The Ride4Love Sets Powerful Example of Unity through Diversity in Watts

One of the younger riders surveys the scene during the Ride4Love. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
One of the younger riders surveys the scene during the Ride4Love. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

“Lemme guess,” I said to East Side Rider Dale Williams as he approached the Ride4Love’s ride captains with a printout of the route, “you worked all night last night.”

The big-hearted 55-year-old never fails to amaze me. He often works long nights cleaning venues, gets home in time to catch a couple of hours of sleep, and is up early with a smile on his face, ready to help shepherd bike rides, big or small, to ensure that everyone stays safe.

The tail end of the group heads into South Gate along Firestone Blvd. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
The tail end of the group heads into South Gate along Firestone Blvd. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

“Yup,” Williams laughed, “you know it!”

He wasn’t the only one. One of Los Ryderz‘ reliable road captains, Carlos “Cheech” Garcia, had also been up most of the night at his power-washing job, and had also refused to miss the ride.

Fred Buggs, president of the East Side Riders and builder of incredible bikes, heads back toward an intersection to help shepherd rides through it. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Fred Buggs, president of the East Side Riders and builder of incredible bikes (including the tandem one he is on), heads back toward an intersection to help shepherd riders through it. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Their dedication to their clubs and their community is part of what makes riding in South L.A. such a wonderful experience. Where a lot of group rides tend to be about moving through spaces, South L.A. rides are always about connecting with them and leaving them better than they were before.

Tyrone "T-money" Williams of the South L.A. Real Rydaz waves to Watts residents. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Tyrone “T-money” Williams of the South L.A. Real Rydaz waves to Watts residents. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

The East Side Riders’ Ride4Love, in particular, has always had a strong community-based mission.

Early on, it was about bringing food and water to the homeless. Two years ago, in honor of fallen cyclist Benjamin Torres, the ride was dedicated to raising awareness about hit-and-runs and the lack of justice for victims and their families. Last year, in partnership with C.I.C.L.E. and Metro, the ride focused on expanding its reach and welcoming folks from outside the area to the community.

A pit stop in South Gate results in the virtual take-over of an am/pm gas station. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
A pit stop in South Gate results in the virtual take-over of an am/pm gas station. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

This year (also sponsored by C.I.C.L.E. and Metro), the ride built on that mission by bringing together cycling clubs from around the L.A. area, including the Los Ryderz, Cyclone Coasters, South L.A. Real Rydaz, Brothers of Color, Ridaz Choice, Saints Through Fire, Old Time Values, Ratrod Riders, Barkada, Latins Finest, and a few others.

Together, they numbered around 200 cyclists.

Riders make way for a delivery of gasoline to the am/pm station. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Riders make way for a delivery of gasoline to the am/pm station. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

It was a pretty amazing feat to witness.

Different clubs have had their differences over the years, and haven’t always been interested in supporting each other or exploring each others’ neighborhoods.

Riders circle the plaza at the Watts Towers. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Riders (and a rollerblader) circle the plaza at the Watts Towers. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

That has definitely changed recently, and many of the riders decked out in gear representing their own clubs were also proudly sporting other clubs’ patches on their vests.

Riders wear vests showcasing their clubs. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Riders wear vests showcasing their clubs. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Their camaraderie made for a very positive atmosphere on the ride.

And it was fun for those that saw the riders roll by, too.

Riders queue up at a stoplight. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
The ride was very family-friendly. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

The diversity of the group and the wide range of bikes the riders were on brought families out of their homes to “ooh” and “ahh” over the group and prompted drivers to honk and wave in support, even as they had to wait for a couple hundred riders to pour through an intersection.

The South L.A. Real Rydaz' bikes read, "Game Over" and "All In." Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
The South L.A. Real Rydaz’ bikes read, “Game Over,” “Helen” (Henry rode her bike as she was working), and “All In.” Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

In an area where racial tensions can sometimes prevent people with similar needs and experiences from coming together, the message the riders were sending was that we are stronger — and happier — when we come together.

Riders make their way toward the Watts Towers. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Riders make their way toward the Watts Towers. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

It wasn’t a terribly long ride — just about eight miles — covering the northeast side of Watts and part of South Gate. But it was just long enough to give riders a good sense of Watts, a chance to connect with each other, and a desire to ride together again soon.

Riders head out from Washington Park. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Riders head out from Washington Park. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

The next ride through the area will be the fourth annual Tour de Watts, led by Los Ryderz and the East Side Riders on March 14. Los Ryderz president Javier “JP” Partida has posted a map of the route on their facebook page, here.

Riders gather for a photo at the Watts Towers. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Riders gather for a photo at the Watts Towers (click to enlarge). Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
  • davistrain

    Since the commercial media seem to visit this part of town only when something bad happens, it’s good to see a gathering that shows what some of us call “Good Vibrations”.

  • 2UrbanGirls

    Great story Sahra!

  • 2UrbanGirls

    I agree!

  • bikecar101.com

    Thank you for the story. A perfect example of one of the many benefits of riding a bicycle: building unity amongst community members by direct interaction while exploring the community in a more personal form compared to using a car (from a distance). Looks like the organizations had a wonderful turnout — super inspirational for other communities. Every community should hold rides similar to this event.

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