When I rolled up to YO! Watts just after 10 a.m. on Saturday, I was ecstatic to see girls on bikes. Lots of them.
They were excited to ride. 15-year old Sandra “Whisper” Argueta said she was looking forward to being able to ride through some of the side streets. Although she’d lived in the area for the past 8 years or so, she mainly stuck to the busy thoroughfare streets for safety’s sake. The other girls agreed. Yaquelina Parra cited the need to be careful about the color of your bike depending on the neighborhood you were in while another girl mentioned having had to run a red light one night to avoid getting her bike jacked.
Riding as part of a group meant that they could enjoy themselves without having to worry about such things.
Javier Partida recently launched Los Ryderz for just that reason. Inspired by the East Side Riders’ approach (just down the street at the WLCAC), he wanted to take the kids that came through YO! Watts and show them that they could set a positive example in the community while engaging in a healthy activity and enjoying themselves.
He hopes eventually to have a Bicycle Kitchen-style co-op set up there that can serve the neighborhood while providing YO! Watts interns with bike and people skills. YO! Watts already has the space and the kids to fix up the bicycles, but they need spare bikes, tools, and a little more know-how before they can get the co-op off the ground.
Meanwhile, just getting kids out riding around has proven the best way to get the club started.
Led by Javier and his brother Miguel, they certainly enjoyed being out in their community and seemed to be proud to be part of the group. They waved at little kids and people they knew, and proudly lined up their bikes at the Jordan Downs Rec. Center and Watts Towers pit stops.
The only drawback to the whole thing was that there weren’t enough guys on the ride.
Founding member Christian joked that it would have been nice to have a few more guys to talk to.
“I’m sorry you’re stuck talking to me, ” I teased.
“Nah, It’s OK,” he laughed. He just didn’t want guys to think that they couldn’t join in the ride, too.