Room on the road for bike route to Watts

Can I get a lane? More than 200 people took to their bikes for the Ride to Love.


An East Side Riders member shows off his biker vest. | S. Monte

Lowriders, fixies, and three wheelers all shared the road Saturday during the bike Ride for Love in Watts.

It was “a time to be free in your community,” said Fred Buggs, President of the East Side Riders Bike Club. More than 200 cyclists of all ages cruised from Ted Watkins Park to the Watts Towers, resting at a few notable intersections and pit stops along the way. The event was organized by East Side Riders, Los Riders, United Riders bicycle clubs, and C.I.C.L.E working in collaboration.

People outside their homes and walking along the sidewalks waved and cheered as riders passed through neighborhoods at a steady 5 mph. Many drivers honked and smiled.

“What’s better to do than hop on a bicycle and ride around with your friends,” said Nick Evans, also known as Wiggles. He came down from Simi Valley with about a dozen of folks from the Saints Through Fire Bicycle Club. “To see it grow and see all the different bicycle clubs come together and have such a good time makes me want to come back each time,” said Wiggles at the end of the ride, standing in some shade provided by the celestial Watts Towers.

At least tens bikes had stereo systems hooked up to their frames, bumping all the jams from oldies to freestyle, gangster rap, and hard rock. Experienced riders did tricks and showed off their best bike game along the ride.

Buggs said this was one of the safest routes as far as traffic goes. It started up Success Avenue, cruised through neighboring communities like Florence-Firestone, South Gate, Lynwood, and back. The ride brought a different sector of people to the streets, said Buggs, who explained his mission as: “Bringing people from Watts into areas of other communities on a bike.”

Photos by Stephanie Monte

The group started at Ted Watkins Memorial Park then headed to Washington Park before going east on Firestone Boulevard to the AMPM gas station. They then proceeded over the railroad tracks to the world famous Elizabeth’s Bakery, down State street and up Santa Ana Boulevard to the Watts Towers.

Cyclists synchronized and rode in a circle rink outside the Watts Towers celebrating the journey. The group of about 200-plus people posed for a few photos and shouted “Rise Up!” with their fists high in the air.

The Watts Towers Art Center had a special preview of the “50 Years and I Still Can’t Breathe” exhibit remembering the 50th Anniversary of the 1965 Watts Rebellion exclusively for the Ride for Love participants. The gallery opens to the public on February 22, at 1pm.

Julia Lip- Klein, organizer with C.I.C.L.E, was happy to help partner Metro with the various bike clubs and said the turn out grows every year. “It connects those that already live here to learn about the incredible art around,” she said.

The East Side Riders Bicycle Club originally started with about 6 or 7 guys just wanting to help out people in their neighborhood. One of the first things they decided to do was get on their bikes and give sandwiches, juice, and water to those in need once a month. “We mentor the youth, keep them off drugs, out of gangs, help feed the needy once a year,” said Buggs during the ride. “Let’s use our bikes to go around and help the community.”

Here Buggs and other riders describe the day in their own words: 

The Valentines Day ride represented myriad reasons to show love. Some people see it as a sweetheart ride, while others consider it a time to celebrate being a part of the community. And February being heart awareness month, the ride promoted getting exercise to make the heart happy.

Families, friends, lovers, and solo riders, all came out to enjoy the 8-mile tour of Watts. Organizers paced the group, holding stop lights and clearing lanes to make this year’s ride smooth and safe. One woman tripped up and fell off her bike, but no serious injuries or accidents occurred.

“Our bike is not the main goal but we use that as a tool” said Buggs, describing the importance of getting more youth involved with bike clubs like East Side Riders as a way to engage with their communities. “That’s what its all about. If we don’t get them now, who will?”

The East Side Riders Bicycle Club hosts group rides about once a month. On March 14 they are planning the fourth annual Tour de Watts bike ride, giving people enough time to dust off their bikes and join the movement. Just like learning how to ride a bike, helping the community is a simple joy that has taken people like Buggs a long way.

Watch a video documenting last year’s Ride to Love:

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