Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ride History: The Bicycle Doctor Shop Ride...

Sooner or later, everyone who rides much discovers the local group ride(s) that take place near their home, or maybe their place of employment. Where ever there are a few, or more, cyclists there is bound to be a group ride. This little series will recount a few of the ones I have done over the years.

The Bicycle Doctor ride was a 27 mile shop ride beginning and ending at its namesake shop in the Highland Park area of northeast Los Angeles. I first started my association with the ride in [1990-91] when the ride, in its first incarnation, was a mostly flat sprint-fest. The route of this ride roughly followed Figueroa Street out of Highland Park, Riverside Drive north along the Los Angeles River, taking the flat route through Griffith Park, into the studio area of Toluca Lake, took Riverside Drive back through Burbank into Glendale, over the low rollers along the base of the Vergudo Hills, and then back through Eagle Rock to the shop on York Avenue.

During these years the ride was composed of a core group of riders, many of them racers, or former racers, who lived in the general area, and would be supplemented by others of varying abilities. Because of this, the ride could be highly competitive, and perhaps a bit off-putting to newer, less experienced riders, with the result that the size of the peloton would vary from week to week. Usually between 10 and 20 riders would show up or join in along the way, sometimes more, sometimes less. But with competition from the much larger and better known Montrose Ride, the BD, as it was known to regulars, was never going to be overly large.

The route that I am more concerned with is the second incarnation. In order to vary the terrain, the route was altered in the early 1990s by adding a couple of hill climbs in Griffith Park. Basically, instead of a fast ride along the east and north edges of the park, the ride shifted to go over the mountains. There were five designated sprint points along the route, three fast, flat sprints, with two hill climb spots sandwiched in between. The first sprint opportunity came along Riverside Drive, just before entering the park at Los Feliz.  The run-in to this sprint was made more treacherous due to poor road surface conditions. Pot holes and gaps in the paving claimed more than one front wheel. The Glendale Sprint was followed by a gradual ascent through the park to the short-but-steep backside of the well-known Trash Truck Hill, and then the longer mountain climb along Mt. Hollywood Road to the Summit. The back way up TTH was short enough that it was not uncommon for a pure sprinter to win the points there, but once past the gate at the top, it generally became time for the climbers to take over.

Once the climbing was over, and the peloton had negotiated the descent back down and regrouped, two more fast sprint opportunities followed. The first came at the end of a long run-in alongside Travel Town, with first place breaking the imaginary line just before leaving the park at Victory Boulevard. The final sprint point of the ride came after a lengthy series of rollers along Sonora, Kenneth, and Mountain Avenues in the city of Glendale. The peloton would usually soft-pedal back to the shop from there, though if someone was feeling especially pepe, the pace just might be faster. Sprints and KOM points were usually bagged for individual bragging rights, but at some point during the early 90s points for 1st through 5th at each location began to be handed out and an overall daily champion declared.

Gradually traitors riders began to drift over to the more hard-core Montrose Ride, the shop changed location, and the ride became defunct. Looking back through my old logs, I see that by late 1995 I too had shifted over to Montrose; on December 2 I wrote, "Returned to the BD after a lengthy absence and found a ride on the verge of collapse".  I believe the ride limped along for a while longer, but was never able to regain its old momentum. Like most group rides, this one had its share of spills and thrills, though none with serious consequences (that I can recall anyway). There were enough run stop signs to fund a small city for the year. But for many riders, the BD was a good stepping stone, a first taste of competitive cycling and group riding.

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