Recently, I have been branching out my love of bike to include my media intake. I don’t often watch movies, but I do listen to a good deal of music which is often part and parcel of my rides. However, even at just over 3.5 hours long, my ‘fun music for biking mix’ is getting a little stale. There was a time when I would ride long enough to get maybe 1/3 of that mix into my ears before I had to stop or arrived at my destination. Now I have hit the point where it starts recycling itself for several songs before I realize I am hearing the same things again. So I went searching for new music, new avenues to explore to get myself motivated to ride, and stay motivated to ride once I’m out on the road.
Because of The Chest Cold that Will Not End and a trip out of town, I lost steam and broke my routine. No matter how much I love any of my hobbies, it is extremely difficult for me to regain momentum – like life’s stop sign intersection. So, while not riding, I took to looking for ways other people ride. That is when I stumbled across To Live and Ride in LA, a documentary made about underground fixed-gear culture in Los Angeles. While my gear-having, brake-loving bike and I clearly have no place even pretending to participate in this culture, I was drawn in because I am originally from Los Angeles, which had no bike culture at the time that I last lived there about 12 years ago. I can remember when bike lanes were non-existent and the dominant thought on riding safely in traffic was to ride against it, salmon style, so you could see the cars. LA has come a long, long way since then.
What I like most about this movie has very little to do with the culture it presents. Events like the Wolfpack Hustle are fantastic to see, and make me excited that someone has taken the idea that Los Angeles is too spread out to be bike friendly or efficient, and turned that to their advantage. I have always known that fixed gears are not for me, and subsequently their culture might not be either, but there is something hugely compelling and exciting for me in the combination of music and images of cyclists flying free, sometimes in places they should not be (the 405 freeway in rush hour traffic, for example). Even while riding now, if I conjure the music in my head I feel myself pushing harder only to feel the wind that much more. During the last half of the film, there are quite a few scenes of the Wolfpack Hustle and LA Marathon Crash Race, during which alot of people come out to ride at night or very early in the morning. As someone who loves night rides with their stillness, distinct smell, and total lack of cars, I was filled with envy at seeing so many people come out to do this. But, and this may be petty of me, the thing which most inspired me was seeing people riding in the dead of night in shorts and t-shirts. It’s a rare day in the bay area I can take a 40 mile ride without bringing a sweatshirt or at least start in layers. I like to feel the wind on more than my face – but not at the cost of freezing to death.
In the wake of To Live and Ride…, I have made it a point to engage my inner urban cyclist more actively. Trails are great, quiet, beautiful places, particularly here, and after spending so much time on them, I had quietly moved away from appreciating urban riding for the roller coaster ride that it can be. From navigating traffic to the thrill of finding something new and strange in an area I ride through every single day, there is something understated and brilliant about it that I have been missing.
The knowledge that Los Angeles has developed such an avid bike culture, and that it is now taking steps to support that culture with its infrastructure, is heartwarming to me. I have an urge to throw my bike into a car and drive down just to spend a weekend riding around the (mostly) flat streets, to places both new and well-remembered. But first, I really need to do something about this music situation.