Go Out: The Cyclists Who Ride For More Than Their Health

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Go Out: The Cyclists Who Ride For More Than Their Health

Words by Ms Sundai Johnson | Photography by Mr Andric Queen-Booker | Styling by Ms Sophie Watson

5 October 2022

Easy banter, fragmented only by frequent swells of laughter, can be heard over the drum of the Los Angeles traffic. From the street you can see four cyclists resting, languid beneath an overbearing sun. Among them is Mr Ron Holden, creative director, photographer and founder of Ride For Black Lives, a community bike ride rooted in peace and unity. With him are fellow cyclists Mr Geo Delgado, Mr Brian Hashimoto and Mr Andre Stanton. The four, once strangers, are now found brothers.

Each has his own journey to cycling, but Ride For Black Lives is what initially brought these men together and is the reason they are now bound by a connection that is recognisable from a distance.

In 2020, amid the tumult of a cultural reckoning and an unprecedented global pandemic, Holden founded Ride For Black Lives as a highly visible act of solidarity and resistance. “I was scared,” he says of that first ride. “Probably the most nervous I’ve ever been in my whole life.”

Holden and Delgado, who organised the ride within a week via social media and word of mouth, thought they might gather a group of maybe 10 riders. Instead, they found themselves wheel to wheel with 250 people.

The first ride – and each that that followed – was intoxicatingly powerful. “At a time when there was nearly nothing else positive in the world, here was one thing, one ride,” says Holden.

The size and diversity of the group were profound. “Hundreds of people of all ethnicities, all kinds of bikes, all levels of experience, all ages, chanting together in the streets,” he says. “It was a hell of a feeling and it’s been a hell of a journey.”

Two years later, this ride continues. It remains the open call it has always been, with groups as large as the first, meeting in Downtown LA or at Pan Pacific Park to begin their ride through the city. Only now, alongside Holden and Delgado, are Hashimoto, Stanton and others who have become fixtures in each other’s lives.

Early on, when the four were still strangers, Hashimoto and Stanton assumed natural roles in the large group rides. Stanton says he had an inclination to “hold the back”. “Five rides in, Holden’s like, ‘You got the back?’ And I did,” he says.

Hashimoto rode alongside him, tending to bikes when needed and, as resident photographer, taking pictures.

“When everyone’s on the same frequency, everyone falls right into place to make sure it works”

They recount gathering at Delgado’s restaurant, which was offered as a central hub for water, repairs and respite. Delgado says it was the “least I could do”.

For Holden, these unprompted gestures were “the most beautiful part” of the ride and the community they’ve fostered. “It goes to show that when everyone’s on the same frequency, everyone falls right into place to make sure it works,” he says.

Like many groups of friends who have formed as smaller off-shoots of the RFBL community, the four head out on their own to ride together when they can, sometimes twice a week. Holden’s goal is 100 miles per week, 50 of which he might do on an early Saturday morning with the guys, pedalling through the hills overlooking the city.

These rides look much like the one pictured here: coffee, conversation and a route with a good climb if they’re up for it. Even on a day like this one, when the air is tacky and gangly palms above offer no shade, there is little that can deter them from going outside and riding together.

LA city streets are less than accommodating to cyclists, but these men navigate them with great caution and astute precision. Wherever you are, cycling requires a sharp awareness of the environment. Cyclists must know the hug of a snug mountain curve, the dips in an injured road and the pulse of traffic at every time of the day. They become an organ of their surroundings.

Photographed and styled here as a part of MR PORTER’s Go Out series (by a photographer and stylist who are fellow cyclists and close friends), it is evident that cycling is also an exercise in showmanship and pride. New cycling gear is a muscle to flex and glinting bike frames beg notice and praise. Intermingled throughout conversation, bib shorts and jerseys are playfully envied.

Cycling can seem like a solitary sport. Participation depends on your own will to propel yourself forwards. Yet in observing Holden, Delgado, Hashimoto and Stanton, wheels turning in synchronised harmony, it is apparent that, although each man cycles alone, they ride together.

When cycling is communal, you gain a responsibility to those with whom you shoulder the ride. In rides as large as RFBL group rides, there are those who steer the group from the front, keepers who “hold the light” for groups as large as 300 to pass safely through traffic and protectors who follow up the rear and sides, together harnessing the most vulnerable riders in the middle.

Even when only the four of them ride together, they are tightly tucked and on guard. It is an illustration of collective care and what it requires to move in accord with one another.

Riding together has been crucial to their peace of mind. Holden describes it as an “active meditation” and a way to “get out of his head”. Hashimoto says it’s the “energy and connection he didn’t know he needed after riding alone for 10 years”.

For Stanton, it is “a wave of energy” and a “blanket” in the hard moments. Delgado says that, for him, “It is the simple comfort and refuge of just riding together.”

The connectedness of their friendship is akin to kismet. These are men tethered by the simple joy of cycling together, but they are also bound by the unconditional support that comes in the face of grief. Having lost a fellow cyclist and friend, they also know the sorrow of collective mourning.

Getting back on the road proved to be a challenge beyond comparison, but their friendship enabled them to return and rally others to get out and keep riding. “In moments like those, you get to see who people really are and how they will show up,” says Holden. “This is my family now.”

There is a saying that considers what is most valuable in the progression of life. Instead of weighing only the journey and destination, it prompts us to consider instead the value of the company we keep. The bond these men have makes the case that it is not a question of where you are headed or how you get there, but with whom you ride.