As the bicycle phenomenon continues to grow in Los Angeles, the daily catalogue of group rides could easily overwhelm a rookie. Subcultures within the bicycling community range in character, skill, pace and demographic, each lending its own unique vision of the city. Take for example, The Flying Pigeon's Get Sum Dim Sum Ride, a journey made for all ages with a tasty treat at its finish--a wise choice to break into cycling in this city.
This past Sunday was another installment of the culinary-inspired ride. It began in Highland Park at the Flying Pigeon bicycle shop located on 3714 North Figueroa Street. Having been on more party-centered rides, it was a welcome change to ride with a different, much calmer group. Group rides tend to unlock hidden nooks and crannies of L.A. and this ride was no different.
Josef Bray-Ali, co-owner of the Flying Pigeon and the Bike Oven next door, led the ride with his signature bike wagon carrying books, tools and eventually his daughter. Riders without bicycles could rent one of the Flying Pigeon's Chinese or Dutch-made commuter bicycles, starting at $20 per bike. Half of the riders seemed to be regulars, and I easily felt the family-type rapport, which extended to the lunch table later on--a fitting environment for the two toddlers and twin teenagers who joined the ride.
We rode first through the side streets of Highland Park, where locals greeted us in passing. We turned up a narrow bridge, filled every inch with color. Josef later mentioned that the local middle school students would tag that bridge as a way to show off their talents to their peers, but not the public. Overlooking the Arroyo Seco Parkway from the bridge felt like a portal to another Los Angeles.
The bridge led to a narrow teal-colored gate, zigzagged like a maze and speckled with flowers. As the morning light shone brightly through its steel frames, I felt like Alice in Wonderland being led through an unknown passage and pulled in by my own curiosity. But instead of ending in a room of locked doors, we emerged in the out and open in a warehouse district near Avenue 26. I felt the magic of being a kid then--riding a bicycle, feeling safe on the road while discovering the simple beauties of the neighborhoods. Adding to the calm, I could hear no more noise than laughter and light conversation from my closest rider as we passed empty buildings in no traffic.
The group stayed close together riding up Avenue 18, as we approached the Broadway Bridge from Lincoln Heights into Chinatown for more breathtaking views of the city. Finally, making a left turn on Broadway onto the sidewalk, our purple, yellow, red, and orange bicycles paraded to the entrance of The Golden Dragon for dim sum, then some.
Inside, I joined Josef with his wife and daughter, another family, and a couple for delicious Chinese fare and conversation. We traded college stories, book favorites, apocalyptic scenarios, and of course, cherished the amazing treat that is riding a bike in Los Angeles.
The Get Sum Dim Sum Ride occurs every third Sunday of the month at 10 a.m. Visit Flying Pigeon LA for more details.
All photos by Kelly Simpson