Just use fire
Thread started by ubrayj02
at 11.28.18 - 9:40 pm
The opportunity to keep bicycling relevant in LA, I feel, lies in our capacity to troll the wider culture, to provide a psychological space that is free from the judgement of our identity, status, and politics that is all over many of our day to day existences.
Unfortunately, making rides that troll mainstream life in LA will, I think, get you fired from your job, labelled a ll kinds of terrible things, etc.
Perhaps for bicycling to carry on, it would be best to implement a digital promotion before the ride and a \"everyone put your cell phone in this old microwave oven\" policy for the ride itself. Microwave ovens (not plugged in to a socket) insulate the phones from communicating with cell towers and the like.
I used to occasionally ask people to sign wavers, then burn them in a stack in front of everyone at some of the parties and rides I threw - just to show what the stakes were for everyone and to release the tension of everyday life and status interfering in what we were doing. It often made everyone feel a little more like a group. Maybe it was just the fire?
Okay, I change my mind. Just use fire.
I don't think any one person can say bicycling is irrelevant in L.A., there are too many facets. Why do we need to troll L.A.? What are we trying to accomplish? Is there a goal? Are you talking about peak Midnight Ridazzzzz? Rides still happen in L.A., the difference is I (we?) don't know about them or I'm (we're?) not invited. It could also be that I (we?) have gotten old, fat, and lazy. For me, the thought of attending a huge party ride today reminds me of a neighbors dad that bought a 1960's mustang to relive high school glory years, those years before he got a corporate job and slowly became old, fat, and lazy.
When I first started going on social rides in L.A., everyone had flip phones with monochrome screens and T9 texting. In order to find out about a ride, someone had to tell you about it, or you needed to get a paper flier somehow and mark your actual calendar. To get these fliers, you either needed to already be in a scene, or accidentally be in the same parking lot with a group, then talk to the right person who might give you a flier for the next event.
While rides have always been incredibly inclusive, to outsiders/ non-cyclists, I always felt it looked kinda exclusive. Sure, you could go buy a bike, but you needed to be able to operate that bike well. You needed to have the skills to fix it on the side of the road. You needed to be fit enough to ride untold distances. You needed to know the geography of the city. In the end as a reward, you got a huge dump of dopamine with a feeling of belonging to a community, and that made people come back for the next ride.
A lot has changed since then, mainly the way we interact with each other. Social media has destroyed actual social groups from the small town church, to the Moose Lodge, to obscure counter cultures in huge cities. Scrolling through endless timelines ruined that dopamine high. What dragon is left to chase? So, yes. Let's burn it all down and start over.
11.30.18 - 12:02 pm
"The internet helped make small groups of people with a shared interest into a legitmate community.
Ubiquitous smart phones shattered that by lowering the bar to join a ride; turned private life into public behavior on your permanent record."
Hm, I can see that.
About being old and reliving glory days - many of the best rides I went on were multi-generational. In fact, I strove to make the rides I organized multi-generational and as close to an even gender mix as I could. That limited the pace and length of the rides, but I found the overall experience as an organizer to be much more enjoyable.
It also kept me from needing to babysit horny and drunk 20 year olds, or boring and self conscious middle aged people, and lonely, wild eyed, seniors - you get enough types of us together and we kind of babysit one another. Older women tempered the vibe. Older men kept the violence down. Young people kept everyone looking at everyone else, and kept the energy high.
Smart phones don't ruin that vibe. I think donating the time and effort required to do those kind of rides evaporated. People started getting paid to host rides by the government (all the bike NGO's helped pay their bills with horrifically milquetoast rides); others went crazy with ride organizing energy and eventually had to move on due to work, life, etc. getting in the way.
There needs to be excess labor and a desire to be important in the lives of others - maybe that has disappeared from American life and young people don't have the skills developed to take older folks place doing that kind of organizing?
Just throwing out some unedited thoughts here.
responding to a comment
11.30.18 - 7:19 pm
You can make up excuses or come up with solutions.
Still going, granted the days of big rides seems to be past for me, at least but I still organize and host many rides a year. Nothing is stopping you but you.
Still don;t have a cell phone and yet I can get people under my banner...???
Internet can be useful but I think people place too much value on it. Still make paper flyers, people take them.
I think people just decide to lay down their sword at some point.
