Hundreds Gather for Women and Women-Identified Ride Led by Ovarian Psycos

Women and women-identified folks gather under the shade as they wait for the Ovarian Psyco-cycles Clitoral Mass ride to begin. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Women and women-identified folks gather under the shade as they wait for the Ovarian Psyco-cycles Clitoral Mass ride to begin. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Looking out over the growing group of women and women-identified folks gathering on the grassy knoll behind Olvera St. for the Ovarian Pscyo-Cycles 4th Annual Clitoral Mass ride, I realized that, despite having attended the previous three events, I only recognized a handful of the riders.

Considering there were probably more than 200 cyclists on the green, and more were arriving all the time, that was saying something.

Participants continue to arrive. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Participants continue to arrive. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

I mentioned this to Maryann Aguirre, one of the women that had been instrumental in organizing the first Clitoral Mass in 2012.

Nodding, she took a minute to survey the crowd.

The event now seemed to have a momentum of its own, we agreed, attracting long-time cyclists, novices, and everyone of every age, race, make, and mold in between.

And it was clearly meeting a need, given all the new faces and excited exclamations of, “We need this!” and “I have been waiting all year for this!” I was hearing.

Riders gather in the shade just east of Olvera St. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Riders gather in the shade just east of Olvera St. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

When the Ovas first decided to launch the event four years ago, it was because they had felt there was a need to carve out space on the streets for those women and women-identified folks — particularly those of color — who didn’t feel their experiences were validated or welcome in other cycling spaces.

It is not a concept that is terribly controversial right now. But back then, conversations around equity, inclusion, and the mobility of those on the margins had yet to really take root in the livable streets and cycling communities. So, the idea of a female (identified)-centric ride caused a bit of a stir.

The Ovas were accused of exclusion by some and of misandry by a very small minority of disgruntled men. Some of the critics threatened to show up and crash the ride. A few even took it upon themselves to organize a counter-balancing ride for “Brovarian Psychos,” where those poor and oppressed (and grammatically-challenged) souls seeking to promote “man-ism, jism, mens’ rights, reform of family court, selective service, anti-male stereotypes, to counter-manginas and white knights, and restore balance to the force [sic]” could finally feel supported.

Despite all the nonsense, the Ovas’ first event went off peacefully. And instead of the world ending, the ride became something of an institution — a day of sisterhood and solidarity around which riders from around the Southland and beyond were willing to adjust their summer schedules so they could be sure to be in town. It even inspired a national movement and, in 2013, saw sister rides spring up in Oakland, Toronto, New York City, Atlanta, and Chicago.

Riders and bikes are blessed with prayers and song. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Riders and bikes are blessed with prayers and song. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

As the crowd grew for this past Saturday’s ride, I was struck by the extent to which the event served as a gateway ride for so many of the participants. Many were clearly very new to cycling and were on bikes that they were dusting off for the first time in years.

The novices were a contingency the Ovas had planned for. They and their support team, including a handful of male allies, purposely gave themselves a two-hour period before roll-out to check participants’ bikes and ensure they were in working condition. Pit stops along the way, featuring entertainment, food, and conversations around social justice, also served as opportunities to do minor wrenching and keep everybody rolling.

And for those things that could be not fixed by human hands, there was a blessing of the bicycles (and riders) and an honoring of the ancestors through sacred drum, prayer, and songs before the riders set out from Olvera Street (above).

I unfortunately was not able to go all 30 miles with the Ovas as they traveled to Rio de Los Angeles State Park, Oak Park in Northeast Los Angeles, Lincoln Park (off Valley Blvd.), Hollenbeck Park, Macarthur Park, and back to Placita Olvera. So, the pictures that follow below are just from the meet-up and first leg of the trek. For more about the Ovas or information about their monthly Luna rides, check out their Facebook page, here.

Road captains gather to discuss last-minute logistics. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Road captains gather to discuss last-minute logistics. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
The trademark hand sign of the Ovarian Pscyo-Cycles. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
The trademark hand sign of the Ovarian Pscyo-Cycles. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Spoke cards. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Spoke cards. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Blessings are underway. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Blessings are underway. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Riders circle up. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Riders circle up. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Blessings give way to safety tips. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Blessings give way to safety tips. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Preparing to roll out. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Preparing to roll out. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Rolling. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Rolling. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Rolling out past Union Station. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Rolling out past Union Station. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Taking over Chinatown. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Taking over Chinatown. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Rolling through Chinatown. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Rolling through Chinatown. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Heading for Rio de Los Angeles State Park. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Heading for Rio de Los Angeles State Park. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Leaders of the pack. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Pauletta Pierce and Norma Toledo lead the pack to Rio del Los Angeles. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

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Clitoral Mass, Los Angeles’ first all-women mass ride, happening tonight It’s been months in the making, and now the all-women Clitoral Mass bike ride is happening tonight. Hosted by the Ovarian Psycos Bicycle Brigade, the women are expecting more than 300 women to attend – more than 700 people confirmed on their Facebook event page. […]