Adam Flores, Rob Mountain, Josue Rodriguez and Alonzo Chan are four of the Cycledelics’ founding members, bragging rights that go pretty far in downtown Riverside’s hipster circles these days. Never mind that they all sport shaggy-cool ’dos, some play in indie rock bands and one owns a vintage clothing store—these guys launched the hottest cycling group in the Inland Empire since, er, ever.
With their first-Friday-of-the-month rides attracting around 100 people—and they don’t start until 9PM—this spoke circle attracts attention.
“They’re a bit of a spectacle,” says “Bean,” coffee barista at Riverside’s Back to the Grind. The artist-friendly coffee shop in downtown has served as a hub for the group since its formation. “You can’t miss them,” she says.
The Cycledelics didn’t invent the outlandish-bikers-taking-over-the-streets thing. There are similar groups in big cities across the nation, but for the Inland Empire, they are mavericks, although a similar group existed previously. A guy named Lee started a monthly ride before the Cycledelics called the Der Irregular Bike Society, incorporating themes like a “taco tour” and a “scavenger hunt.”
But then Lee got a little overwhelmed, Flores says. As Lee’s rides started to dwindle, Flores and some Cycledelic buddies moved into a bit of a party house together. Casa de Cycledelics they called it. The group started hosting Saturday parties complete with wackiness like ice blocking, picnics, dodgeball—all the good, clean fun they could handle with a few beers thrown in to stay hydrated.
It was a natural extension of their Saturday parties to add a bike ride with a theme. There was the Spectacle Ride, where everyone wore glasses to honor a bespectacled birthday boy. There was the Cops and Robbers Ride, the Kung Fu Ride and the Polar Express Ride in a winter rainstorm. There were slow races, bike jousting, costume contests and more.
The more people wanted to join, the more getting organized became a part of the party. The Saturday jaunts established themselves as first-Friday-of-the-month rides so that cyclists could count on consistency. Soon enough, people started getting a little more serious about riding, with tricked-out bikes and stellar skills—hold the Spandex shorts.
Nearly two-and-a-half years into this bike business and the guys compare themselves to a quasi-sort of secret society, similar to Fight Club, but with more handlebars, less violence, but nearly as much blood thanks to people pushing themselves to master things like “bike surfing” and “sick skids.” There have been broken collarbones, broken elbows, et cetera.
“Everyone has bounced back pretty well though,” Rodriguez says with a huge grin. “But I’m terrified of water and loose gravel,” two of the culprits behind nasty spills.
See, they’re not so tough.
Similar to Fight Club, Cycledelics have rules:
No riding on sidewalks.
Never litter (Mother Nature is not their waste basket).
No Cycledelic gets left behind.
Keep it sexy.
When caught in a jam and there’s no way out, see Rule No. 4.
But what thrills Rodriguez, a high school teacher by day, even more than daredevil stunts, are the spoke cards, a key component to the group’s core. The cards are the size of playing cards and have an illustration specific to the theme of the ride with the date of the event and a map of the night’s route.
Participants collect the cards and wedge select ones in their tire spokes. They’ve become a bit of a collectors item for the hardcore enthusiasts. Rodriguez even laid out some cash recently to replace one from the Clown Ride that was stolen from his tire.
“Sometimes we see spoke cards on bikes, and we don’t even know who the person is,” Rodriguez says, a touchstone for just how big the group has become. “It’s a good conversation topic.”
Rodriguez is by far the most enthusiastic of the three about the preciousness of the spoke cards.
“He has flair,” Flores says with a nod Rodriguez’s way.
It’s hard to tell if his words are out of jest or awe. But either way, Rodriguez holds his head high. Even smarmy high school students can’t break his stride.
All the elder Cycledelics have artistic streaks, Chan says explaining the creative costumes: “Everyone was open to pushing it further.”
But pushing it further for some meant literally pushing it farther. The group has ridden their bikes together from Riverside to Redlands, one time all the way to the beach, and there was another ride that was 50 miles in Mexico. It’s not all shits and giggles with the Cycledelics, although it may have been on that trip if they drank the water.
“The intention was to get a little exercise,” Rodriguez says about the group forming. “But now I have three bikes.” There is no doubt the sporty aspect of the rides has slowly crept up on many of the members, giving them a new passion to geek out about.
On a recent night, Rodriguez invites us outside of Back to the Grind to take a look at his sweet ride, his Blue Demon Jr.: A baby blue, fixed-gear Schwinn Madison. Aside from this one, he’s also got an 18-speed.
The 18-speedster comes in handy on rides like the Coyote Hussle, a faster-paced ride spearheaded by some of the Cycledelics’ younger members who are more gung-ho about getting physical. They’ve started to branch off and create their own groups.
“UCR now has two groups that go out every week,” Rodriguez says. “I’m impressed.”
But the group is not without its haters, something inevitable once you go big and become a little too hip. There are those who drop the little snide remarks, like “Now that biking is cool.” One of Rodriguez’s co-workers even asked him why he doesn’t just get a life.
“I was kind of offended,” Rodriguez says about the remark. “I mean, what should I be doing, going around and getting in fights?” conjuring images again of Fight Club intensity.
“We could be doing all sorts of others things,” Chan says. “This is positive.”
It’s so positive that the group has even caught the attention of the local city council. When Riverside was considering adding new bike lanes in May 2007, the Cycledelics were instrumental in showing support for the city’s Bicycle Master Plan that will ultimately connect the Santa Ana River Trail from San Bernardino to the beach area.
The civic enthusiasm was positive twofold. It helped show support for the city adding more bike lanes, but it also helped expand the political horizons of some of the group’s members.
“I had never even been to a city council meeting before,” Rodriguez admits. “I didn’t even know where City Hall was.” Now some of the Cycledelics’ younger members are pushing for even more bike lanes to accommodate the growing group.
Still, the guys don’t take all the credit for the renewed enthusiasm for Schwinns and Peugeots in Riverside. “We were one step behind L.A.,” Rodriguez says, although they hadn’t even heard about similar groups when they began the Saturday rendezvous.
“We were just in the right place at the right time,” Chan says. “Everyone was just open to doing it.”
Now the Cycledelics’ founding members have responsibilities.
“The elders look out and stay in the back. If someone gets a flat, it’s like ‘Man down!’”
And they don’t hog the front of the pack either, letting some of the newer members take the lead from time to time.
In 2008, all of the founding members were out of town the same first Friday of the month, and the ride continued on, which filled the elders with a sense of pride at their possible legacy. And now they know there are young’uns who will keep it sexy if the elders ever need to ride off into the sunset.
The Cycledelics monthly rides are the first Friday of every month, 8:30PM in front of Back to the Grind, 3575 University Ave., Riverside. Ride begins at 9PM. Fri., June 5 is the Big Ass Beach Ride, www.myspace.com/cycledelics_riverside.