[ From the Archives of 365 ]
“Biking keeps us out of trouble, you know, drugs and stuff.”
Vincent and Angel, Age 18 – sponsored riders: JB Bike Shop #2
Went for a walk today and, 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 browse and mingle 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 businesses, I need to let you know he is the place to go to buy a custom fixie or for tune up’s of just about any bike.
But here is what impresses me about Antonio, he gives back to the community. How you might ask? Seems he has taken a few very talented neighborhood kids under his wing in offering them bike sponsorship as well as a safe place to hang out.
In a day with so much gang violence, alcohol, and drug abuse is running ramped among our urban youth, Antonio’s positive influence is apparent. His eye to protect them apparent as I walk into his shop. Guessing I look a touch suspicious to him with my camera in hand and roaming eyes. So as I strike up a conversation with Vincent and Angel, inviting them to allow me to photograph them for 365, Antonio hovers closely as he checks my intent. And with his approving nod, the two young men accept my offer.
We go to the alley behind the shop and the boys begin to warm up. All the while, Antonio watching closely. I’m sure still not fully comfortable about 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. I regret not getting a photo of him. But in reality, his acknowledgment is necessary. Two great and very talented young men, who without Antonio’s support, may not have had the opportunity to develop their talents.
I shoot a lot of photos. Have to, the assortment of tricks Vincent and Angel can do is astounding, and all without a ramp. And on bikes weighing around 30 pounds to boot. 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 backward, then lift the front wheel, spin around, lift the bike 3 feet off the ground, do a wheelie (on the front wheel), spin the bike on the front wheel, then ride away backward.
Or how about this one:
Pedal as hard as you can for 20 feet, leap your 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 handlebars, 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, and the best part, they are exceptional young men. Grounded (excuse the pun after seeing them take flight). Noticeably ahead of their 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 wheelies.
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, mountain biking is way too dangerous!”
I thought to myself, (a very confused) Huh?!?