Every other Friday is a day in which morning errands are done. After running all things errands in this newly found heat I made the choice to go out to my local San Fernando Valley Critical Mass late night group ride.
Going out on a whim from my normal earlier morning road rides, my expectations had been adjusted to fit the scene in the right way. I knew I wasn’t getting home at a timely hour, the pace would be enough to keep a group of inexperienced riders together, and there may be drug and alcohol use in plain view. The reason I decided to show up (for one) was to get out of the house after running errands. As sad as it sounds, my idea of going out on a Friday night involves doing the same thing I do through out the week. Secondly, I wanted to assess and get a feel for the new generation of cyclists in my area.
There were not very many photos to be taken that night. Mostly a bunch of guys standing around on their bikes waiting to leave and ride. My guess as to how the ride and crowd would play out was pretty close to what ended up happening that night.
- A lot of fixed gear riders (most with functioning lights and helmets)
- The few road & hybrid bike owners
- The small group of older men who were drinking and smoking
- A bike with some homemade speaker rig to play music through while everyone is rolling
- Lack of punctuality
- The group ride leader appearing out of shape , overweight, and not having any idea where the ride is going
A lot of egos ended up being associated with the fixed gear riders. The fixed gear bike to younger riders is the equivalent to the entry level sports car people speed through crowded street and constantly scan for potential victims they can race to justify their purchase and further existence. Just like driving, a humble approach and broader knowledge of the grand scheme of the open road inhibited this intimidation factor completely from my mind. That and the fact that I race bikes in denser groups at higher speeds helps out.
Once the ride finally took off I was reminded that this exact setting was my upbringing into where I am now when speaking of bicycles. There was a feeling of nostalgia and maturation when returning back to the group events that got my hooked on cycling to begin with. Once that moment came and went, I started to assess the atmosphere and riding etiquette the group showed.
Most of the riders had friendly attitudes. Striking up conversations with friends and openly starting new ones with riders who had bikes they liked. I happened to be wearing my bicykillers kit which sparked up a few conversations. It seems that a lot of people are still intimidated by the title and reputation of faster paced group rides. People become apprehensive when you ask them to go out of there comfort zone and try something different.
When it came to calling out turns and pot holes in the ground, there ended up being a loud echo of incomprehensible noise that came in waved from all the riders. After turns were called out, many riders ended up cutting inside their natural lines and causing close calls and more yelling. Not only do newer riders get nervous when considering riding with faster and more mature cyclists, but they tend to back off when they get too close to someone else whether they’re turning or not. Right away I can see the many traits that develop and stick with someone later down the line (myself included) that need to be ironed out in years to come. For now, this behavior is fine. The key is to get people interested in riding and not much else. Once you’ve succeeded in this, the rider must hold on to that feeling for as long as possible, harness and shape this emotion into a more developed lifestyle. No one in this group would even know where to begin if I suggested they register for a bike race or to name three pros who are a part of the team jersey they are wearing.
Long story short, we rode, we stopped to change flats, rode some more, talked and mingled with those who were willing to talk, and ended up at the 7-eleven that is a three minute walk from my house. It figures that the one time a year I end up showing up to one of these events, they coincidentally take me back to my house where we ended up riding down the block my house was on. This was too good of an opportunity to pass up. After having a few good conversations with some riders, I took the opportunity to excuse myself from the ride and end up home just in time to get some sleep before my fifth day on the bike, and riding 130km in above temperatures of 35 degrees Celsius, with a newly found group of friends I am having a blast getting to know. While this last part may seem a bit off topic and can be forwarded into another post altogether, I digress.
There is still a lot of potential for local riders to mature into another generation of mature riders. No matter what shape or size you are, everyone can find happiness and a state of zen on a bike. In the Friday night group setting, there is untapped potential that if given the right circumstances, can blossom into something memorable and rewarding.