RIDE LEADERS PART 1
A lot of people say that Midnight Ridazz is a "D.I.Y." culture. Yeah, that's true. There's something about riding a bike that makes you feel like you can do anything. Maybe it's the inspiring sense of freedom and independence you get from being able to propel yourself across this vast urban sprawl with your own two legs. Maybe that's why Ridazz are a collection of some of the most creative spirits in Los Angeles if not the world.
The only problem with using the "Do-It-Yourself" term is that it's a bit too singular. Midnight Ridazz is made up of many individualistic people with our own ideas but we are each a part of a beautiful community and when we do it, we "Do-It-Ourselves." So let's change it from "D.I.Y." to "D.I.O." because these are our rides, our races, our games, our parties, our nights and here are our stories...
* * * What's your name and What ride(s) are you most known for organizing?
K - My name is Kieron and the biggest ride I organized was C.R.A.N.K. MOB. I've also organized The Big Bang Firewerckx Ride on 4th of July, some of the early Cub Camp rides, I've helped out with Santa Monica Critical Mass and I did a couple social rides nearly a decade ago called Bike Club.
C - Charlie Olin: SINS and SPROCKETS and Chop Hop
P - Paul de Valera. I organize the Choppercabras Spring Thing and Halloween rides, the Coaster Brake Challenge, Bicycle Swapmeets, etc.
* * * Give us the rundown on your first organized ride.
K - The very first C.R.A.N.K. MOB was in September of 2007 and started from Bikerowave at 10pm on the first Saturday after the third Friday of the month.
C - The first Sins and Sprockets organized ride was in October of 2006. I spent a good amount of time deciding on a start point and settled on the dinosaurs in front of the Natural History Museum. This spot was chosen because of the proximity to where I lived and I was excited to ride with a group through neighborhoods where I would never ride alone through, especially late night.
P - I guess that would be the Second Choppercabras Halloween ride because the first was an on the fly sort of thing, I made about 2000 flyers and 12 people showed up. This was in 2001 or 2002. We did a ride and had a bb-q in my backyard.
* * * How many showed up?
K - Fifty-two people showed up. I remember having exactly enough spoke cards.
C - 20-30ish
P - 12
* * * What were your expectations? Were they met?
K - I did not know what to expect but whatever expectations I may have had were definitely blown away. Richie rode a bike made out of a shopping cart. We had a silly string war in the bottom level of the Westside Pavillion parking lot and then we all took our bikes on the escalators back up to the surface. We've come a long way since then since every C.R.A.N.K. MOB keeps on outdoing the last one and that's just beautiful.
C - I really didnít know what to expect, which made it pretty exciting. This was a time before there were multiple rides every night of the week which also added to the excitement for me and for those coming out to the ride.
P -At the time, there were very few people riding bikes in LA so I did not know what to expect most of the people that showed were people I knew. Bikes had not become hip yet so the only people riding were die-hard cycle junkies like myself and homeless crackheads. Most of the guys in my club that were on the first Choppercabras Halloween ride did not make it to the second one even though they resolved to do so every year. I guess that was a bit of a disappointment.
* * * What has been the largest and smallest turn outs?
K - It's hard to count now but I think the largest turnout was about 700 and the smallest was definitely 52.
C - Smallest were definitely the off-shoot Sins and Sprockets rides where we ride to watch Zack and Garrett (Sins and Sprockets members) band play. I think around 15 showed up but we ended up with about 8 at the end. The largest was probably 300ish.
P -My first ride had 8 people and I think the last one I did had about 300.
* * * What motivated you to decide to organize a ride?
K - I was already itching to start a new ride on the Westside because Santa Monica Critical Mass was starting to get harassed by police. So a group of us massers pooled together to try and come up with something new and I kept pushing for this ride idea I had which is what became C.R.A.N.K. MOB.
C - I was motivated to do a ride because my brother and I had ridden bikes and lived together for several years. When we moved apart I wanted to start something where we would get together and ride at least once a month.
P - I just wanted to turn people on to bikes and have some fun, you can't sit around waiting for something fun to land in your lap, you have to go out there and make it happen.
* * * In the initial planning stages? Did you want it to be a Party ride? Training ride (Wolfpack / Cub Camp) or just for chill/fun ride?
