A Small Glimpse Into North Orange County Bike Culture

We met up at the Honda Center at 6:45am. There were maybe 30 riders all ranging in different ages from teen to adult.

This casual ride was known as “That Morning OJ Ride,” it was hosted by Luis Suarez of OCBrakeless. OCBrakeless is North Orange County’s first and only community organizer for Fixed Gear cyclists. “Fixed Gear” refers to a bike with no gears and no brakes.

Hence, OCBrakeless.

Even at speeds sometimes reaching 30 mph+ on downhills, the pedals never stop moving on a fixed gear bike . Due to the lack of brakes, in order to stop, a rider must perform controlled skids. If not executed properly, the cyclist gets a ticket to a world of pain.

Now, of course we’re not all on fixed gears. I’m borrowing a bike that enjoys all the amenities of modern technology. I’ve got brakes, gears, and pedals that can idle. In other words, I’m on a regular bike.

Jarret from Fixed Gear Beer Crew greeted Alex and Mario Parra and I as we arrived. We made our way towards the group of riders and we all settled in.

In a friendly welcoming manner, Luis Suarez briefed us a bit on the ride and reminded everyone that the goal for today was to build community, ride together, and enjoy. If anyone wanted to impress him with their speed, they could sign up for one of his races and challenge him there.

And we’re off!

I’ve never ridden in a big group before; it’s an awesome feeling. I’m not sure of the streets we were on. I just know that we were doing a huge loop heading eastbound on Katella ave. As we were still on the first straightaway, I saw the front of the pack get farther and farther as I settled in comfortably near the back.

Too comfortable apparently. Those of us in the back hit a red light and were dropped from the group. By the time the light changed, the pack was gone. Our smaller group consisting of 5 or 6 riders headed Northbound and then Eastbound.

At this point, I identified myself as the weakest cyclist of the slowest group. Something had to be wrong. I realized that my seat was too low which was restricting my legs from extending properly. This was costing me lost energy and efficiency. A rookie mistake, but it was a borrowed bike. I didn’t have the allen wrench needed to adjust it either. I would have to tough it out.

As I got slower, Alex Parra let me catch up to him.

“Everthing ok? You alright?”

“I’m always alright,” I replied.

He laughed and shook his head, “I already know what they’re gonna say. How did you run 100 miles if you can’t even ride a bike?”

What a dickface, that Alex. But it brings up a point that I’ll add here.

Success in one area does not necessarily translate into automatic success elsewhere. It’s arrogant to assume that I would start out near the top. What does translate, however, is the confidence in my ability to progress.

I decided I would drop from the ride and return better prepared. Before I did, another rider gave me the allen wrench I needed.
Once I adjusted my seat, I felt great! We headed Southbound in search of the bigger group and came across a couple of cyclists who had also been left behind.

Together we headed westbound and then southbound. We all rode together fast and I stayed near two of the cyclists from the earlier group. They sped up a bit and another cyclist in a green jersey started shouting at them. “Pedal! Pedal! PEDAL!!!! LETS GO!!!!” And they started pedaling faster.

That’s nice of him, I thought. Then he turned, shot me an angry look, and yelled, “YOU TOO!!!!”

OH CRAP. Pedaling faster now. We rode fast and for some reason I was the only person struggling. Even though I wasn’t comfortable, I knew I had the stamina to deal with it.

The ride ended and we all hung out a bit. My group rode 12 miles in 45 minutes. An average pace of 16 mph.

Mental Note: The bike portion of an Ironman is 112 miles. 112/16 = 7 hours. +1 hour to make it more enjoyable = 8. These guys can average speeds over 20 mph. I think they could all do Ironmans. They just need to survive the swim and bike fast enough to have a good headstart for the run.

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Our Smaller Group BS’ing
Alex and Jarrett

We’re off to breakfast!

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Located at the Orange Circle

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Over dessert and coffee at Blue Frog, I asked Jarrett why he prefers to ride Fixed Gear. Months ago, he had told me that he considered it to be the purest form of the sport.

Today, he told me that he liked how much focus a rider must have. Moving through the streets at high speeds with no brakes, you have to remain alert to every detail….

there’s a car making a turn towards you….

there’s a pothole that will wipe you out….

you’re going 27 to 30 miles per hour on a downhill…

you have to make a controlled skid in order to stop.

I could be wrong in this assumption, but I know what he means. For some athletes, their sport is the closest thing that demands their full attention. It’s a feeling we all crave, a feeling of being completely in the moment.

Next Stop, a meet up with the Brewluminathletes.

The Brewluminathletes, founded by Alex Parra, is the athletic subgroup of the Brewluminati, a homebrew and craft beer club.

A fellow Brewlu, Bearded Chad, had offered to set up a basic bike maintenance clinic in North OC if someone else was willing to host. As he worked on everyone’s bikes and answered maintenance questions, I drank mystery homebrewed beer provided to me by our host, Jeff.

Mystery Homebrew Beer in a reusable bottle
Mystery Homebrew Beer in a reusable bottle

Then we were off for a little cruise. First stop, Bootleggers Tasting Room.

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Next, more beers and an incredible Brunch Burger at Hopscotch. It was a delicious end to a morning of Bike Riding.

Brunch Burger
Brunch Burger

I know I didn’t do a particularly impressive amount of biking today, but I feel like I got a pretty cool glimpse into the bike culture happening in my hometown. It’s a scene that I plan on returning to more in the future. I’ll keep you posted.

All three of these groups have links.

OCBrakeless is an open group, community, and race series. The ride that I attended is known as That Morning OJ ride. They’ll be hosting Saturday Morning weekly rides. All are encouraged to attend.

http://ocbrakeless.wordpress.com/

https://www.facebook.com/ocb714

The Fixed Gear Beer Crew, sponsored by Haven Gastropub, is on Facebook and Instagram. You can visit their website at www.fixedgearbeercrew.com .

Or, if you want to live a little, they host two pints tuesday every week. They’ll meet up at a starting point and ride to breweries, tasting rooms, and eateries.

The goal of the Fixed Gear Beer Crew is to provide community for cyclists who support local establishments. Ride Fixed. Drink Craft.

https://www.facebook.com/fgbcFixedGearCraftBeer

And of course, the Brewluminathletes. (Pronounced Brewluminathletes)

Join us on Facebook. As I mentioned, we’re the spinoff group of a hombrew club. We hike, we bike, we earn that beer.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/640018832726310/

Ride Safe,

Justin Flores

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