The Real Rydaz Bike Club in Action
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When the Real Rydaz, Los Angeles' only lowrider bike club, roll through the city's annual Kingdom Day parade, the crowds on either side of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard cheer like crazy. We asked four members to tell us about their sweet rides, how they give back to the community, and how they got healthy.
When she's not riding the streets of Los Angeles, Real Rydaz member Marilyn Dwellingham works as a children’s social worker. She spends a lot of time in group homes. "Those children grow up with no parents, no direction, no motivation," she says. Dwellingham brings her passion for helping children into the schools the Real Rydaz work with. "When I go out to the schools, the girls love my bike because it’s pink and shiny," she says.
Dwellingham got involved in the mostly male Real Rydaz two years ago to improve her health and promote a message of girl power—when she joined the club there were only two other female members. "We have the right to ride on the streets of L.A. too," she says. Within the club she's known as Ms. P, and her bike, Cali Girl, is a masterpiece of twisted chrome and customizations.
Although, Dwellingham's lowrider bike has a flashy, Cadillac-style third wheel over the rear tire, Cali Girl is not just a showpiece. Dwellingham rides it every day, and the bike has a custom-made storage box and stereo system. "It has to look good and be functional," she says.
"I love my bike. It's my baby," says club member Charles Stanley. He bought his current ride—a 1971 green Schwinn that still has the original kickstand and crank—a couple of months ago. He's already tricked it out with fancy mirrors and some new chrome fenders, and he plans to give it a new paint job, get bigger handle bars, and put a Real Rydaz plaque on the back.
Stanley grew up in South Los Angeles around Normandie and 91st Street. "It was pretty rough you know, peer pressure and all that, but I turned out alright," he says with a grin. He got involved with Real Rydaz five years ago after he kept seeing club president William Holloway riding by. The lowrider club keeps Stanley going and gives him something to look forward to. "My friends and family see a more positive person because of the bike," Stanley says.
Tyrone Williams has been proudly flying a Real Rydaz flag on the back of his three-wheel lowrider bike for nearly seven months. At first, riding with the club was a physical challenge. "I couldn’t go from here to the next block when I first started," Williams says. Now he’s gone as far as 70-miles in a single day, and he’s lost nearly 40 pounds. The custom box on the back of his bike has a stereo system that can make the block shake. "The kids love it," he says.
Lowrider club manager Shuntain Thomas got involved when he saw Real Rydaz president William Holloway ride past his office. "I was amazed by him being so old and being on that bike. So we started talking," says Thomas. Holloway inspired Thomas so much that the very next week he bought a bicycle. He was 279 pounds when he started, but thanks to all the cycling, his weight's dropped to 210 pounds. Although Thomas had a heart attack in 2010 and a stroke in 2011, his doctor says if he hadn't started riding, he'd be dead. "I got out of the hospital and went on a bike ride," Thomas says.
Thomas says his own experience with getting healthy motivates him to go to schools and talk to kids. Although their bikes are some of the most expensive on the streets of L.A., Thomas tells students, "it's not just about having great bikes. It's about health, too." The club's members also present a striking contrast to violent media images of black men. The Real Rydaz show a "dominant spirit that you don’t want to mess with," says Thomas. But it's a positive thing since the kids get to "see us as a unit together," working to improve the community.
The bike wheels can break down, which enables riders to do tricks while they’re stopped on a parade route or when they take the bikes to schools. It's a modification that was invented by Holloway. That kind of entrepreneurial spirit is what Thomas hopes to also pass along to students—he hopes to eventually start Real Rydaz high school chapters. "If you learn how to work on your bicycle, maybe you’ll become an entrepreneur and open your own bicycle store," Thomas says.