(Images courtesy of Cory Koo)
LA River School

Life behind bars… Handlebars

It is the one thing that almost everyone has the ability to do, all you have to do is get on and go … or is there more than that? What can you discover from riding a bicycle that you can’t in a car?  The answer to that question is entirely up to you. Hopefully by the end of my ranting you will want to go out and explore your city the way I do, behind bars (handlebars of course, let’s not get crazy).

I have been riding my bike since late 2012, and since then, it has been a roller coaster of events from the good to the bad. There are many with experiences one can have with a bike, but not all good for the majority (aside from the exercise if you aren’t too fond of it like myself at first). To me, cycling is more than just a getting on and going.

It’s an escape from your life and for a while you can say that it is a time when your mind and your body are connected to everything around you. Life behind bars... Handlebars

The reason for the connection is simple: when you are in your car, all you can really afford to pay attention to is the road ahead of you and other cars. On a bike it’s a different story because you aren’t limited to just being inside a small space with glass ahead of you. No, it’s completely different because you don’t have anything around you that you can feel the air as it brushes against your face and body. Your mind will also be whipped away from your life because you can finally see the beauty within the chaos that is Los Angeles.

Having your body and mind differ from your life will relax you and allow a necessary escape that I believe everyone deserves once in a while, if not more frequently than that. You don’t need to worry about work or school, but worry in remembering how to get back home (even then we have Uber or GPS)… wait I correct myself, you must also worry about getting a flat (a cyclist’s greatest enemy).

Riding a bike is also another thing, it’s HEALTHY. Riding a bicycle is exercising so you will lose weight no matter what. It also is less impact taken to your legs compared to running. Anyone can get on a bicycle regardless of how fit you are, eventually and with enough motivation you can match racers.

Speaking from experience, I was 200+ pounds. I would get out of school and get on my Xbox and play online until past midnight. But since I started riding I dropped a good amount of weight with minimal effort. I’m sure with a good diet and more effort I could lose more weight, but I am not too set on doing it to merely lose a few pounds because I have found fun in riding. The weight loss is a bonus

 Life behind bars... HandlebarsThere is so much fun riding your bike that people have gotten together and created massive group rides that consume city streets.

CicLAvia is a really popular community ride. The more underground rides tend to be the faster paced rides like Kushtown or Chief Lunes. There are also more relaxed rides but can get fast paced like Wednesday Night Outlaws or Poppycock. That’s not all, there are many that vary depending on your skill level, as I said before, anyone can start and work their way to become stronger and braver.

Why let the fun stop there though, anyone can set up a group ride. All you need is a group of friends, a destination and of course your bikes. Seriously, if you don’t think you are ready to be part someone else’s ride then make your own.

Trust me when I tell you, it’s in group rides that I met strangers that later became friends that I would have never met if i didn’t ride my bike. People will vary, you can meet doctors, lawyers, janitors, mechanics, grocery store baggers, even bike pro athletes. Another bonus is that most cyclist you will meet will greet you kindly (myself included, if you see me at a ride don’t hesitate to say “hi”).

Remember, cycling is also a sport, and with sport usually there is… yes, you guessed it, competitions. Racing is how we compete against one another. No physical contact like football or hockey (which is good considering I don’t like hitting people).

 Life behind bars... HandlebarsRacing is all about testing yourself to see how you match up against others, and most of the time it’s pushing yourself to your maximum effort. Apart from the training one does to prepare for races, a race is fun to watch and/or be a part of. Racing can also be fun for thrill seekers as they are fast paced and constantly getting the adrenaline pumping. A bicycle race is highly competitive but it is also a lot of fun and I want to encourage anyone to try it at least once. I have raced a few races, and even though I have come in first a few times, a majority of them are not so good. Even not being first, it is still a lot of fun knowing that you still have room for improvement or how well you can rival others.

There are several races that one can be a part of: there is track, sprints (track), Crits, cyclocross, road, mountain, and alley cats (typically single speed). Races are out there for everything. If it is a type of bike, chances are that there is a race for it. Go out and watch a few because it might inspire you to want to race. I myself race a majority of Fixed Gear or Track races, and I have raced one single speed cyclocross race.

Okay now for the ugly topic. Most people ask me if I been in accidents and the answer is yes. I have been in bike-on-bike accidents and bike-on-car accidents. I was riding with my cousins and my front wheel went into a pothole and I flipped over my bike and hit the floor (the cement won that one). My car accident was a bit more complicated than that but I got lucky and nothing major happened. My passion for being on my bike didn’t decrease at all despite my accidents.

Everything has risks and I do mean EVERYTHING. If life was always being afraid of stuff then we’d never leave the house. Cycling is no more dangerous than any other sport, soccer (broken shin), basketball (broken ankle), football (broken anything), baseball (hit by ball). Everything is risky but the good always outweighs the bad.

Bottom line to everything that I have been saying, riding is more than just get on and go. So what are you waiting for? Go explore your city behind handlebars!