In addition to the 150,000 cyclists that took to Venice Blvd. on Sunday, at CicLAvia VI: CicLAvia To the Sea, the “King of CicLAvia” was crowned. The crown was not awarded by the event-creators, but by the buzz surrounding Richie Trimble’s over a hundred pound, 14.5 foot – to the seat, 17 foot – to eye level, tall bike: “STOOPID TALL” aka “Big Boy” as it made its way from La Cienega to Venice beach.
“Everyone looks at you like your nuts and they’re right!” He laughs, “My Mom even said so!”
The day after CicLAvia’s event, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Richie, whose smile from the excitement of the previous day, infectious, never left our conversation. He tells me he arrived in L.A. six years ago, going on his first group bike ride: a Wolfpack Hustle Monday night ride known for its speed through the Los Angeles streets.
“I didn’t know what i was getting into,” as he showed up on a full suspension mountain bike. “They kicked my ass,” but he was never dropped.
He returned week after week and then, “I got a road bike thinking I’d blow everyone away, but I had to keep up in the back, using a whole new set of muscles.” So, Richie along with a few other cyclists, started Cub Camp, the training ride for Wolfpack on the Westside of Los Angeles. “And that was when the Westside crew, the family, began.”
“We were having issues with Santa Monica Critical Mass – issues with police, so we decided to create a ride that was the opposite, it was a rebel. It was about putting our energy into having FUN instead of putting our energy at the Santa Monica Police and that was when [the] C.R.A.N.K. Mob [bike ride] came about. And that’s when all of the FUN exploded: Los Angelopes, Freak Bikes; it was a mission to level up every ride. Some way or another; a costume, a bicycle, a game, a sound system, a smile.”
Kabuki Sky was Richie’s first bike at three frames tall, the front wheel a ten inch kids wheel, the back wheel a regular 700 size wheel. He built it at the original Bikerowave location in Santa Monica off Olympic Blvd., a do-it-yourself bike shop which is now located at 12255 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles 90066.
It was Alec Schwartz, beloved Los Angeles artist, cyclist and deemed FUN dictator 2010, who brought his welder to the shop and together the first wave of tall bikes in L.A.’s bike culture emerged. He sold the bike on ebay to Joe Borfo for $90 who unfortunately broke his ankle while riding it. Richie borrowed the bike back and added another bike frame, thus the tall bike leveled up to Kafourki Sky: under 10 feet to the seat, 12.5 feet eye level, now retired.
As a cinematographer in Los Angeles, it’s rare for Richie to make it out to bike rides. Two weeks ago, his calendar clear, he rode on The Safari Bike Ride where he met up with friend and fellow bike builder, Rick Hill. Richie tells me that “Rick makes the most awesome bikes.”
Richie challenged Rick to the tallest bike in LA – two weeks later, STOOPID TALL would be constructed. Richie was building it for Saturday night’s bike ride, C.R.A.N.K. MOB, to take it to the next level. It took him twelve hours to build, the final eight hours on the day of the bike ride.With only one Huffy beach cruiser frame, crank, handle bars, seat post and the fork as the rest of the bike is made by round and square steel tubing. The curves in the the round tubing were created from an upside down shopping cart and log on top. The chain alone is six and a half bicycle chains, that’s thirty-two and a half feet. With no real tools or a flush surface, Richie used c-stands (usually seen being used on film sets), levels and small wedges, built by eye-ing it in his back yard. “I was skeptical it would even ride at all.”
An hour before C.R.A.N.K. MOB on Saturday night, Richie was test riding in the parking lot. The gear was too small and he was spinning out. Feeling as though it was not ready and may be a hinderance to the night bike ride, he chose to fix it the next morning and unveil her at CicLAvia.
Towering along the CicLAvia route, Richie was surrounded by The Los Angelopes, a Los Angeles bicycle gang known predominantly for their “Freak Bikes;” double tall bikes, triple tall bikes, swing bikes. Richie is one of the founding fathers for Los Angelopes.
He sits back in his seat with great admiration and love for his bike gang saying, “I consider myself an original Angelope. And to this day, I still carry on the manifesto of FUN. If it wasn’t for the Los Angelopes making a ring around me as we rode together, riding STOOPID TALL wouldn’t be possible. It’s not a daily commuter. It’s not a weekend bike. It’s a special event bike and you need a support crew to work with.”
Being at CicLAvia, I remember hearing many people express how nervous they were for Richie, so I wanted to ask him, was he nervous? Was he able to enjoy himself? Richie laughs, “I think I’m an adrenaline junky. The whole build up before riding Stoopid Tall is probably my favorite part. The anticipation of what it’s going to be like. I am worried about this hundred pound bike gaining momentum and hurting someone else along the way. It’s a huge risk.”
Richie says the scariest part of his journey, riding under the 405 freeway.
“That moment was amazing because you see the freeway coming. I could see the top of the cars going by and I had never seen that before. And everyone is cheering for me to touch the bridge. I reach up and high five the bridge. As I go under, I drag my hand along the top and I’m thinking, ‘Wow, I’m probably the only person to have touched this besides the workers that built the overpass.’ And that was pretty chilling, but then I realize that the street I was on was at an incline and the bridge above me was banking, the gap was closing in on me. And all I could think was, ‘Holy shit! What am I going to do if I can’t make it out? How do I wedge myself up against this and still make it out? What do I do?’ I could feel the crowd below me, they all knew what was coming. All eyes on me and this bridge closing down on me. It got to the point where my body, my back was parallel to the ground and I looked at my hand and I had about two inches clearance above my knuckles and then I came out from under the bridge and the whole crowd ROARED! A deafening scream of ‘Holy shit, you made it!’ And I swear, those smiles must have lasted the whole ride. That was the moment for everyone.”
Richie tells me that the whole point of making a tall bike is really to make someone else’s day. “The whole concept of why we are here, to have fun. It’s why we built these bikes in Los Angelopes – it was founded on making smiles, making wildly looking bikes to make people’s day. They’re a day maker! You don’t know how you effect other people and that could give someone enough courage to go do something just because they want to do it. Even if it’s STOOPID TALL!”
Richie says the moment he rode along the Venice pier was a beautiful connection with nature, seeing water on both sides, he recalls, “Falling right now might not be that bad, it could be a lot of FUN!”
STOOPID TALL worked great for twenty miles, Richie goes on to tell me that on his way home a master link in bike chain came loose, falling out, breaking the chain, losing his ability to pedal as well as the coaster brake. “This is exactly what I didn’t want to happen!” Seeing a telephone pole, he reached for it, the bike going out from under him, he Tarzan hugs the pole, a twelve foot drop, slamming his feet on the ground, suffering minor bruising on the pad of his heel and spraining his left ankle – the bike landing safely on a fence. “But, man, it was so worth it! There was an uncountable amount of smiles that day. I will sprain my ankle every day for smiles!”
Richie thanks the wonderful couple who stopped, asking him for help and then drove him to his house so he could get his truck to come back and pickup the bike. He says they refused his offer of money, but enjoyed a beautiful conversation about life. He calls them, “The savior of his night.”
Richie wore a GoPro on his chest during his entire 20 mile ride around the Westside on Sunday. Here’s a link of the video shot and edited by him posted on YoVenice!.
What does the future hold for this “adrenaline junky” Los Angelope? Richie tells me with those mischievous eyes and that infectious smile, “We’re both (Rick Hill) going to go for the World Record of tallest bike,” but first they will team up for the tallest tandem bike!