Saturday, August 7, 2010

Critical Mass S.F. Valley - Perspective from a first timer

So this past Tuesday night I fully embraced my alter ego, Commuter Girl.  My mission, to present an alternative view to an alternative mode of transportation, in other words, to save the world, one massive bike ride at a time starting with Critical Mass, the Valley.  It was exhilarating.  I left my workplace at Ventura and Balboa around 7:00 and peddled like a crazy person to get there by 7:15 when I thought the group ride might be leaving.   I had pictured thousands of bicyclists, from intense road bikers, to fun-loving families, to hippy environmentalists, to bike shop owners all joining together in one harmonious mass to take over the streets of the valley in a two-wheeled swarm to highlight the mutual vision that biking is the new cool in L.A.   When I arrived at the designated meeting spot, I was surprised to see less than ten cyclists.  Not to fear, as B.i.l. and I waited, more cyclists continued to arrive.  It was very interesting to note the overall hipster vibe as more and more cyclists showed up.   I was a little concerned that I would not fit in, my Commuter Girl alter ego began to waver as I wondered if I had maybe made a mistake.  After all, I don't have any cool tattoos on display, I still had on my work jacket and jewelry and I wondered if the practice of having gauges with a 1/2  hole in the earlobe decreased wind resistance due to the prevalence of them among my fellow bicyclists.  On top of that, I was suddenly fully aware of what must be my status of bike nerd as I sat with helmet on, the glint of the setting sun off my big chrome mirror, bell and water bottle holder all claiming their place proudly on my handle bars temporarily blinding any unfortunate hipsters lounging nearby.   Not to worry, after taking some pictures of a couple of really cool fixie style bikes and helping a fellow cyclist pump up their tire, my insecurities began to subside.  When the call rang out to "Roll Out!" Commuter Girl was ready to roll, albeit if one looked closely, clenched knuckles and a trickle of sweat on her brow gave evidence to a bit of residual trepidation.
     We took off from the corner of Woodley and Victory at a good clip heading East with some riders claiming the road and others the bike path.  Riding in a large group means that you must be aware of fellow cyclists behind, in front, and to the left and right of you.  I was a little worried that I might not be able to keep up with this pack of 20-something spinning L.A. scenesters and I had a ditch plan in place in case I needed it.  My concerns turned out to be inconsequential as the people were accepting, the ride was exhilarating and I could keep up, in fact I was in the front half of the pack the entire way . . I know,  unbelievable but true.   We rode East to Sepulveda and hooked a right and headed down to Ventura Blvd where people yelled out "Left!" or "Right!".  The Left's won out and we turned left and headed as a pack down Ventura Blvd. taking over the far right East bound lane.  It was . . amazing.  Any rider that has ridden alone for long knows the feeling of fear that certain car drivers love to dish out with aggressive movements, honking, sideswiping, rude gesturing or even yelling.  With Critical Mass, the fear is gone.  No motorized vehicle can take on a group of that size.  You are left with a feeling a total freedom, security and comradeship as you revel in the feeling of blood pumping to your brain, the wind parting before you and you can't help but join in the primitive cries not unlike our native American predecessors on their way to take part in what must have been sweet retribution.  I rode with Critical Mass from Ventura, North up Van Nuys and East again on Chandler, finally leaving them at Laurel Canyon where alas I had to split off and go home so I could pick up the S-twins from the Bob Hope Airport on time.  One of the best parts? - I almost had a better story to tell than the S-twins and they both exhibited just the right amount of pride and horror as I recounted my adventures with my new found fellows at Critical Mass. Over all, it was a great time and I can't wait to take part in the next ride so fellow commuter girls and guys, find that alter ego and meet us at the locations listed below.  If we simply make drivers in L.A. a little more aware of us cyclists or better yet recruit a few of those drivers to cycling, then mission accomplished.  So join us at the next Critical Mass here in L.A. or find it in your city, you won't regret it.


Central L.A. Ride 

Meets At Western & Wilshire at the Metro Stop
Gather 7:00 PM. Ride Leaves at 7:30 PM
The last Friday of the month.

San Fernando Valley Ride

Every First Tuesday of the month
Victory Blvd. & Woodley Ave. Van Nuys (southwest corner)
by the bike racks and lockers off the Orange Line Bike Path.
Orange Line Woodley stop.
Gather 7:00PM :: Ride Leaves 8:00PM

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