For our inaugural Cyclist of the Month feature we chatted with Morris “Mo” Mills. He’s lived in Long Beach for a little over two years and chances are good you’ve caught a blurred glimpse of him as he whizzed past you on his bike. He races for Team FLX and has pulled off some pretty enormous accomplishments on two wheels. Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Mo!
Pedal Movement – How long have you been riding bikes?
Morris – I’ve been riding bikes for about 5 years now. I rode a lot through about the end of middle school, but I stopped once I started playing water polo through about Junior year of college. My old college roommate worked at a local bike shop and let me borrow his bike occasionally, and it’s only gone up from there!
PM – How many bikes do you have? Do you have a favorite?
Mo – At the moment I have 4 complete bikes, which is about max capacity for a studio apartment. I love them all, but I’d have to say my 2020 Trek Emonda ALR is my favorite at the moment; super fast, super sexy, and Pedal Movement was gracious enough to help me build up the bike from the frameset.
I also really like riding my fixie, which is a 2011 Trek Gary Fisher Triton. The chromoly frame with the velocity wheelset is a super smooth ride and essentially bomb-proof, and Long Beach has both great geography and a great community for fixed gear riding.
PM – What’s your favorite place to ride?
Mo – My favorite spot to ride around here is hands-down the Palos Verdes Peninsula, which is just west of Long Beach. Its pretty much a mini-Malibu/West LA as far as riding goes; lots of windy neighborhood climbs and beautiful cliffside ocean views. You feel like you’re riding the Amalfi coast in Italy.
As far as Long Beach goes, I like to make a square loop East through Alamitos Beach and Belmont shore, North past the Airport, and then head South from North Long Beach through Bixby Knolls and Central Long Beach. The terrain is mostly flat, and you get to explore a lot of neighborhoods and local businesses all around the City.
PM – You race on a local team, FLX. Tell me about it!
Mo – FLX is a local cycling team that has its roots from underground fixed gear races around Southern California and Nevada. I met Eric, the team’s founder, about 18 months ago through a mutual friend’s monthly group ride. As it turned out, a lot my riding buddies in Long Beach already raced in local crits, and Eric was very gracious in asking us to join FLX for the 19/20 season. The season was obviously cut short, but as a team we were able to get multiple podiums and wins for road and fixed races.
I think what sets FLX apart from other teams in the area is the background of the riders and the mission of the organization. As I said before, FLX started initially from the fixed gear race scene, and a lot of current riders initially started riding/racing through that same community. In my experience the fixed gear scene is a lot more inclusive, diverse, and inviting when compared to traditional cycling — FLX is able to bring those same attitudes into mainstream bike racing. We want to ride fast and do well, but a big part of the team’s mission is bringing in new riders who may not have previously had the opportunity to ride bikes competitively.
PM – What are the biggest changes 2020 has made in your cycling life?
Mo – I think the largest change for me is flexibility. Now that I’m fortunate enough to be working from home, my schedule has allowed me to ride more during the day or early in the morning, whereas previously I did most of my weekday riding at night after returning home from the office. The other largest change is obviously much more solo riding. I started out riding bikes alone, and when I moved to Long Beach I did steadily more group rides. Nowadays I find myself doing a lot more riding alone – back to basics in a good way.
PM – Are there any changes you’d like to see happen in Long Beach to enhance the cycling experience?
Mo – For a vast majority of roads in Long Beach, riding your bike is seen as a rebellious act. The infrastructure of streets and the attitudes of drivers favor traditional modes of transportation like the car, and many cyclists rightly feel unsafe on roads that were clearly not made for them. Long Beach needs to disrupt the hegemony of car use on its roads, especially in underserved communities where many residents may not have access to a car and rely on biking/walking. Lower speed limits, common-sense bike lane design, and improved community outreach are all good places to start.
PM – At this moment, how many Strava KOM’s do you have?
Mo – Good question. According to Toolbox for Strava, I have 23 KOMs, most of which I believe are around Palos Verdes or Long Beach/Signal Hill. Most of the time I’m battling my teammates on segments, which is awesome. The short climbs on Signal Hill usually have the most turnover between us.
PM – What’s your proudest accomplishment on a bike?
Mo – As an athlete, I’d say completing a double century [a century is 100 miles, a double century is, you guessed it, 200 miles] was my highest recent achievement. You can’t really fathom how long it is before you start or after you finish; you just kind of have to live in the moment while you’re doing it and stop counting miles. So far the most elevation I’ve done in a single ride is close to 12,000 ft. I’d like to try and beat that number in 2021.
Personally, my bike has been the single biggest tool for making friends and building community since moving to Long Beach. I moved here on my own and didn’t know a single person before I got here, and the Long Beach bike community has been nothing but inviting and supportive since I met them.
PM – Do you have any goals or expectations heading into 2021?
Mo – This coming year I’m excited to re engage with the huge cycling community around LA that I had just started to explore pre-COVID. Getting into racing as part of a cycling team was one of my greatest bike achievements of last year, and I’m super eager to get back into that scene as soon as is safely possible