SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 9: Less Violence, More Fixies

Vincent and Angel, Age 18 – sponsored Riders: JB Bike Shop #2

Went for a walk today. Strolling down Sherman Way in Canoga Park I came across a cool little bike shop, J.B Bike Shop #2. Great place, very urban, met the owner Antonio as I browsed, mingling with his mechanic and a few customers. In talking with him, I realize he knows his bike stuff. To do my part in supporting small business, I need to let you know he is the place to go to buy a custom fixie or for tune up’s on just about any bike. His phone 818-615-0708. Address: 7212 Remmet Avenue, Canoga Park CA 91303.

But here is what really impresses me about Antonio, he gives back to the community. How you ask? Seems he has taken a few very talented neighborhood kids 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 is apparent. I’m sure as I walked into JB Bike Shop #2 today, I look a touch suspicious, camera in hand and roaming eyes. As I wander, I strike up a conversation with Vincent and Angel, inviting them to allow me to photograph them for 365. And like a guardian Antonio, hovers closely to check my intent.

And with an approving nod from Antonio, the two young men step-up in accepting my offer. We go to the alley behind the shop and the boys begin to warm up. Antonio watching closely, I’m sure still not fully comfortable of my reasoning to photograph his riders. Now this story is not wholly about Antonio, but it would be very inconsiderate of me not to mention him. And lastly stated, “I regret not getting a photo of him.” His acknowledgement is necessary. Two great and very talented young men, whom without Antonio’s support, may not even be developing their talents.

I shoot a lot of photos. Have to, the depth of the tricks Vincent and Angel can do is astounding, and all without a ramp. I’m guessing these bikes weigh 30 pounds and they lift them as if they are weightless, off flat pavement mind you. It is impossible to show you what they can do in a still photograph, but picture 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, then 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 for a midair touch of the spinning front wheel with your good hand.

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

The best part though, they are exceptional young men. Grounded (excuse the pun after seeing them take flight) and noticeably ahead of the peers in wisdom.

Here is what they say about their sport and life.
• Biking keeps us out of trouble, you know drugs and stuff
• You only live once, live to the fullest
• Do something you love
• Never give up (even if you break your arm)
• Their motto: Less Violence, More Fixies (a very difficult bike trick)

Vincent is planning on going to business school and dreams of opening a bike shop, just like Antonio’s.

Antonio gives his blessing with one condition. He says, “OK by me as long as it’s 30 miles from mine.” Vincent replies, “how about another state.”

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

Angel, the king of  flying wheelie’s

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

In parting, “I ask them one final question, “do they like to mountain biking (my favorite sport)?” They both agree, “no way, it’s too dangerous.” Huh?!?