"There ain’t nothing like riding on a lowrider bike," says William Holloway, the almost 60-year-old president of the Real Rydaz, Los Angeles' only lowrider bike club. The bikes stand out from the average beach cruiser: what makes a bike a lowrider is how low the frame can go before the pedals touch the ground. Some lowrider bikes only sit two or three inches from the street. The owners put a lot of effort into making them traffic-stoppers, with fancy paint jobs and mirrors, twisted chrome and spinning rims. (See the bikes in action here.)
"You can be out there all by yourself and cars will stop and want to take pictures," says Holloway who, along with a handful of other cyclists started Real Rydaz in 2007. "People always want to know, 'How’d you fix it? Where’d you get it from?'" You can buy a basic lowrider bike for $200, but some club members have spent as much as $4,000 tricking them out.
Real Rydaz’s 30 or so mostly black and male members hail from low-income South Los Angeles and take pride in fixing up their bikes. Lowrider cars have deep historical roots in the city, and although the culture is frequently associated with gangs, Holloway dismisses the idea that there's anything negative about a lowrider bike club. "We’re not a gang," he says. "We’re a nonprofit."
Indeed, along with having fun and riding the streets, the goal of the club is to promote a health-conscious lifestyle and encourage kids to stay in school and do something positive with their lives. Many club members have lost significant amounts of weight through riding, and they show up to promote bike culture at obesity and diabetes prevention events across the city. Along with being a popular fixture in the city’s parades, club members mentor kids at a dozen schools in South Los Angeles. When the Real Rydaz roll onto campus, they give students the chance to check out the bikes while the club members talk to them about healthy eating, exercise, and keeping their grades up.
Because students wanted to be a part of the Real Rydaz, in 2009 the club formed the Young Real Rydaz, which is open to kids from age 6 to 16. The president, Little Mike, is only 9 years old and rides a three-wheeler with hydraulics—he can make the bike jump up and down while he's pedaling down the street. But before kids can join, the club has to meet their parents, find out how they're doing in school, and ensure they're doing their chores at home.
Holloway dreams of being able to shut down the streets of South Los Angeles for a bike ride that's just for kids and their families, with a community festival at the end of the route. But above all, Holloway wants people to make positive lifestyle changes. "No matter how old or young you are, you can ride and get healthy," he says. "If you see me out here riding, you know anyone can ride."
For more on the Real Rydaz and their bikes, check out this slideshow.
Get out of your car and ride your bike in the 2 Mile Challenge. CLIF Bar will donate $1 for every trip you log to bike nonprofits, up to $100,000.