A condensed version of this conversation is in RVA #40, which hits the streets this Friday. Pick up the print version around town for FREE or join our patreon and read the web version right now at patreon.com/RVAMag
Let’s just go down the line. State your name and what you do.
Illya: My name is Illya. I’m 20 years old. I do residential infrastructure HVAC, I’m an apprentice. And I ride bicycles with these guys. They taught me that riding bikes can mean slowing down around the homies and taking your sweet time with the ride. I thought that was really cool.
Broad Street Bullies is a cycling club that promotes riding safely together. Cycling is one of the easiest ways to exercise, but it can be scary riding in Richmond, especially with all the people that drive aggressively. Cycling in a larger group gives people a feeling of comfort– you don’t feel like every single car is gonna run you over because you’re surrounded by 30 other people.
A cool aspect of Broad Street Bullies is that people who enjoy filming or taking pictures can use it as a place to shoot people doing wheelies. Amon right here is a very talented videographer.
So it’s a cycling club, but it also allows for creativity and for people to cut their teeth on stuff.
Amon: Exactly. I’ve been biking with Broad Street Bullies for a while. During the pandemic, everything got started. And the protests got me back into riding again, because of all the homies. I always want to do what my friends are doing. It’s fun, so why not? I mainly film the Broad Street boys’ ride. I love that aspect of it– just being on the scene, capturing everyone. Capturing a glimpse of the ride-out every week.
Salad: We were meeting up at MDP, and just being like, let’s go ride. Some people were from different aspects of bike culture. You know, BMXers and Couriers. Then there were people like me and Bradley who just picked it up.
Amon: Everyone meets and gathers and enjoys everybody’s company. It’s one big melting pot. You don’t have to know everybody on the whole ride-out. As long as you’re with your friends and having fun, that’s all that matters, honestly.
And that’s the base of it right? So let’s move on to who you are.
Miles: I’m Miles. When I first was invited on a ride-out I didn’t know how I felt about riding bikes. But once I started riding my bike, it became that stress relief that I needed from everyday life. And I think I’m so attracted to it because I do work in community psychology and Broad Street Bullies is that work. Everyone can forget what they’re doing at home and just ride bikes for two hours, not even worrying about the chaos of life. I have been through a lot of shit these past two years or so. But now these are the homies, and these are my brothers for real.
I went to a private school, St. Christopher’s, and even all those people, a lot of them want to get involved in bike culture. They just don’t know where to start. And so I invite them on ride-outs. Broad Street Bullies makes it accessible.
Bradley: My name is Bradley. One thing that I’d like to talk about is how I got into bike culture. When I started riding, about six years ago, I was going to VCU at the time. I was looking for a job. I ended up meeting a few dudes that were couriers for Quickness RVA. Our homie Jay actually helped to start it. He can’t be here because he’s over teaching in Thailand. He’s been there for about two years now. But he got me into Quickness and I was a courier for like a week. Rip Robin. They were another cyclist who is unfortunately gone now.
They were in New York when they passed away from an unfortunate incident, But Robin was a big part of the scene for me. I met Salad at Robin’s Memorial ride-out. I saw him popping it up– doing wheelies at the memorial. At that moment, I wanted to learn how to wheelie, so we all started hanging out.
When I first started, we all just wanted to get to our destination in the most efficient way possible. And that quickly got changed to the bike life culture and doing the wheelies. And I mean, it happened real quick.
Salad: I’m Salad. I was there at the beginning. I’m a founding member if you want to say that. I’m born and raised in Richmond and grew up skateboarding. I didn’t find a bike till about 2016 randomly. My homie Jack bought a fixed gear and that was the first time I ever really rode a fixed gear. I was not into bikes at all, besides random BMX bikes. I started taking Jack’s bike out for hours on end, learning how to skid. It took me around a year to learn how to wheelie.
Then I started doing Quickness, like Bradley said. I met Jay, who was my manager at the time. I just wanted to wheelie and do deliveries, the simple shit. But they were like, you got to put the rack in your bike. And I’m just like, dude, please just let me wheelie. I’ll get there. I’ll make sure I make it. But I ended up putting the rack on there.
Fast forward to before the pandemic. At this point. I’ve gotten pretty good at wheelies. I’ve met Bradley already. We have another homie, Funky, who was also a major influence on Broad Street Bullies. It used to be just me, him, and Bradley riding around doing wheelies. We were learning from each other, making GoPro videos and posting them online.
Broad Street Bullies is a Philly hockey club. They were known for beating people up, being tough– they’re from Philly, whatever. We had to be riding down Broad and Jay was like, “What about Broad Street Bullies?” We were brainstorming, wondering if we could do something with what was going on. And then the pandemic happened. And everyone was outside. We started going to MDP to meet up and ride around. The bike life scene reclaimed itself with the pandemic. So we were just like, yeah, let’s do a ride-out in Richmond.
