About 30 riders, some decked out in spandex and clip-on pedals, others in baggy shorts and T-shirts took to the streets of El Sereno on Sunday for the first Friendship Bike Ride. For Bob Hidalgo, a 46-year-old carpenter, the bike ride was a way to get his life back into order. After stressful, personal problems and a diagnosis of severe depression, it became evident that he needed a way to relieve stress and get out of the house.
“Riding a bike is the best therapy you can get,” he said. “When you’re riding you don’t think about your problems and you just have a good time. Before you know it, by the end of the ride, you notice how relaxed you are. It really does work. I think it’s better than talking to a therapist.”
It was part of an event organized by the East Side Bike Club as a free event for people to hang out on Valentine’s Day.
Before the ride, about 30 bikes lined the side of the brick wall on the east driveway of the Charo building in El Sereno. Their owners stood chatting and laughing, proving the late start time didn't matter. The sun was shining, the roads not too busy and the bicyclists were ready to go.
Once the ride began, the riders began to look out for each other. Even the slowest riders were never alone. Some riders even traveled back to make sure a slower group was alright and no one was injured or otherwise in pain.
While romance wasn’t in the air, riders had nothing but love and respect for each other. This was a unique way to celebrate Valentine’s Day but it showed how people could care for each other and for themselves.
Today was the East Side Bike Club’s first annual Friendship Bike ride. The bike ride is the love child of Erica Cornejo, 35, and Nancy Aastrom, 39, who thought that people in El Sereno and the accompanying areas might want a free place to hang out on Valentines Day.
“The reason why I planned it is because on Valentine’s Day it’s very frustrating to go out and spend a lot of money,” Cornejo said. “So this year, I figure, let’s do a bike ride. Let’s get everyone out here.”
That is what the bike ride was all about — the community getting together to celebrate Valentine’s Day together doing what they loved to do. The East Side Bike Club welcomed friends and family to come together and ride bikes. After the 10-mile ride, a free meal and raffle prizes were given to the participants, all donations of local businesses.
The East Side Bike Club began in June 2008 when Carlos Morales needed to loose weight. After having gastric bypass surgery a few months back, he felt needed to loose weight. Eight friends, including girlfriend Cornejo, rode with him. Since then, Morales has lost 200 pounds and gained 350 bike-riding friends.
The group rides on Tuesday nights and Saturday mornings, come rain or shine.
“There have been times when it’s cold, it might be just after a rain and I say, ‘oh we’re not going to go ride today,’” Morales said. “All of a sudden, people are knocking on the door with their rain gear and they are ready to go, so I decided that if these people road all the way over here to do a ride I have to go.”
According to Morales, the East Side Bike Club is a recreational club, it’s no pressure and there is no racing. Instead, the time is used to teach riders about their bikes.
“There is a lot of educational elements to this bike ride,” he said. “We mentor a lot of the kids and families. We show them bike safety, check their bikes and show them how to ride and keep safe. We advocate for everyone to wear helmets. We’re big on safety.”
Members of the East Side Bike Club range in age from 76 to a year old. The younger children, like 2–year–old Briana Cruz, sit in trailers and are pulled along. Once they are old enough to ride a bike, rides like today’s might be the first group ride a child goes on. Although he’s been riding his bike without training wheels for three years, Danny Espinosa had never been on a group ride before.
“I would go around different cities, but in a car,” the 10-year-old said. “What made me come was that I wanted to explore how far you can go on a bike and how many miles I could do and to get some exercise.”
When the ride came to an end and all the families were eating and happy. Morales said he was happy with the way the day went.
“I was very happy to see new families come out. It’s a little bit slower pace than we usually go but I was expecting this. Over all I’m very happy with the results,” he said.