I don’t care what you used to do, what are you doing now? I hear this all the time, you “used to ride” now..well it is obvious that sitting has been the game for a spell. You don’t have to apologize, it happens. I was riding one day and I ran into a guy who needs new spandex, I don’t want an eye-full of man ass, hold that shit up to the light like a 100 dollar bill every so often and do us a favor. “All my friends are gone, they are married and have kids” He lamented as we both worked up a fire road, four miles of burn. “They are still your friends; they have just lain down their sword, that’s all.” He liked that. “You can steal it if you like.” Exposed man-ass-peeking-through-lyrca rode away from me. I don’t care about all your puck rock stories form the days of yore, I saw you roll up in a min van, all those faded tattoos mean nothing to me except perhaps you were trying too hard to not be a square. Your sword is hanging on a hook with soft tires, waiting to be wielded again. It does not believe your bs and neither do I, so what are waiting for? Pick your sword back up again and be born anew, or remain a douche. The choice is yours.
“You already told me that story, three times now.” “Urrr…I did?” “Yeah.” I said. BMX tales from when you were 12, you’re near 50 now. It is sad when you only have stories from old adventures, decades old sometimes. What it means is you’re not making new adventures, no new stories as it were. In a small way the bard that only spins tales from the days of yore is already dead; they stopped really living ages ago. At what point do think to yourself that you’re going to go get a haircut, buy some docker pants and become a douche? When does that start to seem like a good idea? I’ve seen so many of my friends become boring, vanilla, tamed versions of their former selves. All the cool things they used to do are now in boxes, bikes with flat tires hung on hooks in the garage, bike magazines replaced by Ikea catalogs on the coffee table. All they have now is tales from the past to hang on to the person they once were. I view the past like a port on the voyage of life you can sail by, perhaps dock in the bay for a spell but can never go to shore again. One is only allowed to sail on to new ports, new adventures. If you stay moored to a bay in the past then you’re stuck there, never able to see new horizons or find new water and ports to explore. We are here for a long time, not a short one so go out and have new adventures and new tails to tell, holding on to the past is a jip.
Disconnect to connect. Every Thursday I ride with a couple guys that I would describe as normal white dudes. They have nice bikes, motorcycles, dune buggies, marriages, mortgages, children etc. All the things in life I want nothing to do with. Cycling, you have a shared experience and we can connect on that and I can see we are worlds apart as they snap bong loads and drink beer before the ride and they share their ideas about the world witch are divergent from mine. I don’t share their substances nor their ideas, they say I’m like a wise old owl even though I’m younger than them, that is funny I guess. But we can all throw a leg over a bike enjoy the experience. They have been riding together since they were kids on dirt trails wielding Schwinn Varsity bikes with BMX handle bars through vast tracks of now developed land in the San Fernando Valley when mountain biking was just an idea for an esoteric few clusters of people throughout the land. In that scope of perspective I am a relative newcomer to them and to off road cycling in general. When I met them they had identical Klein Bicycles with 1” threaded forks and cantilever brakes, one green and one maroon. The friendly rivalry between friends had spanned for decades. Pairs of 29er Stumpjumpers came next. While I can look at myself next to these guys and not feel a connection on many levels, the shredding of trails we all had one thing in common, the thing that mattered the most. I stopped looking at people and seeing how they did not fit into my world and seeing how they could, I disconnect my own faulty world view, setting it aside to see where things do come together. I’ve met some amazing people through a shared interest in bikes; we don’t have to connect any other way to have a connection.
No one can make it, I’m in the parking lot alone with no one to hold me back, I can’t help myself, I leave early, the trail awaits. I like riding with people. You get that whole shared experience thing going on, if something out of the norm happens you have the story from all these different perspectives, I think this give your ride experience some more depth. Not like riding bikes is or should ever be considered “deep” that’s just so pretentious. As meaty creatures at this point in the humanity time-line I think we are on constant alert and constant sensory over-load. Every day we live in a heightened state of stress manufactured by our modern world and we are in constant bombardment by television, phones, the web, and other people, so many people. So while I value the camaraderie of doing a group ride it has it’s problems. Either you are waiting for someone or you’re desperately trying to catch up. Bikes brake and you have to stop and fix them, not just your bike but every one in the group. Now the larger the group the more waiting/panting/braking/fixing you have to deal with and the flow of your ride is disjointed. Sometimes that is not a bad thing, but that is another story or idea. After it’s over you can swap some details to further enrich your experience, talking about who cleaned what section or what you saw who heckled you etc. Did you get chased by that dog? Or did the lady tell you to SLOW DOWN! too? All part of the fun that is the group dynamic. These things are all good and great, sometimes though you just need to take off on your own. I came to this realization years and years ago simply because I had no one to ride with and spent most of my time riding alone. As time went on I used my solo rides as a way to get away from everyone and everything and just have a chance to process my life. A few hours of some pedal assisted alone time did more for me than any