The new *Cool* for Eastside kids?

Yes, I ride a track bike. I have for 3 years now. I’d rather have a nice ten-speed these days but I don’t have the money for that kind of purchase right now.

But interestingly enough I have noticed a surge in “fixed-gear” bicycles (and bicycles in general) in the Eastside in general; and being that I live in El Sereno & work in Lincoln Heights, my perceptions arise from these neighborhoods. I have been a bicycle-commuter (& bus commuter) to get to work & school pretty steadily for almost 5 years now. As a young kid I used to get around by bicycle & bus too, but typcial of Los Angeles kids, I started driving as soon as could! Once I grew tired of driving and became aware of the social, environmental, health repurcussions due to car culture I sought to abandon it (though I am no anti-car evangelical!).

At work (a local high scool), I would often be asked why I did not drive a car; most students would see me walk onto the campus with my bicycle. I would say the usual environmental, social, political, and economic reasons: still most 16 years old are baffled when an adult doesn’t drive. I get the same response when I tell them I don’t have a TV at home. For them a car is equated with freedom of movement: anyone that has driven in Los Angeles for a few years knows that this myth slowly erodes…


These days I get asked pretty frequently where I got my bicycle, how much I payed for it, and if I ride in a crew. No, I don’t ride in a crew. I’m not interested in social cliques, so if I happen to ride in a group it’s usually just a few close friends. I associate much of the fixed-gear bicycles in LH due to the influence of TV Bicycles that opened up recently on Broadway. Out there I see lots of youngin’s with their bicycles, talking & hanging out.

Now I know that getting around by bicycle is common for all sorts of people in the Eastside without appeals to coolness or evironmentalism, but because of real economic reasons. I’m always amazed by our Eastside environmentalists hook-ing up their own bikes with ways to lug all their cans, bottles to the recycling spot on Broadway & Griffin: true resourcefullness!

Back to the bicycles: has the fixie replaced the cool of skateboards? I’m into it because I’ve never been into skateboarding; this is probably due to my inability of being able to balance myself on one. As a young punk most of my friends were skateboarding, and I was forced to watch hours of underground skateboarding videos in the early 90s. I would ridicule their UGLY skateboarding shoes, but as all things go: they later became very popular.

Recently in Echo Park I saw a critical mass roll by: say what you will, but I was happily surprised to see the huge numbers of Chican@ kids on bicycles rolling by! And they look much cooler than hipsters. And they always will.

[Thanks to Aunty Laurie for letting me use the second photo]

22 thoughts on “The new *Cool* for Eastside kids?

  1. 1 thing I really like about these fixies is that they’re re-using old bicycles. Bicycles last a long time, and it’s really good that these kids are riding pretty nice, used bikes.

  2. Ha ha! Those skateboarding videos were boring! Oh look, he’s gonna flip his board. Hey, now he’s gonna slide on a handrail!
    I’m glad those days are over. Aren’t they?

  3. It’s crazy how bike cultura has spread. I’ve been riding all over this city, and other cities for years and find myself passing fixies in neighborhoods I would have never guessed seeing them. Eastlos, Azusa, Van Nuys, 81st Street, Watts, West Cochina, everywhere. EVERYWHERE.

    The only down side that comes with the popularity is the demand, and with demand comes thievery. LA is starting to look like NYC in respect to bike thieves.

    Otherwise, the more the merrier. Bikes are awesome.

  4. The streets are safer. Back in the 90’s, riding through any streets in Los Angeles was dangerous.

  5. I was the same–when I was a teenager, I was into cars and wanted a fast one. I equated having a car with freedom and getting laid. After a few years I realized having a car equates with paying endlessly for gas, insurance, and repairs, which means giving up lots of money to the most evil corporations on the planet. Not to mention that driving in LA is about not being free, not having parking, not seeing your friends because there’s no parking and they live an hour away, etc. etc. Now I ride as much as I can. Bikes are better.