K - Oh C.R.A.N.K. MOB was definitely meant to be a party ride from the beginning. Well... party ride isn't the right term exactly. More of a carnival ride. I envisioned something like Burning Man or the Carnival in Trinidad & Tobago (both of which I've attended a couple times) and it was my dream to eventually have very elaborate festivities with giant foam and chicken wire costumes or sculptures. I really wanted to inspire creativity and fun on a spectacular level. So we still haven't hit it yet but I'm astounded at how far we've come in creating the ultimate carnival-bicycle-spectacle.
C - Sins and Sprockets was always a drinking ride. It started as a bar hop (something we are returning to) and evolved into a liquor store hop as our numbers got larger and larger.
P - I guess just a fun ride, the events came in on the 3rd or so Halloween ride.
* * * Was your first ride modeled after another ride? Such as number of stops? Certain areas?
K - For the format of the ride you could easily pin the influences down as Midnight Ridazz, Sins N Sprockets, Critical Mass and other big monthly rides like that. One of the major inspirations was the trip that a bunch of us Ridazz took to Portland earlier in 2007. We were there for New Belgium Brewery's Tour De Fat which is basically a big bicycle carnival with circus acts, bands, freak bikes and everything. Only thing is that Tour De Fat wasn't actually ON bikes. I want to figure out how to get that going ON bicycles.
C - First ride was based on what we would do with a few friends when I lived on the westside, just bar hopping. The difference was the location and that it was now publicized.
P - No, there were no other group rides but Critical Mass and it was under a dozen people when I first started going so I had no basis for comparison.
* * * How long does it typically take to plan each ride?
K - You don't have to spend a long time planning. The most time consuming part is making spoke cards. Everything else is pretty easy. Half an hour to plan the route, half an hour to make the flyer, half an hour to post it everywhere. Booking bands or planning silly string battles and other F.U.N. activities always just falls into place since C.R.A.N.K. MOB is so collaborative. The real work is trying to keep everything together during the ride.
C - Usually numerous hours. 2-3 times out scouting the route at a couple to few hours each time. I think I only finished one route on my first time out. Then another couple hours making maps and spoke cards.
P - It takes about a sold month to get the Choppercabras events together. There's a lot of stuff to build or fix. Flyers have to be drawn up, etc. I'm usually fielding around 25-30 bikes for each event + all the other stuff you have to do like buttons, spoke cards, route maps, etc.
* * * Do you receive help from others or google maps, etc.?
K - It definitely helps to have a crew of people you trust who can help make sure that the ride is going smoothly. I use gmap-pedometer.com to plan the route. Richie uses Google maps. I know someone else who uses mapmyride.com which is pretty cool if you don't mind all the annoying advertisements.
C - I have done 90 or more percent of the Sins and Sprockets planning myself.
P - Nathan from Nathan's Tattoo helps with the food, otherwise I do it all myself with the exception of the cleanup at the end of the event.
* * * What are your biggest fears on each ride?
K - That someone might get hurt. And it seriously breaks my heart every time that happens. Please take care of yourselves and others out there.
C - I really donít have any real fears, but always hope the rides will be injury free.
P - Someone getting hurt on the ride portion. The events people get hurt all the time but that's expected. I also think that no one will show up but that never happens.
* * * Does rain cancel your ride? If not, what would it take to cancel your ride?
K - Fortunately we live in Southern California and it has never rained on C.R.A.N.K. MOB. But I can't wait till it does because I think it will be epic. I'm not sure if anything could really cancel C.R.A.N.K. MOB. If there is something, I'm not sure I want to know what it is.
C - Nothing cancels the ride. We luckily only had one ride where it poured. It is probably the ride I enjoyed most. I felt a real sense of togetherness to all those who made it to the end. Then we all got loaded at Bar 107.
P - Rain does not cancel. It's never rained on a Choppercabras ride yet. The only thing that would cancel my ride would be the death of myself or a close family member.
* * * Do you have a back-up crew in case you canít make it?
K - In January of 2008 I couldn't make C.R.A.N.K. MOB because I was out of town. So I tried to do as much planning as I could from where I was and had a group of friends (Alec, Richie, Marcus, Franz, etc.) take care of the ride. From what I heard it went really well.
C - Sins and Sprockets is a crew and have taken over in my absence. A few of us had to miss one ride because we were out of town and the remaining members stepped up and did a great job.
P Ė No.
* * * Why did you pick the specific day to have your ride?
