The Bikes and Brunch ride began two years ago, just a few months after we launched our first collection as Machines For Freedom. Jennifer Hannon was still running the company solo, but knew she had to carve out the time to help grow the community of women who ride in and around Los Angeles. There was a real need for a strong women’s group ride. Too often group rides fall into one of two extremes: hammer fests that have you spending hours gasping for air without any opportunity to chit-chat, or Women Only rides geared towards beginners and often not challenging enough for women looking to get in solid weekend training hours. Jenn knew experienced female riders dispersed throughout the expansive city who usually trained alone, or spent weekends jostling for position amidst an aggressive peloton of ex-pros and wishful pros at the local fast group rides. Jenn thought, if all these women got together to ride, we’d have so much fun – and with that, Bikes & Brunch was born.
Once a month we gather at Pedaler’s Fork in Calabasas, CA to ride about 50 miles and 5,000’. Bikes & Brunch is a women’s ride, but we try not to call it out as such. Rather, we bank on the fact that people know the Machines’ crew is a bunch of ladies who are serious riders but are welcoming to new faces, too. The result is that on the first Sunday of each month anywhere from 20 to 50 like-minded women from across Los Angeles, even coming from as far as Orange County and Santa Barbara, gather together to ride, chat, laugh, and then stuff our faces with the best brunch ever. We sometimes get some dudes who tag along, which is totally fine with us because they respect the women who lead and attend the ride, letting them set the tone and pace. We have found that good vibes attract good vibes and there’s no need to make a hard and fast rule as to who’s allowed to join. If someone joins for the first time and the pace is a bit too high, they can work hard and come back the next month when it will be a little easier. I remember my first Bikes & Brunch, I got dropped in pretty epic fashion, Mulholland Highway felt like an impossible climb to me. These days I function as Ride Sweep, making sure newcomers like I once was don’t get lost or fall too far behind.
Our last ride of 2016 and the 2-Year Anniversary of Bikes & Brunch, we joined forces with the Rapha women in LA and EncourageHer Cycling from Orange County. In the midst of all the fear and hatred that had seemed to fill up the cracks in our lives and communities for the past few months, it felt right. We all needed a reminder that most boundaries fall away if you don’t choose to keep rebuilding them. Even in Los Angeles, a city that is notoriously spread out with East Siders and West Siders rarely getting the chance to ride together, are all stronger together. We saw over 40 women come out that day (along with a few dudes) for a jaunt out on Mulholland, up Piuma Road, and a swoopy descent down Stunt Road. We split into two groups so everyone could ride at their own pace, learned a new recipe for Pocket Donuts (shout out to Megan Jones), caught up with friends we haven’t seen in a while and met some new friends to train with.
At this point is feels like the Bikes & Brunch ride has a life, a personality of its own. Some faces are there every month, some come and go, but the pace is always just right – a fun, easy day for the stronger riders and a challenge for those new to climbing – but one everyone can agree on. If you are looking to start a women’s ride in your area but are having trouble getting it off the ground, I would suggest just being consistent. If people know you leave from the same spot each month, and if you keep the vibes happy and the pace consistent, people will start to realize what good stuff is going on. If you build it, they’ll come, maybe even from neighboring cities for a day of girl power, bikes, and snacks.
Photos by Krystof Andres