  6. I’ve noticed this too. I mean, you’ve always seen all kinds of Latino folks of all ages riding bikes around town. That’s why when the hipsters kids started talking about “bike culture” it irked me cause there were tons of folks riding before they even showed up in town. But now I see all the youngins dressed with the appropriate gear and riding fixies. It’s a good trend, better to ride bikes instead of putting another car on the road. It works too for the Eastside since most stuff is in bike-able distance.
    Since trends move to the suburbs, I wonder how the fixie kids in “West Cochina” will hold up riding those long, long, endlessly boring streets on their bicycles?

  7. I totally agree with you J-lo and with Chimatli too. I grew up riding bikes. Course this also meant I grew up getting my bike stolen as well. The best times were when everyone from the barrio would get together and we would all ride around as a group. Making noise and just being kids. Another thing I did as a kid on my bike was riding around knocking over peoples garbage cans after they garbage got picked up. I like kicking stuff.

    Ohh then there are those times when we would build make shift ramps and do jumps. Now more than ever, I find myself riding my bike more often. I’ve noticed the changes in bikes and their riders and I just saw it as the current trend. Skateboards had their time and now it’s bikes again. Before we know it it’ll be razor scooters or something old that’s new again.

    Whatever the trend, I’m gonna ride my bike around with my pant leg rolled up. 🙂

  8. I don’t know how I missed that massive convention of bicycles on Vermont at Santa Monica, but I do know something has been brewing that way. (I have filmed all sorts of footage at that corner as well as down Vermont over the last two years.)

    And that TV shot over TV Bike Repair on Broadway (where the Lincoln Heights DASH turns) is nice. I though I had that in the bag exclusively when I shot it some time ago, and lo and behold—here it is, and ever better than my drunk olde arse did it!

    What I feel is happening is something that occurred well over a half-century ago (http://www.miller-mccune.com/health/bicycles-and-the-immigrant-effect-14744/ for a bit of that to which I allude) and yet is being repeated in regards public opinion. (pardon me for being exhausted and failing to explain fully, but I feel the above link explains it well.)

  9. P.S.
    El Chavo, Suicidal Tendencies’s “Possessed to Skate” will show ya how un-boring skating can be. I mean, yeah, it’s old, it should been on the first LP, but there ya go.

  10. I went from skating to riding bikes, it’s just easier to get around town, but I don’t think any of us completly gave up skating. I’m really stoked to see more and more young kid riding bikes but what bothers me is that they hop on these things without learning how to ride safely. I’ve been riding for a while and I can’t count how many times I’ve seen crashes because peeps don’t know how to ride in groups or in traffic or even in a straight line. Plus, when you put unexperienced kids on brakeless fixes with no foot retention or helmets it’s only a matter of time before someone gets hurt.
    Hopefully we can get the city to notice that there’s a growing need for better bike infrastructure. It can be sketchy out there, especially when crossing one of the bridges to the east side, not one has a bike lane. Eh homie, you don’t need to honk at me while you pass 2 feet from me doing 50mph over the 6th street bridge, slow down give us a little space and save a life, we share these streets.

  11. Bikes!!! Some many golden memories; riding my no name dirt bike with my George St. buds and our Asian friends, riding down Valley Blvd. in my blue Peugeot ten speed with no space for error as cars whizzed by within a foot of me, driving my bro’s red Peugeot down Eastlake,blitzed out of my mind, actually nodding off for a couple of seconds before…bam!!! crashing into the back of a car, splitting open my chin and needing to go to the hospital for stitches,cruising the flatlands of Lincoln Heights in my beach cruiser! I’ve gotta get a bike again!

  12. There has always been a “bike culture” in Los Angeles – blame the good weather and wide streets (compared to what east coast cyclists deal with).

    When I came home from the service I couldn’t afford a car, my bike was my “car” for two years, when I couldn’t borrow someone’s hoopty. What I noticed back then is that there were many working class people who were in same situation I was in – bike as primary vehicle.