In New York, Philly, Miami, and all over the West Coast, they do ride-outs. I would see videos on my Instagram of groups of 800 kids all riding out together. We knew we could do that here. I knew a lot of people that did Critical Mass or DFL who have been in the Richmond bike life scene since the 90s. I can’t step on toes, so we had to schedule it around their rides, but what makes us different is the wheelies. And we were filming.
So we started doing the ride-outs. The first ride-out was in October 2020, I think on Halloween. But it wasn’t until the spring of 2021 that it really started to solidify as something that wasn’t going away. And it was still only around 30-40 people. Amon is the BSB filmer, everyone knows that by now. He was making that stuff look good. That definitely got people talking about Broad Street Bullies.
I was around for Critical Mass and they are some key differences between that and BSB. One, Critical Mass wasn’t consistent, two, it wasn’t filmed in any way, and three, there was not a worldwide pandemic that brought people together.
When did you start to notice the growth of BSB?
Salad: Probably 2021 summer, around the end of June. We started to get into sync of doing it on Thursdays and I was promoting it. Around 130 showed up to our ride-out, and up until then, it has been maybe 80. It was like, oh shit.
Amon: I have a compiled album of BSB rides every Thursday, I film every single one of them. And I would look back every now and then just to see where we were at because we had gotten so big. I would constantly watch the first few ride-out and be like wow, this has become a weekly community that people are enjoying and want to participate in. It honestly brings a smile to my face.
Is it weird to think about the fact that this started as a bunch of homies hanging out and riding bikes compared to now, where you’ve been asked to talk at VCU and there is a government conversation going on about the future of urban planning in the city?
Salad: We have obligations to uphold, but luckily, there are so many people outside of BSB that are focused on the bike lane part of biking. We can help, and we can repost stuff, but that is not our specialty– politics. The whole goal of this was to build a platform. And this is way bigger than bikes. This is for the city. This is for the music culture. We’ve made so many connections with people, friends of our friends, who are like, oh you rap too? Let’s make a video; let’s make a song. Let’s do a show; let’s take some pictures.
So many people at the rides have different skills. There may be an electrician or something saying, “Yo, I heard you talking about needing some lights fixed at your house, I got you.” The real thing that I try to focus on is the underground scene. Because in Richmond, people don’t like to be friends with each other. There’s so much gatekeeping going on. People try to not help each other out.
Whereas here, it’s just like, come ride. You need some help with something? I guarantee you, there’s someone here that can help you out. Almost all my friends know someone that knows someone that does major stuff. That’s the community aspect of it.
I think you’re hitting on something important. The Richmond I know and I interact with, we try to help each other and share our resources. But the city is changing as people come and go. I hate that people are standoffish, we should be encouraging you guys, because you made something from nothing. Richmond is about doing it yourself. It’s great to see people come together and have a communal space to connect. Because there isn’t a lot of space to do that.
Bradley: I would say that’s exactly what Broad Street Bullies started as and what it is now. We’re a community of people that support each other, no matter what they’re doing. I mean, we have artists, we have musicians, photographers, cinematographers, contractors, and builders. I have seen people get jobs from contacts that they’ve made at the Broad Street Bullies ride-outs. I’ve given jobs to people; people have offered me jobs. People have offered me places to live.
That’s the main aspect of BSB that sets us apart from everybody else. You have all these other activities going on in the city of Richmond and– no disrespect to other bikers– but it’s not a community event. When you go to these different bike rides, for the other groups, you’re expected to ride a certain way. You’re expected to carry yourself a certain type of way. And with Broad Street Bullies, there’s so much freedom to do what you want.
Salad: Just don’t hurt anyone else. Respect people and don’t be an asshole.
Amon: Everyone can do whatever they like to do as long as it doesn’t damage someone’s property or affect anybody’s safety. That’s all we care about.
Salad: We’ve had people get hurt plenty of times. Luckily, most of the people that have gotten seriously injured have been our friends. Broken legs, broken knees, whatever. Sometimes people flip over the handlebar. But they also make a full recovery. We have made Go-Fund-Me’s and probably raised 10 grand to help people out when that happens. But yeah, it’s ride at your own risk.
You can’t ride with me and Amon and Bradley and Ilya on a normal day, unless we know that you can keep up with us, like. There’s a safety factor that goes on. Because we’re very good at what we do, we know how to watch each other and be careful while going fast. When we do the rides for everyone else, it’s a party pace. It’s not going fast. It’s very chill. I’ve met so many people that have come up to me after a ride-out, telling me how terrified they were to ride their bike in the city. And maybe they were intimidated by the BSB videos and scared of coming out, but after they do, they’re ecstatic. They’re like, “I had no idea it was so chill.”