psychological analyzing and self-absorbed navel-gazing at 300 dollars and hour could ever do. Perhaps I’m not like most people but some alone time is very important to me, I think most people spend so much time processing all the vast array of human and technological inputs that we have to deal with every day that they have no time to process themselves. In that train of thought, people are more and more becoming directed by the inputs of others and outside things then learning to look inwards for insight and direction. What this means is people in general spend a lot of time feeling overwhelmed, confused and have a patented inability to make decisions for themselves. Doubt me? How many times have you been in a line for food and the person in front of you has to call someone to decide what they should eat? Exactly. Those that know, the trail or road ridden alone can do wonders for cleaning out the closet of one’s mind. I’ve used it to fight depression, sort out a brake-up with a girlfriend, or just to work out a hard day at work. At the end things are better than they were at the beginning, even a little bit is better than no improvement at all. In fact, when I’ve really been troubled I go for a ride. On these sorts of adventures, I want to be alone; talking about anything is just pointless really. I just need to put some miles on my bike and just focus on the ride instead of talking about thins as talk often falls short. This is the part where even when things are going good as they often are, you still need to sort things out. While being a bike rider can invite socializing from other cyclists, you can choose to isolate yourself and just be myopic on your ride, not paying attention to others. I find the trail to be the best place to do this sort of two-wheeled catharsis. I used to just go out somewhere far off the well ridden trails and just lay there looking at the sky, the plants, the trail, my bike, my feet, sometimes I’d bring a book. I used to get smothered with too much attention I guess, I still get way too much attention but I have no one to blame for that but myself for that mess. So back to the start and I just took off 10 minutes early and just rode at a good clip. We do this 18 mile loop and in a group it’s around 3 hours to complete with all the stops, re-gathering of people, fixing this and that along the way. Just me and my 1955 monarch coaster brake bike, I just sort of zen’d out and rode at a good pace. I was trying to see if I could do the whole thing in 2 ½ hours and wound up completing it in 1:45. Not too shabby! The ride was so more memorable to me, every nuance of the trail was brighter and in more detail, I was more focused on the connection of myself with the bike and nature than distracted with the snarky comments of my friends (not that snarky comments are a bad thing). I could just shake the mental dust off my mind; it was so different than riding with others. I like both for different reasons, I realize that I need one to make the other good though, only doing groups or only riding solo you’d be missing a lot from your riding experience. You should try and do both.
On organizing a cycling event.
How do I do this, how? Well I get asked this one a lot. Organizing events involves many things the main thing is you will be duly punished for doing a good deed, there are no exceptions. I’ve been putting on bike related events for over 15 years now and I guess I can say out of all the things I do, putting on a good low buck/high fun ratio event is what I’m best at. I see other people doing events and over time I have seen many of them falter for various reasons, I think it all comes down to how you look at an event and what motivates you to do it. Firstly, if you set out to do a bike event you should keep in mind that you should do it because you want to for fun and not expect anything else. If you do an event for ego or self-aggrandizement then you will most likely come away from it feeling disappointed. The fun aspect is devising a plan and getting all the pieces of the puzzle together and then knocking them off your checklist (You NEED a checklist) one by one and then doing the event, seeing it through to the end where you are sweeping up the mess at the end of the day. The event is almost an anti-climax to the building of the event. All the thought and ideas that go into it and all the energy to get things going is where the magic happens, the day of the event you will see the fruits of your endeavors brought forth, the key is to not expect much and you won’t be disappointed. Know that if you can get half a dozen people to stop from staring into their cell phones for a few hours in a day you have achieved a miracle. Most people have such short attention spans now that to provide a tactile, real experience that is better then pointless updating on one’s face book page that will get people to break their routine is an arduous task. The deck is stacked against you. The first events you do will have low turn out typically, but you must press on and not be discouraged by low numbers. If you make 1000 flyers and ten people show up, they deserve the best you can give them, keep in mind they have set aside their day to attend your idea. I’ve done 2500 flyers and had 12 people show up, the next one we had 70 and so on, I’ve had near 300 at times after 15 years, the numbers will ebb and flow. You must keep the promotional aspects up, the fires burning all night high and hot, to back off even a little means markedly less turn out. Paper flyers are still the best way to promote an event. I make stacks of small hand flyers and posters and mail them to bike shops. Why? Because bike shops are often filled with bike people, they want to do fun things on bikes; it is your target audience. Secondly, it is a physical reminder of the event; an e-mail can be so easily ignored while a wad of paper in one’s pocket will remind the potential event attendee of something fun in the future. Also, it is a keepsake of sorts. Many people have told me that they kept flyers from my events and hung them up in their garage etc. I’d say web promotion is less effective for bringing people to your event. You can post