    In my teenage years and early twenties, I was a member of Major Motion cycling club – a mostly Black club out of the Crenshaw district that has exisited (still does) since 1975. There has been a minority presence on the racing circut for as long as I can remember.

    I’ve ssen a gang of fixies over in Compton and in East LA where I work. Hopefully the “fad” will produce some lifelong cyclists…

  13. The fixed gear thing has totally blown up in NELA this last year or two. Just about every meat head you can imagine is beating up somebody’s cousin to grab their bike and ride it with their group of friends from the block.

    The little cousins are stealing from rich kids in other parts of town and bringing home the bikes and parts.

    When you consider the census numbers for 90042, 90031, 90065 – we’re almost 50% under the age of 18 over here (it seems), this bike thing is huge. Go on rides these days and all the males are young latin-american guys, with a few throwback white kids in the mix. On the westside the demographics change a bit, but my limited experience is that Chicano males are owning it in L.A. on bikes right now.

    Devin’s TV Bikes is a hang out, but there is Ricky’s Bikes which hustles stolen and scavanged bikes out of the Kasil Jeans building on the corner of Workman and Broadway.

    Then there is the tragically lame shop I am busy running into the ground. It blows me away how many track wheel sets and bike parts pass through my shop each week (now that I’ve had a chance to look at my sales numbers). Everyone is broke until it comes time to pimp out their rides. Fortunately, we recently got three new shops in the area to service the needs of this very young community.

    A lot of older guys like to piss all over these young kids efforts to live the dream, ride or die, etc. But the reality is that this is a generation of bike riders that do “get it” and those cross town trips to hang out with all sorts of other people, get stoned, drunk, see architecture, skid, is building the foundation for a different (and I think better) L.A. – more legitimately owned by its inhabitants and less at the whims of those who move into town with ignorance and cash.

  14. Reading the eastside blog makes me feel good.

    You guys are changing LA. Don’t give in to the car when you get older. Just get a faster bike. If you guys keep going, LA is gonna have to recognize and start putting down some serious bike infrastructure.

    Riding over those bridges is scary as fuck.

  15. This is great. I ride bikes and take transit and I love that more people are getting out on bike because it’s fun and practical.

    I was getting a bit tired of the image of cyclists as white and privileged. This might be the case for purely recreational cyclists but among people who use their bikes to get around it’s pretty diverse. I’m Asian and most people I ride with are either Latino or Asian.

  16. “…say what you will, but I was happily surprised to see the huge numbers of Chican@ kids on bicycles rolling by! And they look much cooler than hipsters. And they always will.”

    Um… these “chican@” kids ARE hipsters. Get used to it–it’s 2010. Hipster has no color now.

  17. I laugh when I see some of those riders with their super tight jeans and have them rolled up because they think it will catch in the chain ring. I’m not a fan of those bikes and some of those idiots that ride them. Give me some old school bmx bikes and cruisers.

  18. @chimichanga: The rolled up pants also prevent grease stains from the chain 😉

    BMX Bikes are nice for tricks, cruisers are fine for the beach, but for getting around they’re far from ideal.

    @dweebo: When I see those chican@ kids, I don’t see them in the cliché hipster clothing. They remind me more of the fashion attributed to underground beat/hiphop heads.

  19. You seriously associate capri pants and messanger bags with underground hip hop?

  20. @Jorge M.

    The kids I saw did not have capri pants or messenger bags but LA caps and baggy shirts. 😉

  21. Last night around midnight, I was driving near the Crenshaw area and saw a group of young Latino kids (with the hip-hop gear you refer to Julio) on mostly fixies. My friend said sarcastically “Look at the one poor guy with 15 gears on his bike…”

  22. Chimitali: ironically I think the guy with 15gears is NOW ahead of the curve.

    Oh the trappings of the ephemerality of *cool*.

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