Amon: The videos only capture a glimpse of the ride. I’m mainly focused on capturing people that do wheelies and tricks.
Salad: I try to tell people, it’s one thing to see it, but it’s another thing to be in it. It’s crazy, especially mid-summer when it’s 85 degrees outside. You’re already sweating by the time you get to Scott’s Addition. By the time you get on Broad, the energy of the ride is insane. It’s smiles all over. If you’re not having a good time, I’m gonna make you have a good time by doing some tricks in front of you. You don’t need to be so mad. The whole point is to have a good time.
Amon: When we do the weekly ride-out during the summer, and people have that consistency where they know, even if I miss today, I can go next week– I think that brings a lot of people joy.
Salad: It’s not like we’re trying to gatekeep what we do. If you do the same stuff as us, we’re gonna come ride with you. Come ride with us. It’s collaborative.
It’s such a simple message and idea. I have to ask, where do you think the negativity comes from?
Bradley: I would say jealousy plays a major factor in it. It’s hard to say exactly, but I think people are jealous of others having fun. Some people go to work from nine to five and can go home and just be mad looking at a video of the Broad Street Bullies, saying, “Oh these guys need to get the fuck out of traffic because they’re holding everybody else up.” You’re sitting at home, my man. Why don’t you get on your bike and come hang out?
Salad: We say, pop it up, as a joke or whatever. We’re like, “Oh, you wanna have some fun? Pop it up, dude.” Just try it once. And then again. And again.
Amon: Wheelieing is one aspect of it, but it’s more so the fact that you can ride in the city safely because you’re surrounded by other bikers. No cars will ever try to fuck with you. I think Broad Street Bullies means different things to different people, and the safety net we have is one aspect I really like, and that younger people who ride really like.
Illya: Going back to your direct question, I think people are mad because they have a sense of entitlement. You got to understand that a lot of the overwhelming amount of negativity that comes from people online is usually from people that have gotten stuck in the car behind us. People don’t think we have a place on the road because we’re cyclists. We’re on bicycles and they’re in cars. They drive on three to 8000-pound vehicles where they’re safe, and they have airbags, and we have four feet and pedals and brakes. Some of us are lucky if we got brakes.
It’s a sense of entitlement. You think because you’re in a car, the road belongs to you. In Virginia, the law changed recently to where cyclists are allowed one full bike lane by law. So I don’t have to be off to the side of the road to let you pass.
There’s safety in numbers. Broad Street Bullies promotes riding safely in a group that rides at a pace of 10 miles an hour. All we ask of people that drive cars is to just give us a little bit of patience. At most, you’ll sit for about two and a half minutes for us, and then the light will turn green, and your life will continue. We’ll continue on our merry way and you can go on about your day, we don’t have to be negative.
I think now would be a good time to give a shout-out to other DIY initiatives that led to this in some way– Critical Mass, Slaughterrama, Best Friends Day. As long as I’ve been here in Richmond, it’s always had this homegrown energy, and now we have Broad Street Bullies. My last question is, I mean, what happens this summer if you get three or four hundred people on a ride-out?
Salad: We’ve got a couple of rides coming out. We’re ready for it. We’re gonna go back to Virginia Beach again the weekend before Memorial Day. We’re probably gonna go to DC too, around April once it gets warm. There’s a ride called Ebro, which is the biggest ride in the country for the wheelie bike life scene. That’s in New York. Given how big Richmond is, it’s not going to be as big, but I’m gonna try to get all these kids from New York, Philly, and Miami to come here and do a big Broad Street Bullies ride for the bike life scene.
Bradley: There’s one more thing that we missed. We do kickball games every first Sunday of the month. baseball games. Sometimes we do wiffle ball. Everyone is invited– kids, adults, old people, cats dogs.
Amon: Please bring hamburgers. And hot dogs.
Salad: Red bull is also about to start sponsoring the rides. So we have friends that have food trucks, friends that make music, and want to play shows. At the end of the rides, because we end in Oregon Hill, we’re going to hopefully have a food truck there every Thursday. This will probably get going in the summer and we also might have artists perform at the lookout. We did it once before, and it’s just like all off of the strength of the homies.
I want to shout out Jay, Aiden, Nick, Sophia, and Ryan and Christian who broke their knees. Shout out to everyone that is has supported Broad Street Bullies and do little things that most people don’t know about. We know who the real ones are. There are a lot of people that really support Broad Street Bullies and we couldn’t do without you.
Illya: And stay positive. There’s power in a positive mental attitude with all the fucked up shit in the world. For an hour and a half, we can just comfortably ride our bikes at a slow pace, share some smiles, laugh, and have empathy and compassion for each other.