle and its zealous companions), and a
political movement. Whatever you call it exists in very concrete forms in Los Angeles due to long running campaigns such as
Critical Mass, the Los Angeles County Bike Coalition, and the Bicycle Kitchen as well as by more upstart phenomena Midnight
Rydazz, this past year's Bike Summer and Bike Winter, Choppercabras and more. Whether you're just visiting, thinking about it,
or live here and want to have some free/cheap fun on your bicycle there are many projects alive in Los Angeles that make it
easier and more fun to pedal around the city notorious for its traffic and freeways. All right, meet me at Wilshire and Western in
about 20 minutes and we'll go for a ride.
Critical Mass happens every last Friday in cities across the world. Here in Los Angeles it meets up at the Wilshire/Western Red
Line Station. Critical Mass is a group ride with a vague political focus. Traditionally it intends to show rush hour motorists that
we (bicyclists) are "not holding up traffic, we are traffic". There is no scheduled route, so basically Critical Mass rides are for the
sake of riding in a group. Many people on these rides feel the need to affix political slogans to the ride by chanting or wearing
signs opposing oil addiction and the worldwide conquest that such habits necessitate. Others are out there just to have a good
time and feel empowered by riding with a large group. Whatever the riders' motivations, Critical Mass is a global institution in the
radical-liberal-hippie bicyclist world. CM rides have also sprung up in the periphery of the Los Angeles area in the past year or
so. Santa Monica, Pasadena/North East Los Angeles, and Long Beach now host their own CM rides.
Every second Friday of the month finds the corner of Echo Park and Sunset (in Echo Park) over run with every walk of cycling-
life. Here you will find Critical Mass politicos, party-seeking hipsters, messengers, weekend warriors, bmx kids and just about
any variation on two wheels. At 9:30 the Midnight Rydazz meet up and the route for that night's "party on wheels" is
disseminated. Each ride has is orgainzed around a theme and the route is printed upon spoke cards and passed around. Some
of the more memorable themes I've seen were the Cult Ride, Metal ride, Make Out Ride, and Nerd ride. People cool enough to
be in the know dress up before hand and play up to the theme. The rest hang out for a while, socialize, drink lots of alcohol and
eventually the group sets off into the night. As for the rides I've been on (quite a good percentage) they vary greatly in intensity.
There is no telling whether the ride will be a quick jaunt through Downtown or a drunken tour de Pasadena and back. I'd say be
prepared for both as I've seen plenty of people turn around in exhaustion or marooned on the sidewalk fixing a bicycle that was
not ready to meet the challenge. Rydazz eschew the motto "no rider left behind" but many times in practice this is not a viable
reality. Lately with the rides getting so large (around 600 rydazz) and attracting so much media attention, the party, bar, or
whatever haven't been able ot contain the huge turnout, let alone the ride itself. Recently MR set off on its 2nd year anniversary
ride with a group so massive that it resulted in many careless accidents and a large police presence. These rides are still a very
fun way to spend a free/cheap night out (literally) but be very cautious about inexperienced, inebriated, or pushy riders. I advise
much discretion when it comes to drinking as the police aren't exactly there to make sure we have a good time.
