The explosion of the bicycling subculture in Los Angeles

Did you know that there are several group bike rides, every night in Los Angeles?

The bicycling subculture in Los Angeles has exploded and it’s mostly thanks to Midnight Ridazz.

The history of Midnight Ridazz

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A typical ride you’d find in the summer.

Midnight Ridazz started out as a group bike ride that happened just once on the second Friday of every month.  They started in early 2004 with just a handful of people. The leaders promoted it as a fun ride that explored parts of the city that were easily overlooked or impossible to get to with a car.

In February 2005, the first year anniversary had around a hundred people show up.  The event continued to grow quickly through word of mouth and the internet.  By the time 2006 rolled around, the number of riders that were showing up on average were exceeding a thousand people! This had never happened before in LA history. Bicycling in Los Angeles alone was unheard of at the time because everything is so far spread out.  If hundreds of cyclists were riding together, taking up half of the street, spectators constantly assumed they were bicycling to send a political message of some sort, but it wasn’t.  They were and still are often like fun parades with silly themes.

The popularity of the monthly ride exploded and the ride dynamics changed a lot.  The ride had become a different kind of animal.  The meetup spots were getting extremely overcrowded and spilling onto the streets, creating delays for motorists.   The organizers were having trouble keeping everybody together because not everybody could keep up at the same pace.  If they got stuck behind a light or had to take a break, they were very likely to get lost and lose the pack.

In response to this explosion, Midnight Ridazz did something ingenious as a solution.  They opened up the website so that anybody could start (or join) a ride and it would be added to the website’s calendar.  The website also added an archaic message board as well.

Instead of having one single monthly ride, there were now several rides per month, started by anybody who wanted, anywhere they wanted.

The website started to thrive with participation, mass collaboration and creativity for the same reasons why open source software and wiki’s have been very successful: It promotes freedom of information and an open-source culture.

As a result, thousands of unique rides have been created since 2006.

Why did the explosion occur?

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Never before have we had this many cyclists on the streets of LA.  The Midnight Ridazz website was instrumental in starting the snowball effect towards getting us away from our cars for a night and onto our bikes while providing a way for this endless urban sprawl called LA to feel some sense of community.

Special mention goes to the global recession, housing bubble, financial crisis, and increasing gas prices for tightening everybody’s budgets.  Those factors, plus the fact that we need to get more exercise in our lives has definitely made people rethink what they spend their money on and what their priorities should be.  The underlying green movement has definitely helped people become more aware of alternatives to driving such as riding a bicycle and using public transportation as well.

The idea that you could go on a ride full of adventure on a Saturday night with hundreds of others, for free, and come out healthier from it, sounds much more appealing than driving to a club or bar in Hollywood, paying $20 for parking and $8-12 per drink to listen to bad music in a shitty environment.

How do I find a ride?

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Silly is an understatement.

Go to and look at the events on the right. There’s probably a couple rides for tonight.

Each ride has a different feel to it depending on what the description (the theme or intention) of the ride is.  Some are fast paced while others are purposely slow and incorporate lots of stops.  Relative to a few years ago, there are now many more fast paced rides, probably because the participants and organizers themselves are maturing over the years and looking for new thrills.

The meetup spot has a strong influence on who will show up to the ride as well.  A ride that starts in West LA will feel different than one that starts in East LA simply because the demographics are different between neighborhoods.  That doesn’t mean one is better than the other, just different! :)  If you didn’t like the ride, you can try a different ride or start your own because they are all organized independently.

The rides with the largest turnouts are generally the ones on the weekends, such as Friday or Saturday nights.  That’s when people are free and don’t have work or school and want to enjoy themselves.   However, the largest rides aren’t necessarily the best but they are definitely awe inspiring and you may feel like you’re all-of-a-sudden part of a giant bicycle parade.  The original Midnight Ridazz ride still happens on the second Friday of every month as well.

You will come across all sorts of rides/clubs, such as…

Even though it seems like every ride in the book has been tried, that’s not true because there is no limit to human ingenuity.  As long as anybody can start or join a ride on the website, the rides should continue to prosper. They definitely have stirred up something fresh for the nightlife in Los Angeles and there are clearly a lot of fans.  Besides, nobody has done a mustache-laser ride, yet. :)

Tons more can be written about the history of each of the rides that are well established. For the most part, it seems like drivers treat cyclists as second class citizens and that spills over to the way the police think as well.  Luckily, in the online world, the forum members are very resourceful when they band together in regards to legal issues, such as hit and runs.  A lot more can be said on this topic and I may write something about it in the future.

If you are thinking of riding your bicycle to a ride, be sure to also remember to check out my article on how to ride your bicycle safely on the street to feel more confident.