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Free Bike Camp

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One of the best things about unsanctioned bicycle racing is that it makes competing affordable. Many races are only $5 or $10. Los Angeles’ Swarm!, an underground bike club, is one of the few organizations that holds free races throughout the year. (Sound bite from the group’s web page: “We just know that riding bikes is good for us, good for the environment and good for the community.”)

This week, December 16 -20, the team is bumping it up a category with a gratis bike camp. The “Don’t Get Fat! Training Camp” takes place over five consecutive days, with each ride starting at a coffee shop and ending at a vegan-friendly restaurant. Participants have ample time to hangout with the people they pedal with.

Riders from the Swarm! team in Los Angeles

The rides are between 40 and 100 miles a day and are relatively fast. Not for “long slow distance folks.” And for riders who want to get their yoga on (it is LA, after all), there is an early morning yoga option for two of the city rides.

Full disclosure: I’m a member of the Swarm! group, which is a loose-knit crew of pedalers. It is a diverse group of over-educated folks (about four PhDs), ultra-endurance racers (three Furnace Creek 508 veterans, one who completed it on a raw diet), track racers, a frame builder, as well as alley-cat racers, promoters and even an artist who makes one-of-a-kind political sweaters that are shown in galleries and museums worldwide.

The club started about three years ago, the brainchild of a few friends. Matt Ruscigno, one key player and a registered dietitian, says one of the goals of the club is to “get racers interested in urban riding and urban riders interested in racing.”

One way they did that was with a small, DIY postcard campaign that asked racers to “Ride to Race” and included the benefits of riding to the starting line. They placed these postcards on cars in the lots of local races. Ruscigno also conducts the annual “Feel My Legs, I’m a Racer” event that challenges riders to climb the 10 steepest hills in Los Angeles, including Fargo Street, which is rumored to be steeper than any incline in San Francisco.

If you’re in the Los Angeles area this week check out the Don’t Get Fat! Training Camp. It is perfect for serious riders, with one exception: if you regularly ask, “What are the percentages for the climbs and what wattage can I expect to put out per hour?” the Swarm! crew is probably not for you. http://bikeswarm.org

—Stephen Krcmar lives in Mammoth Lakes, Calif.

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