Sidewalk Ghosts / Less Violence, More Fixies

Vincent was planning on going to business school and dreamed of one day opening a bike shop just like Antonio’s.

Antonio gave his blessing with one condition, “OK by me as long as it’s 30 miles from mine.” Vincent replied with the harassment one would expect from a best friend, “How about another state.”

_L2R0891Vincent and Angel, age 18 – Sponsored Riders: JB Bike Shop #2

I was taking a stroll down Sherman Way in Canoga Park when I came across a cool little bike shop, J.B Bike Shop #2. Great place, very urban, met the owner, Antonio, as I browsed and mingled with his mechanic and a few of the store’s customers. In talking to all, I realized Antonio really knew his bike stuff. But more than that, here is what really impressed me about Antonio; he gave back to the community. How you ask? Seems he was a safe-zone for the neighborhood, as proven to me when I realized that those hanging out in the store were not just customers, they were a neighborhood family. Kids from the community that Antonio had taken under his wing in offering them bike sponsorship and a safe place to hang out.

In a day with so much gang violence, alcohol, and drug abuse running ramped among our urban youth, Antonio’s positive influence was apparent. To tell of the culture of the JB’s I must set the scene. A very ethnic, Spanish speaking neighborhood, I was the suspiciously out-of-place white guy—walking, camera in hand, with what might have looked like roaming eyes. So as I wandered, striking up a conversation with Vincent and Angel, inviting them to allow me to photograph them for 365, like a guardian Antonio hovered closely to check my intent. He carefully sized me up, asked a few questions, then responding to Antonio’s approving nod the two young men stepped forward in accepting my offer.

_L2R0896

To the alley behind the shop we went. An alley where the boys began to warm up, Antonio watching closely (I’m sure still not fully comfortable in regards to my intent). Now this story is not wholly about Antonio, but it would be very inconsiderate of me to have not mentioned him (although, regretfully, I did not get a photo of him). His acknowledgement is necessary, for without him, two very talented young riders, who without Antonio’s support may not have had the opportunity to develop their talents.

I shot a lot of photos. Had to. The depth of the tricks Vincent and Angel could do was astounding, every one without a ramp as they literally launched into the air. I’m guessing the bikes weighed 30 pounds and they lifted them off the flat pavement as if they were weightless. In a still photograph it was impossible to show the fullness of what they could do, but picture yourself doing this:

You are riding backwards, then lift the front wheel, spin around, hop the bike 3 feet off the ground, do a wheelie (on the front wheel), spin the bike on the front wheel, back wheel still in the air, then drop to both wheels on the ground and ride away backwards.

Or how about this one: pedal as hard as you can for 20 feet, hop the bike in the air, again 3 or more feet up. From there you have a few choices; maybe you want to turn the front wheel to face you, let go of the handle bars, or even better, reach out and in mid-air touch the spinning front wheel with your good hand.

I think you get the picture. These kids were fearless athletes.

The best part though, was how grounded they were. Exceptional young men who, still kids, were noticeably ahead of their time in maturity and wisdom.

Here is what they said about their sport and life:

• Biking keeps us out of trouble, you know, drugs and stuff
• Do something you love
• Never give up (even if you break your arm)
• Their motto (and this one is the most revealing to their character, and perhaps the mentorship of Antonio) – Less Miolence, More Fixies (a very difficult bike trick)

Vincent was planning on going to business school and dreamed of one day opening a bike shop just like Antonio’s.

Antonio gave his blessing with one condition, “OK by me as long as it’s 30 miles from mine.” Vincent replied with the harassment one would expect from a best friend, “How about another state.”

_L2R0897Vincent’s crazy ariels, hands off bar, wheel turned back.

_L2R0956Angel, the king of  flying wheelies

_L2R0959My favorite crazy trick: grab air and touch the spinning front wheel

In parting, “I asked them one final question, “Did they like to mountain biking (my sport)?” They both agreed, “No way, it’s too dangerous.” Huh?!?

Talk tomorrow my good friends,

Richard

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