Los Angeles is an amazing place. Rundown motels and upscale hotels. Expensive restaurants and seedy roach coaches. Granite sidewalks and gaping potholes. All within a three-block radius of Tang’s Donut on the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Fountain Avenue.
That corner also happens to be the starting point of the Wolfpack Hustle Marathon Crash Race, 16.2 miles from LMU, which I participated in last weekend.
The early hours preceding the Los Angeles Marathon are not as quiet as one may think. While soon-to-be marathon racers are sleeping off bowls of pasta and platters of Korean BBQ, L.A.’s biggest, baddest and fastest cyclists begin rolling toward the official start in Echo Park. Three hours before the marathon begins and only a few minutes after the roads are blocked, the Wolfpack Hustle cycles through Los Angeles. There’s no regard for sleeping residents in the neighborhoods, with screams of, “Corner right, car back!” and “Hold your line!” warning charging cyclists about approaching obstacles and incoming turns.
As an LMU student, I’ve observed that we as a university have an interesting culture, different from anything else I’ve experienced in Los Angeles. It often feels like we are in a safe bubble of palm trees, gates and 24-hour security. With this bubble, the fringe of this city is not an inevitable interaction, but an optional acquaintance. On the night of March 16 (and the wee hours of March 17), I chose to make L.A.’s fringe culture my acquaintance by joining the Wolfpack Hustle’s cycle across the city.
I can tell you after my race that few things compare to winding through bare streets of Los Angeles at 5 a.m. Wind, sweat, tears, blood and pain occupy my senses. My focus is on the rider’s wheel only inches from my own. My vision is blurred by watered eyes and the glare of flashing red lights mounted to this guy’s bike. Some were overwhelmed by this. Some fell. Some limped home on their heaping mess of a two-wheeled metal triangle, and people collapsed at the finish line in Santa Monica.
L.A. is one of the most diverse cities in the nation, and its cycling culture exemplifies just that. I met a group of five kids from Miami, rode my bike home with two dudes from Vegas, talked to a man from Seattle and spoke with two women from Japan, all of them brought together by a silly little triangle of metal and plastic holding together two wheels. All of them were willing to travel absurd distances to get a taste of a Los Angeles seldom experienced.
I got back to my room at 7 a.m. I rode my bike home down a deserted Lincoln Boulevard and watched the sun rise as I sped through the streets. Nothing breaks the routine and bursts the bubble of LMU quite like racing through the streets inches from a 32-year-old bike courier from Downtown L.A. and an 18-year-old surfer from Long Beach.
If people can travel around the world for this night of fun, I find it hard to believe that LMU students can’t figure out a way to explore the city.
To my knowledge, I was the only student from LMU racing that morning, but there’s no reason this should be the case again next year. LMU students, I urge you to join me. Get a bike and some will power to get out of bed at 3 a.m. Join me on this ride. Don’t be afraid of the distance. The feeling after finishing outweighs the pain and exhaustion at the halfway mark, and the desire to stay flopped on your bed after hitting snooze for the fifth time. I’m telling you, it’s worth it. The people, the places, the peacefulness; this race is worth sacrificing your sleep and Saturday night inebriation.
My exposure to L.A.’s bike culture during this race will keep me coming back year after year. Not just for the rides and the bikes, but for the people and the knowing that I was able to successfully burst LMU’s safe little bubble up on the bluff, 24.1 miles from Tang’s. I just hope that other students, cyclers or not, find inspiration to break the routine and explore what this wonderful city has to offer as well. With Zipcar and public transportation at our disposal, there is really no excuse. Let’s be honest: If there’s a bike, there’s probably a way.
This is the opinion of Devin Feldman, a sophomore communication studies major from Aurora, Ore. Please send comments to email@example.com.