One of the best parts of my job is getting to talk to people about their bikes and the ways bicycles have impacted their lives. Everyone’s story is unique, but common threads of community and passion show up over and over again. For April’s Cyclist of the Month I chatted with local ripper John Michael Lopez, who actually ended up joining the Pedal Movement team a couple weeks after this interview! He definitely embodies the kind of passion and attitude we love here at Pedal Movement.
Huge thank you to John Michael for taking the time to talk, and be sure to say hey when you stop by the GoActiveLB Hub in downtown Long Beach!
Pedal Movement – Thanks for talking with us! Let’s start at the start: what got you into cycling in the first place?
John Michael Lopez – I first got into cycling as a hobby around ten years ago. I had a friend back then who bought a vintage Schwinn road bike, took it apart to the frame and fork, and restored everything on it. I remember it looking super awesome all put back together and I immediately wanted to get a bike of my own. The rest is history!
PM – What did your first bike end up being?
JML – My first bike was a 1972 Schwinn Varsity. Heavy, clunky, and 2-3 sizes too big for me! [laughs] As much of a klunker as it was I loved that thing. I stripped it down to the bare frame, had the frame powder coated, and put it all back together mostly by myself.
PM – And what do you ride now?
JML – Over the past few years I’ve finally curated my ultimate three-bike fleet.
Bike #1 – 2020 Kona Rove DL
I actually bought from you guys not too long ago! I mainly use this bike as my truckin’ and muddin’ rig. Either using it to get groceries for the week and running errands or ripping dirt trails up and down the coast. I’ve mostly kept this bike stock, the bike was a certified ripper right out of the box!
Bike #2 – 1965 Schwinn Paramount Track Bike
I had already built up a pretty cool fixed gear frame and was fairly content with the build when this Paramount came up for sale from a friend. I didn’t need the bike, but it was always a dream of mine to own a Schwinn Paramount. The only way I could afford the bike was if I bought it as just a frame and fork, so I did and swapped all of my other parts over from my old build onto the Paramount, so now I have a bit of a “resto-mod” bike. 1965 track bike with 2020 parts, including a SRAM S300 crankset and Velocity deep V’s with cartridge bearing hubs and continental GP5000 tires. It’s super lively and a blast to ride—not something you see every day—and people appreciate seeing this old girl ripping the streets.
Bike #3 – 1998 LeMond Tourmalet w/ Campagnolo Record 10 Speed
I wanted to build a modern, TIG-welded, Cro-Mo steel road bike on a budget and this is the result of those stipulations. Record 10 speed isn’t really the best group to go climb Turnbull or Griffith Park on, but this groupset on a supple steel road frame makes for a very comfortable yet sporting ride. I built this bike as a century killer and hope to get a couple big rides under my belt on this one soon!
PM – What role would you say bikes play in your life?
JML – It’s hard to say what one role bikes play in my life since it seems like my entire life revolves around bikes. [laughs] I ride bikes for fun, for transportation, for work, for therapy… you name it! I try not to be the kind of person who builds their entire identity off the things they own or activities they partake in, but bikes have gotten me pretty damn close to that, haha.
PM – What inspires you to keep riding? Has that shifted over the years?
JML – Like many people who get into cycling, I think my main motivations to ride at first were fitness and weight loss. As of late, though, I feel like my perceptions have changed a bit. What really inspires me to ride these days is seeing what my peers are up to on bikes. It’s a unique feeling, seeing your friends post pictures of a ride or post a route on strava and getting stoked for them, then letting that stoke motivate you to get out and ride yourself!
PM – How do bikes and community go together for you?
JML – For me, I feel like what brings community and bikes together are all the fellow riders who take time out of their day to organize group rides. If it wasn’t for them I dont think I’d be where I am today as a cyclist. I’ve met so many wonderful and unique people through the act of riding a bike that I truly feel like without bikes there would be no community.
PM – What is your favorite memory on a bike?
JML – As is the case for a lot of cyclists, I would say it’s rather difficult to pin down one favorite memory from all of my time on the saddle. I’d say my favorite moment when I’m riding my bike is the moment when time seems to stand still, and all of your worries from the day just dissolve into nothing and in that moment, you are truly free. It doesn’t happen on every ride for sure but when that moment comes I cherish every last bit of it.
PM – Do you have a favorite place to ride?
JML – One of my favorite places to ride is Aliso Creek Riding and Hiking Trail in Mission Viejo. I started riding there when I had my Schwinn Varsity and enjoyed the idea of taking a road bike where it was never meant to go and hitting all of the gravel and singletrack that was on offer. The best ride for me is when you ride from the trailhead all the way up to Top of the World in Laguna Beach, soak up the view, and descend back into the wilderness for some twisty single track back to civilization—truly a world-class experience.
PM – What advice would you give someone getting into bikes for the first time?
JML – The one piece of advice I’d give any aspiring cyclist is, above all else, please buy a frame that’s your size! If there’s anything that will make your experience as a new rider a total drag it’s having an ill-fitting bike.
Oh, and don’t buy a target/walmart/big 5 or any department store bike. Save your money and do what you have to do to be able to afford yourself a bike that will last you more than a year of use. Department store bikes are truly disposable items that will only do more to keep you away from the act of riding.
PM – What can we as the cycling community do to be more inclusive and friendly in the future?
JML – Cycling, as a community and industry, can be seen at times to be a pretentious boys club meant only for people that are down to spend the right amount of money for the right bike, gear, kit, etc. At the end of the day, though, it’s all just about riding bikes, right? Everybody, no matter who they are or what they have, should be able to participate, no matter what. I think if people could just chill out for a sec and remove the pretense from cycling we could do more for the community as a whole. Thankfully, I’ve been seeing a lot of positive change in the community over the past few years, so that makes me happy and hopeful for the future of cycling.
PM – So well put! Thank you for taking the time, John Michael. We’re stoked to have you on the Pedal Movement team.