What’s your name (optional) and/or your Midnight Ridazz log-in name?
I'm Steve, and my user name is outerspace.
How did you first hear about Midnight Ridazz and what was your first group bike ride?
On June 28, 2008 my friend Jesse introduced me to Midnight Ridazz via the SFV Midnight Ridazz Beach Party Ride. I had to borrow my dad's old Diamondback for that first ride, and I bought my first roadie the next week. I remember being really excited to get a spoke card at the Beach Party Ride, because I didn't know we were supposed to wear beach attire, but I guess there were plenty of extra spoke cards...
Currently what rides do you attend regularly and what ride(s) would you like to see make a comeback?
Honestly, I don't attend any ride regularly. There are too many rides I want to do, and some of them get in each other's way. Rides that I enjoy and try to give priority to are The Passage, 2nd Friday official MR rides, Barchopz, Critical Mass, and TNS (schedule permitting... it's been a while though for TNS).
What advice would you pass on to new ridazz?
I'd say there are four important things to know: your limits, the ride, your bike, and the "rules."
Know yourself and your limits. Make sure you're confident on your bike. You shouldn't be worrying about balancing or holding your line (staying in formation) in a crowd of bikes during a ride. You don't want to be a danger to yourself and others around you.
Know the ride / route. If you have never ridden 15 miles in one day before, don't make The Passage or WNDSRS your first ride. Try a slower, easier ride first, so you can relax and get a feel for it. It's also a good idea to have friends with you or a backup plan (someone to call for a ride, knowledge of local Metro stations, etc.) in case you get lost for any reason.
Know your bike. Get a friend who really knows what they're doing to check out your bike beforehand, and attend your first ride with a friend who can help you fix anything minor that might pop up on the ride.
Know the "rules." There really aren't "rules," per se; just be respectful. Don't steal. Don't litter. Don't be a jerk. I know it sounds trite, but treat others how you would want to be treated. If you think these rides are a great idea and you're having fun, help the rides to continue to be as awesome as possible.
If you were leading a group ride, what would you do differently?
This is really hard to answer. I've been thinking about this a lot lately because my friends and I have been considering hosting a ride (more if it goes well / if we see potential). Thinking about it gives me renewed appreciation for the work that the ride leaders do in putting these things together. Music, great routes, fun stops, sometimes even free food are provided. I don't think we can compete... not on our first try, at least.
That said, I guess there are two things I'd change if I were leading these rides. The length of stops is one thing. I prefer shorter stops (15~20 minutes) unless there's a reason for the stop to be longer, such as a fun activity (costume contests, races, dancing, etc). There are plenty of places I can go to stand around and socialize; I know it's a party ride, but it's a party RIDE. Let's ride!
The other (and more important) thing is bathrooms. Many rides are three, four, five hours long, sometimes longer, and sometimes none of the stops have bathrooms. I'd rather not risk a Urination in Public citation... expensive and kinda embarrassing. I'm sure the ladies would prefer an actual toilet. I know publicly available restrooms aren't always easy to find, but... do it for the ladies! ...and for me!
Do you prefer small rides (30 or less people) or larger rides and why?
Huge rides like LACM and MR 2nd Friday rides can be fun because of the sheer numbers and the novelty of it. But when it comes down to it, I prefer smaller rides because it's easy to meet everyone and feel more like a family. You don't have a lot of the behavioral problems that you see on the massive rides (at least in my experience), and you also don't have the same negative attention drawn towards you from motorists and the police. I enjoy the huge rides, too, but I prefer the smaller ones.
Tell us about the best and worst experience you’ve encountered on a group ride.
One of my favorite rides was the Pokemon Ride. Lots of my friends were there and it was one of my earlier party rides, but it stands out in my mind because I remember the route being really cool, and there was a hilarious costume contest. The cops ambushed us at Southwestern University School of Law, with five squad cars and a helicopter coming in all at once. They ended up letting us go without any hassle at all.
The funniest experience I've had on a ride was when we were enjoying a stop in a park late at night and the cops came three or four cars strong... the music cart had the Bennie Hill theme song queued up in anticipation, and whoever had the bullhorn yelled "run! Run!" Hilarity ensued.
What did you do for fun before you started “riding”?
Played guitar, I guess, but you know, I can't remember, really... video games, maybe? I remember wanting a motorcycle really badly, and I have one now (and I love it, two wheels is always better than four), but the human-powered version actually gets more miles on it typically than the motorized version.
What’s the best and worst thing group bike rides have done for cycling as a whole in Los Angeles?
Group rides have definitely made cycling as a hobby (and in rare instances, as a form of transportation) more popular and widespread throughout the city. But the best AND worst thing that group rides have done for cycling in LA is bring attention to cyclists.
I worry that the attention Critical Mass and the bigger MR rides draw from motorists is too often negative. I have seen a few road rage incidents in my time, and they never get any less scary. There's nothing more frightening on a group ride than an angry motorist trying to weave through bikes or driving into opposing traffic to get around us. Kinda kills the mood. Among non-biking motorists that I've spoken to about big group rides, the majority express animosity towards cyclists for "being in the way." It makes me worry that big group rides are sending the wrong message.
On the other hand, the big group rides seem to be having the desired effect (if only slowly) on government. City and Neighborhood Council members, the LADOT, the LAPD... they are hesitant to change, but they are at least moving in the right direction because the cycling community has become so visible and vocal, in part through these rides, that it's impossible to ignore. I might be stretching it here, but I feel like the group rides have also helped to foster the activist's spirit in some of us by giving us some tangible evidence of the cyclists' rights / sustainability movement in LA, and a way to ease into it. I know it has for me.
If you can name 1 person who embodies the spirit of “Midnight Ridazz”, Who would it be and Why?
I can't say that I know enough Ridazz well enough to make a solid judgment on this. I only know what I know (very little) about the individuals associated with the Midnight Ridazz by reputation or hearsay, so I can't pick one out of the crowd. Anyone who has been a ride leader or at least tried, anyone who has been a peaceful and positive activist, anyone who has used cycling for charity, anyone who has stopped to help another Rida who went down or got a flat, anyone who has given someone else a high five just because they were both on bikes... all these people show the qualities I associate with the Midnight Ridazz spirit.
What do you think the public’s perception is of group bike rides?
Like I touched on before, I think the public is generally ambivalent about group rides, or passively supportive of them, until the rides begin to interfere with convenience. For example, if John Doe is sitting in a sidewalk cafe enjoying a latte, or standing in line for a club on Sunset Blvd with his girlfriend, and he sees Critical Mass roll through, he will probably cheer them on or at least smirk amusedly. I think that with few exceptions, the same John Doe, stuck in his car behind a corker for ten red lights in a row, will be restraining himself from hitting the horn or calling the cops. My own cousins, knowing that I go on Midnight Ridazz rides, were not too shy to express a desire to run us all off the road.
Every once in a while I run into someone who doesn't ride bikes, but thinks the idea of group rides sounds really fun, and they want to try it out. Unfortunately, the majority are pissed off about getting stuck behind group rides. I never stop trying to convince them to get on a bike. It's an uphill battle, but worth it.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
18 months ago I didn't own a bike. Today, I put more miles on my bike than on my car, and I feel weird, and kind of evil any time I drive somewhere, even out of necessity. I always wanted to be "more green," whatever that meant, but it wasn't until a friend introduced me to the Midnight Ridazz community that I decided to actually DO something about it.