Concord, California was also once called Todos Santos in addition to the less flattering Drunken Indian. But to the residents of the Bay Area, Concord is synonymous with the suburbs. Hometown of the experimental band Negativland who often commented about Concord and suburban America, Concord sits in the shadow of Mt. Diablo, former home of James “Grizzly” Adams, who had a pet bear.
Bohemian types like you and I would never consider the suburbs a suitable place to settle. Many of my ultra cool ultra educated friends think nothing before spouting the words, “I would die if I had to live in the suburbs,” often followed by, “I need culture,” (code for “I need bars”). Yet, the Chicago-based Heroes find themselves either riding or driving to the suburbs on a regular basis to get a decent bike ride in. And that’s because the suburbs are pretty great in many ways.
Growing up in the suburbs, I remember having as much fun with a shared BMX bike (thanks Chuckie V) on a 200 sq. ft. patch of dirt or the parking lot of the Mormon church as I have ever had riding on a pristine stretch of single track or a winding mountain road. Creating obstacle courses and circuits to ride over and over provided hours of entertainment as a kid. “OK, now see who can do it the slowest,” was a favorite challenge.
That is why I nearly got whiplash when I saw two boys who turned out to be Brandon and Ryan adding improvements to their homemade mountain bike park. In a small stretch of land situated between neighborhoods of neat, middleclass homes and a busy boulevard, Brandon and Ryan have built a haven.
If there is an authentic American cycling culture I think part of it resides in the plywood ramps and earthen mounds carved up by suburban youth.