What’s your name (optional) and/or your Midnight Ridazz log-in name?
Isn't it already written above, in the title of this post? Hey look, there it is - twice, even! I'm nathansnider.
What was your first group bike ride, and how did you first hear about Midnight Ridazz?
My first group bike ride was St. Louis Critical Mass, sometime in the summer of 2002. My first group bike ride in Los Angeles was LA Critical Mass in December, 2004. We rode to the new space for the Bicycle Kitchen, which was still just an empty storefront at that time (the walls, they were so clean!). It was either on that ride or on the LACM email list that I first heard about Midnight Ridazz, but either way, I signed up for the Midnight Ridazz email list soon afterward, and my first MR ride was the E.T. ride in January, 2005.
But what rides do you attend currently, in this decade, and what ride(s) would you like to see make a comeback?
Hey now. Technically, the new decade doesn't start until 2011.
Everybody loves a pedant. Are you going to answer the question(s) or not?
Honestly, I don't go on that many group rides anymore. Sometimes, when I want to see a bunch of bike people whom I don't see often enough, I'll go on a Second Friday ride or RWNN or LACM, but the only ride that I really attend regularly is The Passage of a Few People Through a Rather Brief Moment in Time, which I co-lead with theroyalacademy. Can you "attend" your own ride? Anyway, I loved Ride Arc, the Forge and Gorge, Robotzz and (going way back) the LA Gears in their time, but the rides that are gone are gone. Let them live on in memories, and start something new! Sequels are rarely as good as the original anyway.
Surely there are exceptions though, don't you think? Like, for instance, Evil Dead II being better than The Evil Dead?
You thought so?
Absolutely. It just is. This text is in bold; you may not disagree with it.
Either way, though, isn't the whole point that bringing back the dead is a Bad Idea? You'd think people would learn, but no. We just keep re-animating the same corpses over and over again.
OK. Stop re-animating corpses. Do you have any other brilliant advice that you'd like to pass on to new ridazz?
Keep your wits about you, your tires on the ground and a smile upon your face. Also, learn how to fix your bike, and carry the tools you need to do it. Riding with a bunch of really helpful and resourceful people who'll fix a flat tire for you doesn't excuse you from being able to take care of your shit. If anything, it should inspire you to become more helpful and resourceful yourself.
If you were leading a group ride, what would you do differently?
Didn't I just say that I lead a group ride?
You do? Well then tell us more!
On The Passage of a Few People Through a Rather Brief Moment in Time, we try to explore territory that doesn't get much attention from other rides. My hope is to always show people something new or, perhaps even better, to show them something familiar in a new way, and I think we often succeed in that. We also try to keep the ride at an intermediate pace and focus on the actual riding rather than stopping every 5 miles to "chill." It's not for everyone, but it's exactly the kind of ride that I want to go on, so it's the kind of ride that I (co-)lead.
Maybe I'm just easily bored, but I feel like group rides in general have gotten too set in their ways. What used to be this ongoing love affair with the streets has become some kind of tedious ritual revolving around stops for people to get drunk. I'd like to see people being more engaged with their surroundings. If I were to organize a larger ride, I'd try to maximize the group's interaction with the urban environment.
Can you be more specific?
Do you prefer small rides (30 or fewer people) or larger rides and why?
I prefer surprise over predictability. I don't think the number of riders really matters that much per se, but being in a smaller group certainly allows people more freedom to experiment. In fact, these days, I have more fun exploring the city on my own than I do on most rides. Big rides can easily get weighed down by people's expectations of what they "ought" to be, but when they do manage to break out of the usual routine, they have a kind of energy that really can't be found anywhere else.
Tell us about the best and worst experience you’ve encountered on a group ride.