A completely different scene is riding with the Choppercabras Horror Cycle Club. Claiming the San Fernando Valley as their turf,
the Chopercabras are the brain child of Paul DeVerla owner of Atomic Cycles in Van Nuys. Choppercabras is a far cry from both
Midnight Rydazz' Eastside fixed gear hipsterism and Critical Mass' liberal shouting matches. Very much in the punk rock spirit
of making your own fun out of what might be ugly or dangerous to others, these are a bunch of guys who love to "chop" up
bicycles creating monster bikes by mixing and matching various parts. By welding two (or more) frames together they create
"chopper" bikes that can be extra long or high off the ground among other creative mutations. A certain "don't give a fuck"
attitude comes along with the Choppercabras. Some of their creations can be as dangerous as they are fun to ride. Every crazy
idea is worth a try, as long as its in the spirit of fun. Although some of these choppers can be challenging to handle, they
welcome riders of all skill levels to join their monthly pedal n' pub crawls and seasonal events. The latter are mellow mass rides
around the valley as well as full on bicycle demolition derbies. For those adventurous and foolish enough Choppercabras provide
many different contests to test your bicycle's strength and your body's resilience when met with the asphalt behind Atomic
Cycles. To quote from one of their bulletins: "if you do decide to tilt, you will most likely get hurt. You may get hurt really bad, so
don't come crying to us. You were duly warned. "
This past year has seen Los Angeles' bike culture has grown in part to the re-opening of the Bicycle Kitchen (see elsewhere in
this magazine for details on that) and a month of events known as Bike Summer and its subsequent spin-off Bike Winter. Bike
Summer is a month long celebration of the bicycle that occurs in a different city each year. June 3-July 2005 saw the baton
passed to the city of angels and, needless to say, we rode hard with it. During Bike Summer there were rides, film screenings,
art and music shows, and just about anything you can think of that related to bicycles. The name "Bike Summer" served as a
hub for a disconnected community to come together around. With Bike Summer being such an overwhelming success a few
months later the community launched Bike Winter, a weeklong chain of events. During Bike Winter it was very clear to me how
much the bike culture in Los Angeles had blossomed. People I didn't know at all were setting up elaborate events and there were
plenty of new faces in attendance. I think when people saw how the community rose to the occasion of Bike Summer they
became inspired to start their own clubs, activities and projects.
Before the Bicycle Kitchen opened up a legit storefront with a million volunteers and bicycles overflowing into the streets, it
consisted of a handful of mechanics fixing bikes in a very casual atmosphere. Beer was drank, music was cranked, and prices
were negotiable back when the Kitchen was operating out of a room in a local housing co-op. Times change and with growth
came the need to get serious and contribute to the community in a more inclusive way. Now, the shop's growing inventory and
open hours make it a dependable community resource. In the months following Bike Summer we have seen an offshoot appear
in East LA called the Bike Oven, which very much evokes the sprit of the Bike Kitchen's earlier days. Bike Oven opens its doors
once weekly and revels in informality and laid back fun. People are encouraged to "Show up, and work on your bike in some
dude's garage, with a bunch of tools - totally free of charge." The Oven exists to help the community help itself by learning
practical skills and teaching them to others. Oh, and have a good time. The Oven encourages contributions of cheap boxed wine
to "keep everyone well lubricated."
Clubs and gangs of secretive origin, membership, and activities have sprung all over LA as well. Some of these clandestine
groups include Shadow Battalion, Urban Bike Assault, Bike Swarm/Bike pLAuge , and the LA gears Bike Gang. Local Bike
Messengers are always putting on alley cat races where anything goes. These are definitely not for everybody but recently we've
seen a lot of the non-messenger bike community come out to these. Things are always changing around here so the best thing
to do is check www.bikeboom.com for a monthly listing of events, lube up the chain and get moving! See you on the streets.
-Critical Mass LA meets at Wilshire/Western at 6pm, Santa Monica meets every FIRST Friday at 6:30 (for locations check www.
SantaMonicaCriticalMass.org), North East meets every THIRD Friday at 6pm at 151 N. Ave. 57 in Highland Park, and for info on
long beach email
-Midnight Rydazz meets at 9:30 at the corner of Echo Park and Sunset. Some information on the rides can be gathered at www.
-Choppercabras' Pedal N' Pub Crawls meets every first Friday 8:30pm at Atomic Cycles 17322 Saticoy Van Nuys 91406 For
seasonal events check www.choppercabras.org
-To find out where Bike Summer will happen next or petition for your city check out
-to add your own events or check on what's going on city wide check www.bikeboom.com
-East Los Angeles Bike Oven Wednesdays 9pm 130 W Avenue 42, free
-Bike Plauge/Swarm have a zine manifesto, hit em up at
-bike gangs can be found on the social networking site/haven for sexual predators known as www.myspace.com.
-messenger events can be found at www.messenger.org.
-I can be reached at