K - I think that was the only day that wasn't taken by another ride already. Why the first Saturday after the third Friday? I think the original thinking was because it would always be two weeks after Santa Monica Critical Mass. Now I just think it sounds absurd which is what I like about it.
C - Seemed like a good choice?
P - Yes, the last Sunday in May (spring thing) and the last Sunday in October (Halloween Ride)
* * * What other rides were happening on the same day?
K - I think for a while Pier Pressure was happening on the same day which was great. You could chill and do Pier Pressure, get a nice tan going and then venture out to C.R.A.N.K. MOB. These days, a lot of people seem to be posting C.R.A.N.K. MOB pre-events which is awezum.
C - Northeast Los Angeles Critical Mass. It wasnít long before they began taking their ride to join us. I always thought that was really cool. When I started planning Sins and Sprockets, I thought their ride was much further from us and that we wouldnít draw the same riders. Wasnít till later I realized how close they were to us and got even closer when we moved the ride to the Chinatown metro. Northeast Los Angeles Critical Mass was a big part of making the Sins and Sprockets ride what it was in the beginning.
P Ė Donít Know
* * * Do/did you check the ride calendar before each ride to see what else is happening that same day?
K - Yeah I remember checking bikeboom.com but it seems I accidentally overlooked the Southbay Cruisers monthly ride. Sorry guys!
C - Of course, but much more at the beginning. I began to care less and less as time went on and our ride was more
P - No, I don't. I've been doing this for near a decade now and I'm sticking to my plan. If there's other things going on then you have to choose, being that most other rides are just rides and the Choppercabras events offer a bit more (mayhem, destruction & hot dogs) I'd say many choose to come to my event over someone else's.
* * * How did you arrive at a ride name? What names did you consider?
K - Oh man. The crew of critical massers that I mentioned above had a load of other names that we were all voting on. Well I just had this name which I guess I got from a culmination of sources: Cranked Magazine, the sci-phy hip hop crew Glitch Mob (they are sick. check them out.) and the Bike Kill documentary B.I.K.E.
C - Zack (my brother) and I were throwing around names and he came up with Sins of the Sprocket for the club. I liked it, but shortened a bit to make it easier to make shirts (the pre-vest days) and I thought Sins and Sprockets was a little rolled off the tongue a bit easier. And used the club name for the ride as well.
P Ė Itís the name of the bicycle club that myself and some friends formed in 1999 or 2000.
* * * Do you feel a catchy ride name is important for a ride's success?
K - Yes. Absolutely.
C - Yeah, but a good description in your post of what to expect when you get there is a much bigger draw for me.
P - No, I think that being consistent and providing a positive ride experience is what counts.
* * * Has your ride ever been hijacked? If so, to what extent? please elaborate.
K - It's been hijacked a couple times. The key is to make sure everyone knows who is leading the route. This usually means you are going to lose your voice by the end of the night. Now it's easier with Richie's sound-system leading the way. One time we went down into a Century City parking garage and the group got split up. Half the group emerged out of the North side and headed East (with me leading) and the other half emerged out of the South side heading West (with Richie leading). Each half rode around for a while and then converged on Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills and it was absolutely magical. Not exactly a hijacking but it goes to show that some times deviating from your plan can sometimes lead to good things.
C - Never hijacked.
P - Yeah right, this ain't no party ride.
* * * What size ride did you envision when you started the ride? Has it ever gotten out of control?
K - These days, the attendance on C.R.A.N.K. MOB is very very big. Starting this month (March) we have to start from a different location since we've outgrown the place that we've always started at on Sawtelle. As the ride gets bigger, you need to make sure you've got a proportionately larger crew to help you take care of everything.
C - I envisioned a ride of 20ish. Never so much out of control, but became a lot of work to keep in control.
P - I figured around 100 people would be great, the numbers are growing. I guess I'll have to get more hot dogs next time as 250 was not enough.
* * * When youíre on other rides, do you analyze it and compare/contrast to your own ride? Or What you would have done differently?
K - Nah I'm just trying to ride and have fun.
C - Yea, to a certain degree. I am sure all organizers do this.
P - Not really. I just go to enjoy myself. People tearing off like it's a race can be a little annoying but on my rides we have a route and ride slow.
* * * What's the best and worst part about doing a ride?
K - Best part is being a fun enabler and also the thanks you get. The worst is when it all goes wrong.
