Surreal barely even begins to describe it. Normally riding down the centerline of Hollywood Boulevard would serve as a death wish, but tonight there wasn’t a car in sight. Instead, only cyclists—several thousand—as far as the eye could see.
The reason for such a spectacle? Nope, this wasn’t some sort of critical mass event. It was much better. This was the Wolfpack Hustle Marathon Crash Race. Well, not quite a race at least (more on that later).
As luck would have it, several members of Art’s Cyclery were in the area, having raced a Half Ironman earlier in the day, and rather than go to bed, we threw on a pot of coffee and strapped on some lights and hit the eerily empty streets of LA.
Starting as an underground ride among friends and members of the the Wolfpack Hustle cycling club, the Marathon Crash Race follows the same course as the L.A. marathon. Steadily growing over the years, the race has become a staple of the LA cycling scene, attracting at its peak nearly four thousand riders. The rules are simple, for those racing, its simple a 26-mile drag race from Downton LA to Santa Monica, for those just riding, it a once-a-year-opportunity to experience the streets of LA car-free.
And, if you thought your crit this past weekend started early, it still doens’t hold a candle to the Crash Race’s 4 a.m. start that captilizes on the road closures necessitated by the marathon, which starts just hours later.
In 2013 Red Bull even stepped in as a sponsor, raising the profile of the unsanctioned race to new levels. This year however, just several days prior to the event, race organizer Don Ward was contacted by the Los Angeles Bureau of Street Services notifying him that the race would require permits to proceed this year, permits that couldn’t possibly be obtained in time.
The solution? Go from race to ride.
And ride we did.
Passing more fixed-gears and Garmin-Sharp kits than our sleep-deprived minds could count, the general giddiness exhibited by just about everyone was infectious. What we were doing was a remarkably unique experience—and everyone knew it. Tall bikes, track bikes, tri bikes—you name it, we saw it. Cruisers and hybrids, night-owls and early-risers, all were well-represented, showing just how robust LA’s cycling community has become.
For being in one of the most car-centric major cities in the world, it was a pretty reassuring sight. Even with many dissuaded by the cancellation threats the turnout was nothing short of amazing. It’s just a shame the whole thing stands in limbo. But, here’s to hoping the organizers can get permits for next year—and for hoping the finish will go by the same bagel shop.
2012 Marathon Crash Race