things on web forums and will get a few here and there as a result. Social media is nigh worthless, my contention is people on facebook are on facebook and seldom anywhere else, no matter how many people “like” what you’re doing expect less than 1% of the virtual people to actually show up in the flesh. Case and point: I was working with a guy doing some off road stuff, they said they had 153 friends on facebook for their event, only 4 people showed up to race, the ones that did I mailed flyers to. So you should expect about a 1% return on your advertising, anything more is a boon. All that being said, a website detailing your event is useful. People can look at it when they have time and help you promote your event. It is also a good place to have all of the frequently asked questions listed so you don’t have to answer the same questions over and over again via e-mail or phone. I find it best to have a huge amount of detail for my events, not only to cover all the bases from an informative stand point, people will know what to expect and you’ve shown that you’re putting effort into the event which will usually translate into more and better informed attendance. I’d shy away form using Craig’s list, the moron factor is too high. The first thing you need to do is make a flyer. A flyer should convey some detail and be catching to the eye but not overwhelm the reader with too much information nor be too arty and have too little. Look at your flyers like a box of cereal: it is most likely bad for you and will make you sick but it sure looks fun! Hand drawn or stolen images from the web are fine as long as it does the job. Double and triple check the date so you don’t put the wrong date on there and make sure you spell everything right, not only does it make your flyer look more professional, the last thing you need is some web weenie commenting on a spelling error. Once you make the flyer you should either go to, or mail it to as many shops as you can, most will put it up, some will throw it away. The more you pay personal visits too the more will take it but this can be a huge task. I have done this only to find out later that they threw out the flyers once I left, or you’ve handed someone a flyer and they throw it on the ground, it happens. Not everyone believes in bike culture or they are jealous or controlling of their space or they are just plain old jerks, it is best not to get hung up on this and move on. Detail. You must think out everything and have all the bases covered. Every aspect of your event can be broken down into components; each one of those should be on your checklist. A checklist is an essential component to proper event organization. While the whole task of putting on an event can be daunting, breaking down each of the tasks in a given event should be easy to get done one at a time. The key is to start early. I usually start two months before an event, putting the pieces together one by one. This way if you get sick or injured or have some other unforeseen mishap occur you have time to make up the difference, adhering to the 5 P’s is essential. If you don’t know what those are, it is Proper Planning Prevents Piss-poor Performance, live it. After flyers you may have to make route maps and spoke cards or other things such as special event bikes, t-shirts, stickers etc. Best to get all this stuff made well before you need it. Some stuff you can do yourself and other stuff you will need help with or have to pay for. If you are enlisting friends to help you, you should expect next to nothing. Sorry to be a downer but most people just don’t have the drive to finish a project, if you rely on someone to complete a component of your event be ready to re-take the reigns and finish if they falter. As you should well know by now, most people will help you eat your bread but not bake it. Many people want to be involved just for some accolades or an ego boost but have no vested interest in your event; it is up to you to finish things or be willing to have certain aspects of your event not come to fruition. Be prepared to do everything from drawing up a flyer to sweeping the floor for your event. Whatever type of cycling event you do, you should try and come up with something that is not being done in your area. Things like races on kids bikes or single speed or vintage mountain bike races are fun as well as things like odd alley cat races or themed cruises. The point is to be creative and make the activity attractive to strangers that want to do fun things on bikes; you are being a salesmen in this point so you should have something to sell. Most events should be free but if you have to charge something make sure they get a lot in return. You should have a spoke card, stickers, buttons, or a t-shirt for a race you’re going to charge for. I would not recommend trying to make money off your events; just charge enough to break even and if you have left over money just feed everyone or buy them beer, people love that stuff. People should have a cool keepsake to take home with them, if you are planning on doing something besides a one off thing and plan to repeat it these keepsakes act as continuing advertising for your event and word of mouth beats any other form of promotion hands down. In closing, the goal is to have fun and from a personal philosophy point of view you can either leave this world a little worse, the same, or a little better and every little bit helps. It took some self-realization over time but I realized that you can’t expect any sort of reward for organizing an event; the doing is it’s own reward. If you are organizing an event for an ego boost or are fishing for complements, you are in the wrong game. Sometimes you will wonder if it is all worth the hassle being that you will never amount to any accolades than perhaps a tiny blurb in the very back of a newspaper, once again if you are hoping to achieve fame you are on the wrong road. However a little validation is nice and after 12 years of doing my Halloween ride/event I had one of the participants come up to me and prefacing his speech told be that what I was doing was valuable, I nearly cried.
responding to a comment
12.1.18 - 9:55 am