Photo: Flickr, Mikelikebike

The underground bike scene in L.A., most people agree, took off thanks to a single group: Midnight Ridazz, whose origins can be traced to a chilly evening in February 2004, when six cyclists and two skateboarders were hanging out in Echo Park and spontaneously decided to tour the fountains of downtown Los Angeles.

Their 18-mile adventure became known as the first Midnight Ridazz ride, a name devised by its eight participants. One was Don Ward, now a well-known face of L.A.’s cycling community. At 6 foot 8 inches, he’s better known by his nickname “Roadblock,” given because he would step into intersections and use his huge frame to block cars until all the cyclists, sometimes many dozens, had passed through.

“We called ourselves ‘the Mommas and Papas,’” says Ward, now 41.

For the original eight, the fountain tour was something of an epiphany. As the Mommas and Papas explored downtown, they realized something: At night, the city opened up to them. They suddenly had free rein on the roads, the freedom to discover L.A. on their own terms. They could pass through the richest and poorest neighborhoods in a single evening.

Chris Walker writing in LA Weekly about LA’s flourishing underground cycling world. Most of the action takes place on city streets after dark, in a “vast community [where] competition and prestige run deep.”

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