C - The best thing is hanging out with everyone at the end and meeting some new people. The worst is asking people to slow down or to stay behind me because I am setting the pace.
P - Seeing it all come together and seeing people that show up and really bring it, really add to the event. The worst part is having people come up to me expecting me to stop everything because they want me to fix their flat tire. (I run the events from behind my bike shop, Atomic Cycles.) (Shameless plug!)
* * * How long do you envision the ride continuing?
K - Forever!
C - We discontinued our 3rd Friday ride in October of 2008 after 2 very successful years. We are still planning to do a couple big rides a year and are opting to do some smaller bar rides instead of a large monthly ride. I donít really see an end in sight. I guess when it is no longer fun I wonít want to do it anymore.
P - Until I get fed up with humanity and become a hermit.
* * * Do you consider spoke cards to be a reflection of the ride? the organizer? or both?
K - I would say both. With C.R.A.N.K. MOB, a different artist designs the spoke card for each month. This kind of reflects the potluck style of fun where everyone gets to express their own creativity. It also reflects my own incapacity for anything artistic.
C - Both. When others offered to take over the spoke cards I had a difficult time letting go off the creative control. I liked when we would use pictures from the previous ride on the next monthís spoke card. Kinda added some excitement to see who would be on the card at the next ride
P - No. I make spoke cards because it's a neat keepsake, but is has no deep seeded meaning for me, just another thing on my checklist to get done.
* * * Anything else you'd like to add??
K - Well now it's been a year since I've answered the questions in this interview and about six months since C.R.A.N.K. MOB's last ride. I really do think about this a lot and I'd like to say that I'm very happy with how everything turned out. I know there are lot of people out there who have had something to say about C.R.A.N.K. MOB for better or for worse. Speaking from personal experience, I know that those rides created a lot of fond memories, put smiles on at least a few thousand faces and changed the way some people think about getting around town. And that was the whole point.
There were some rough situations and goofy circumstances along the route but the best part was inspiring people -- whether they be fans or critics -- who would start their own ride and make it something even better. After all, that's how C.R.A.N.K. MOB began in the first place. Midnight Ridazz has seen dozens of offshoots and imitations and it kinda works like a virus. If every offshoot ride creates 5 more offshoot rides then the tentacles of bike fun will spread farther and faster than anyone could imagine and then the whole city/country/world is hooked.
Seriously, there aren't many things in this world as addictive as riding a bicycle. One night you might be drinking beers on a beach cruiser, then commuting by bike the next month, then competing in cyclecross races the following winter and then you find yourself riding from Alaska to Argentina for an entire year after that. Once you get that two-wheeled frame between your legs there's no letting go. All you need is that initial eye-opener, something to release whatever endorphin it is that makes pedaling so enjoyable.
C.R.A.N.K. MOB has been that for some people (for me it was a bike camping trip on the Vancouver Islands that I did with my classmates when I was twelve, been riding ever since) and even if you don't stick to social/party/night rides, that pedal-powered drivetrain will be tattooed to your soul. LA's social bike culture probably sees more people come and go than Union Station but I can almost guarantee that most of them stick to riding their bikes regularly.
So I'm happy that we've been able to reach all these people who hadn't previously thought their bicycles could be so much fun. I really think they will go far on those wheels. I must commend all the fun makers out there who are now organizing their own rides and bike events (you know who you are) and reaching even more people, empowering minds and rejuvenating hearts.
As for C.R.A.N.K. MOB, we had a fucking great ride and the beast may be dormant for now but who knows, maybe it will rise from the ashes some time soon...
C - I guess it is important for many of the new riders, and for that matter even for some of older riders, to think of the many people who have put a lot of effort into building a bicycle community in Los Angeles. Everyone from ride organizers, to places where you can work on your bicycle, to the people who come out to the rides and are willing to lend a hand corking, telling people to slow down, or just confronting unwanted behavior.
I guess what I am saying is to not take what we have here for granted, and even more don't do anything that will ruin it for everyone else. I have seen the state of rides change in the years I have been doing this, and with that change the tolerance and attitudes of the police have also changed and not for the better.
I think we should all take on the responsibility to respect the communities we ride through, follow (as much as possible) the rules of the road, do our bests to mend the negative attitudes of law enforcement and of some of the communities we ride through, and to look out for each other.
P - If you have any other questions, check my website for all the events. www.atomiccycles.com