By Darlene Donloe
LEIMERT PARK — Adé E. Neff is an avid cyclist who rides his bike everywhere. It’s his sole means of transportation.
Since the 1990s, Neff, a resident of Hyde Park, has been riding his bike to Leimert Park because it was a central location. Frustration would arise though, when, on occasion, his bike would be in need of repair, and there wasn’t a bike shop to be found anywhere in the area.
“I was always in Leimert Park but would have to travel to Mar Vista to go to a bike repair shop,” said Neff, who also rode his bike as his main mode of transportation in his native Haiti, and in Boston before moving to Los Angeles. “It became too much. It became very inconvenient.”
To solve his own problem and to satisfy a need in the area, Neff, 55, opened Ride On! Bike Shop/Co-Op, the first full-service bicycle shop in Leimert Park in 30 years and even more importantly, the first black-owned bike shop in the area.
“I opened a bike shop because I also saw the future,” said Neff, who sold his car in 2014 because the upkeep was too expensive and because he wanted to live a healthier life. “The city is going to have to get people out of cars. All of these cars are not sustainable to the planet.”
Ride On! Bike Shop/Co-Op is a full-service bicycle shop, offering repairs, sales, and rentals. The Co-Op is a member-run bicycle collective that provides tools, space, and a community environment (by appointment) to aid in bike repair education. The shop also conducts workshops on bike safety and advocates for bicycle infrastructure equity in Southwest Los Angeles.
Neff, a sustainable entrepreneur with a master’s degree in urban sustainability from Antioch University, said he created a space where community members can commune, get the service needed for their bikes, learn basic bike repair knowledge and to more easily connect with the cycling community in a fun, safe environment.
Since Neff opened the brick and mortar building in 2017, after doing pop-ups in Leimert Park for three years, Ride On! Bike Shop/Co-Op has become the area’s go-to destination for cycling needs.
“I’ve received a lot of support from the community,” Neff said.
When COVID-19 hit and lockdowns were put in place, Neff said his business initially took a hit. Sales dried up and he had to stop the shop’s weekly last Saturday of the month bike ride.
“It was dead,” said Neff, who owns a purple, late 70s Bianchi bike he named “Grace”. “Then it started picking up. With gyms being closed, cycling is the go-to activity. Right now we sold out of every bike in the shop. I never keep a big inventory in the shop.
“My supplier doesn’t have any bikes right now. Probably won’t get any in until the end of August or maybe September,” he added. “Everyone around the world decided they wanted to get a bike.”
Ride On!, which sells a variety of bikes, is a one-stop bike shop that offers an array of services. There are bike repair and maintenance clinics, community and leadership clinics, tips and training lectures, and community engagement. On average, a tune-up for the whole bike is about $65. It includes front brakes, back brakes, shifters, chain, lube, cleaning, air in the tires and more.
“Community engagement is working with folks to do bike education courses,” said Neff, who likes to promote a healthy lifestyle. “I taught safety through LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District) to fifth graders. I’m interested in letting people know the issues they need to be familiar with. I’m always advocating for better infrastructure. I’m trying to position myself as a leader in transportation equity.”
“We do bike repair clinics on how to fix anything wrong with your bike so you can get back on the road,” said Neff, who repairs six to eight bikes per day. “I teach cycling classes. I teach people how to ride a bike. We also offer a bike safety course on how to ride in the street and in groups.”
Neff said contrary to what most people might think, riding a bike on the sidewalk is not the safest place.
“The reason why I say that is because drivers are not looking for bikes to come off the sidewalk,” said Neff, who was hit by a car in 2013 while riding his bike. “They scan the road and by the time they see you, you’re in front of them. When you’re cycling, you want to be visible and predictable. You need to be in front of someone driving a car.
“Ride predictably,” he added. “When riding your bike, behave like a motorcyclist or a car. You’re not on the playground so don’t weave and swerve.”
An advocate for bicycle infrastructure equity in Southwest Los Angeles, Neff is working with organizations like the Department of Transportation and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to address the lack of infrastructure in Los Angeles.
“There are no bike lanes and no protected bike lanes,” Neff said. “We want to make those things happen. It allows people to get out into the street.”
Neff said the streets are for “the people.”
“We have a right to be on the street,” he said. “Look into the future and how we can be a healthy community, especially black folks. We need to pay attention to our bodies. Look out for your health. I hope nothing goes back to the way it was before COVID because that’s not sustainable. We need to think about how we move around and take care of our health. I want us to get some exercise. Take a walk or better yet, get on your bike and take a ride around the block.”