Maybe this is indicative of some underlying personality defect, but most of my favorite experiences have been on Ridazz trips outside of LA, which I view as extended "rides," even though we may not necessarily be on bikes all the time. I think that Ridazz have a particular way of arriving in a new place and immediately seeing its potential. Without engaging in too much self-mythologizing here, I'd say that if Los Angeles has taught us anything, it's how to latch onto all the unused spaces in a city and make the most of them. Whether or not we actually do that here in LA (and I'd say we often don't), I think we do a pretty good job of it in other cities. Halloween in Brooklyn; security cameras gazing skyward like dumb chickens in the rain; Couchwick. The first glow of the Hitchhiker's Pizza Oven at the Salton Sea. Austin; its paint and its mud; its muscle and its blood. Foghorns and fireworks in New Orleans; power plants and cemeteries; the treehouse. Amazing, all of it.
On the other side of things, having a rider crash in front of me and running over her face in 2005 was pretty awful (not nearly as awful for me as for her, but still a bad experience all around). Breaking my collarbone on the Forge and Gorge sucked. Having my bike stolen from the Toy Ride afterparty was a real low point. And having my other bike stolen? Yeah. The list goes on. Remind me again while I still do this?
Because it's "fun," obviously! What did you do for "fun" before you started “riding”?
I built forts out of couch cushions. I played in the dirt. I ran naked through the fields. When I got a tricycle and started "riding," let me tell you, I was ready to take over the world.
Come on now. "Riding" is strictly defined as riding bikes in groups, at night, in Los Angeles. You should know this.
Alright, so before group rides, I did a lot of riding around by myself at night, often with a camera and often in places I wasn't supposed to be. And I spent a lot of time looking at maps of the city trying to find ways to get to places where I wasn't supposed to be. And I made noisy music. And I read good books. And I spent time with my pedestrian friends. I led a rich and varied existence, and I'd like to think that I still do, but now I also know a lot of interesting people who ride bikes.
What’s the best and worst thing group bike rides have done for cycling as a whole in Los Angeles?
I wasn't around in Los Angeles before group bike rides existed, and I don't know a whole lot of cyclists outside of the group ride culture, so I don't suppose I have any real basis for comparison, now do I?
Just pretend that you know what you're talking about. This is the internet here, after all.
Probably the best thing the rides have done is create new cyclists. I can't count the number of people I've talked to who've said that if it weren't for the bicycle, they couldn't stand living in Los Angeles, and I think that group bike rides have done a lot to introduce new riders to the streets and make them more likely to ride bikes on their own, in their everyday lives. Thus: group bike rides = more riders on the streets = more happiness. I think everything hinges on this.
The worst thing is that the group rides give many newcomers the idea that riding a bike is all about getting wasted. I think that even more generally, the group riding culture has been a sort of homogenizing force on people's ideas of what it means to ride a bike in LA. A poverty of imagination has set in, and it's becoming more of a "scene" every day. In many ways, I feel we've squandered the potential that emerged out of Bikesummer. Bikesummer was such an inspiring time. There were so many people from different backgrounds - hipsters, roadies, messengers, commuters, BMXers, urban planners, anarchists, hippies - who all had dreams of making LA a cycling city, and they were finally getting together to see pieces of those dreams come true. But gradually party rides have come to dominate LA bike culture, and many of the people who had different visions of what cycling in this city could be have gotten turned off to group rides. Even Critical Mass, which used to attract people from a wider variety of cycling backgrounds, is now basically a just party ride by another name. I'm sure all the people who "left" are still out there doing their thing, but it does make me a little sad knowing that the larger bike community has lost some of the unifying force that it once had.
If you can name 1 person who embodies the spirit of “Midnight Ridazz”, who would it be and why?
I don't know. Pee-wee Herman, maybe?
What do you think the public’s perception is of group bike rides?
Who is "the public" and which "group bike ride" are you talking about? "They" totally love/hate/respect/tolerate/envy/don't care about/have never heard of "us." When they see us on the streets they are happy/angry/awestruck/jealous/guilty/aroused/inspired/confused. Does that answer your question?
Yes/no/maybe. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Not especially. What if I want to take everything back?
Not allowed. Sorry.
Ouch. See you on the streets, then?