Full gallery of pictures below.
The weekly Tuesday night bike ride that is Gfunk is, to say the least, much more than your average two-wheeled community gathering. This is not your Sunday coffee cruise to Seal Beach nor is it a rolling, beer-guzzling extravaganza of BUIs. Gfunk is a heart-pounding, physically challenging and mentally demanding stampede through the (more often than not) pot-holed, “bike friendly” streets of Long Beach and its neighboring cities.
Tong Sheng, Gfunk’s founder, moved to Long Beach from Northern California in 2009 and learned the ropes from various DTLA rides. On August 25, 2009, Gfunk was born.
“After moving to the LBC, I realized there was a dearth of night-time group rides," Sheng said. "So I decided to try to start my own thing by incorporating various elements from my experiences with LA-based rides.”
If Long Beach were to have an “underground” cycling scene, Gfunk would appear in the upper echelons of such a category. Rarely do the trumpeters of Long Beach’s bike-friendly reputation mention anything about the riders after dark, but choose to focus primarily on daytime activities and upcoming events that are open to the general public. Gfunk is open to the public, but only the ones interested in blood, sweat, tears and a celebratory beer afterward.
“I envisioned a medium-fast-paced ride with minimal stops," Sheng said. "I figured that people didn't want to stay out all night on a weeknight, so a brisk pace was ideal. Also, since I was new to the LBC, I wanted to emphasize exploring various neighborhoods within and surrounding the city. In addition, I really enjoyed the 'forge and gorge' concept, which is to mash hard during the ride, celebrate after with food and drinks. It really does a good job of uniting riders through shared suffering as well as celebration.”
For Sheng, the group's moniker of Gfunk represented not only the LBC well by way of its hip-hop roots, but the city's well-known diversity.
"Whereas Gfunk music was a sound that brought together elements of funk and rap," Sheng said, "the ride was envisioned to cater to all different kinds of cyclists, from everyday commuters to weekend roadies to kids who liked to ride fixed gear bikes on the streets."
Gfunk welcomes the skin-tight, curve-clinging lycra akin to “serious” cyclists, yet rejoices in the jean-clad, laid back, t-shirt-flapping-in-the-breeze ensemble worn by more casual riders. Anyone and everyone is welcome to test their stamina and strength and will never be left behind. However, a less experienced cyclist will quickly learn to ride in a paceline or get dropped. If he or she falls off, there will always be a regroup, kind words of encouragement, and a short water break. However, if you’re not there to push yourself physically and mentally, you might be in the wrong place.
Sheng spoke of his fear that “as the ride became faster, newer cyclists might feel intimidated or unwelcome. Fortunately, from what I can see, the core group does a good job of bringing the suffering and leaving the ego and attitude at home.”
The ride is an incubator for safer and stronger cyclists, top competitors and a close-knit camaraderie among its participants. Over the past five and a half years, Gfunk has successfully created a productive space for Long Beach’s up-and-coming and established competitive cycling community, not to mention those looking for an intense weekly workout away from the confines of a claustrophobic gym. Cyclists from CSULB, working professionals, Long Beach natives, and the occasional out-of-town visitor are all within the realm of Gfunk attendees.
Despite the reputation of most night rides being dangerous, outlandish, and downright unlawful, Gfunkers don’t pride themselves on running reds, unnecessary confrontations, or disobeying traffic laws. Rather, it’s about the bond formed through shared physical exertion and pushing past one’s limits (mental limits included).
“A lot of people saw the ride as something that had the spiciness of Wolfpack," said John Maniquis, a first-generation Gfunk participant and consistent ride leader. "But we had more of a camaraderie and spirit that was welcoming and warm—and the beer and tacos at the finish helped with the post-ride bonding.”
One of the more positive attributes of the Gfunk community involves leaving the egos at home. The ride is continually evolving as new cyclists come and go, while new route ideas from any charismatic participant are always welcomed. While both Sheng and Maniquis led the ride with gusto, nowadays it’s more of a group effort. The route is posted the night before so anyone wanting to come out can see where they’ll be riding.
Last Tuesday, Gfunk rode to Disneyland and back. For the first time in the ride’s history, cyclists were showered with a booming half-hour Disneyland fireworks display. The ride pulled over to the side of the road and tilted their heads up in awe. According to the Gfunk group milieu, it’s moments like these you can’t experience if you’re at home on your computer or running the hamster-mill at the gym.
Gfunk was born nearly five years ago and has continued to meet weekly to this day. You can sometimes find them on the Blue-Line, traveling home from a swift ride to Würstkuche in Downtown LA, or whizzing through the traffic circle, an occasional grand finale to a hard ride through Palos Verdes.
Although Sheng passed the torch so to speak, he is “optimistic that the ride will continue to provide a healthy cycling environment and sense of community to its ridership and to the city of Long Beach.”
Gfunk meets on Tuesdays at the Traffic Circle In N’ Out (4600 Los Coyotes Diagonal Long Beach, CA 90815) at 7:30pm; ride rolls out at 8:00pm. Bring a helmet, lights, tubes, tools, a positive attitude, and a will to suffer. Leave the ego at home. Bring money and lock for food/drinks afterwards. Gear up, we ride rain or shine.