By Gabriel Serrano Contributing Writer
As the sun begins to set and Los Angeles’ busy rush hour traffic begins to dwindle, a herd of bicyclists burst out on to the scene, composed of riders of all shapes and sizes pedaling on an assortment of bikes. They are known as the Eastside Bike Club.
ESBC is a community organization founded by Carlos Morales and Eric Cornejo. It was first established as a support group to help Morales lose weight. Weighing over 400 pounds, Morales knew he had to change his lifestyle. In June 2008 he decided, along with nine friends, to create North-East Los Angeles’ first bicycle club.
Morales lost 200 pounds while his club gained several hundred cyclists. They have weekly rides every Tuesday at 7 p.m. and an occasional weekend ride. Between a dozen to more than sixty cyclists show up weekly for nighttime rides. “The people who ride with us do it for variety of reasons: to lose weight, to maintain weight, to socialize and as therapy to relieve all the stresses of life,” Morales said.
“We are cyclists who enjoy the companionship of riding with friends,” Morales said. “If I see that these people come out in the rain and cold and they want to ride, guess what? I’m there.”
The club has also established a three-module education program to teach young inexperienced riders safe riding techniques, rules of the road and how to maintain all elements of the bike. They create obstacle courses for the riders and end the course with the students joining the weekly group rides. The members vary in age, from 6 to over 60 years old, as much as they do by skill-set.
They hold moderate joyrides between ten to thirty miles and challenge advanced riders, where they conquer killer hills and pedal for thirty to sixty miles. When they formed, it was the only bike club in its area, but since then it has paved the way for many new bike clubs in the North and East sides of Los Angeles.
Now there are clubs such as the East Side Riders, All-Girl Brigade, Ovarian Cyclists, Crank Clothing Cycling Team and Throw-Down Thursdays. Throw-Down Thursdays broke off from ESBC when a group of younger, more fit riders wanted to do more intense and faster rides.
They also hosts social event rides varying from costume themes, to date night rides, to educational and scenic excursions, sometimes with Los Angeles Police Department escorts. These social events bring riders by the hundreds, forming a wave of bicyclists all along the right side of the street. “Police officers have instructed us to ride in a single file or in the gutter. They’re wrong because cyclist have the right to take and ride in the right lane of the street,” Morales said.
On April 15 they will be hosting a feeder ride, a cyclist group that merges with a larger group of over 400 riders. They will join CicLAvia, an event that closes ten-miles of road in Downtown Los Angeles and attracts an army of over 150,000 riders.