Many have asked why they haven’t heard about this year’s Ride Friday Give Back event, which would have been our fourth annual Fuck Black Friday ride. The short answer answer: it ain’t happening. The longer answer is we’re not doing the ride due to a combination of issues, from logistics to injuries.
The RFGB is near and dear to my heart, and I’m intensely proud of what we’ve accomplished with it. Originally birthed from a half-joking conversation at World Headquarters a few weeks before Thanksgiving 2015, on the topic of how CityBike might do some “social good” by dispatching groups of riders to light up barricades of smoky burnouts in front of shopping mall entrances, in hopes of frightening at least the more timid consumers away from the disheartening and meaningless Black Friday spend-bender, it quickly evolved into a marginally more socially acceptable attempt at that social good: “How about we ride motorcycles on Black Friday, and raise some money for a good cause?”
We officially called it Ride Friday Give Back, a really bad spin on our long-standing Ride Fast Take Chances credo, but colloquially, it was known as the Fuck Black Friday Ride. The good cause we chose was Alameda County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), an organization that “provides one-on-one court advocacy to abused, neglected and abandoned children who are dependents of juvenile court.”
We raised $700 the first year despite a near-total lack of organization and planning, so we decided to do it again, and bumped our contribution to $2,150 in 2016. I got more serious about promotion of the RFGB for 2017 and we added a raffle. It paid off: we were joined by 101 riders and raised a whopping $5,000.
Each year, every single cent raised went to CASA. We kept our costs minimal and covered them ourselves, and generous sponsors contributed coffee, food, and prizes for the raffle.
Not bad for a little band of potty-mouthed hooligans.
One of the groups of riders that braved the cold for RFGB 2016. Photo: Angelica Rubalcaba.
So Why No 2018 RFGB?
Along with crazy-awesome turnout and donations, we experienced some growing pains in 2017: we didn’t have enough volunteers to effectively handle the big increase in riders, and we basically outgrew our starting and ending venues. A few months later, the coffee shop we’d started the ride at every year was sold, and the new owners had no interest in having the mag in their establishment, let alone hosting a bunch of bikers.
We also received feedback that Pinehurst was too treacherous to include in the route. There is perhaps some truth to this: we had one low-speed downer on the road each of the first two years, and in 2017 I two or three people dropped their bikes in the tight, slick corners of this challenging backroad.
Everyone still had a great time, and no one was really hurt—but I resigned myself to the necessity of figuring out a better way for 2018, while at the same time wondering could we go really big, like $10,000 big?
Unfortunately, I was hit by an errant Civic in August, and recovery has been a real motherfucker. I’ll tell that story soon, I promise, but for now, I’ll just say this: 14 days in the hospital across four different surgeries. They tell me I’ll be “normal” again at some point, but I just took my first barely shuffling, crutch-assisted steps in three months this week.
So although it grinds my gears something terrible, I simply couldn’t pull off event planning on top of recovery and trying to keep making a living. Frankly, this is why the pace of publishing ’round here has been slow the last few months, too.
Keeping the Spirit of RFGB Alive for 2018
I know that a lot of Bay Area riders really dig the concept of waving a middle finger at the mindless consumerism of people climbing over each other for a shot at shitty pre-dawn loss leader sales. We tried to come up with an alternative, some kind of gathering at least, but I ended up in the hospital again and it just wasn’t doable.
Here’s what I suggest, if you want to do your own little Fuck Black Friday: go for a ride, and when you get back, donate some money to CASA.
Or, if like so many, you’re horrified and dumbfounded by the state of things up in Paradise right now, give some money to help victims of the Camp Fire. Yuba-Sutter Habitat for Humanity has set up a program specifically for Camp Fire victims, or you can earmark money donated to the American Red Cross for people affected by the California wildfires. Others have suggested searching GoFundMe for “camp fire” and donating to one of the 7,000+ campaigns that come up for that search.
Hell, it doesn’t even have to be on Black Friday. Do it once a month, or every now and again, as I suggested in my not-so-subtle critique of the pretentiously titled Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride, The Undistinguished Everyman Ride. There’s no arguing with the money raised, but the dress code and bike rules are bullshit. It’s simply too far into self-congratulatory cosplay circle jerk territory for me.
What About 2019?
The plan is for the RFGB to return in 2019. As I said, this event is a big, big deal to me.
We have a lot of stuff to figure out to ensure it’s still fun and functional at a larger scale, but I’m working on ideas. I still believe it should be about real riding on good Bay Area roads, not some shitty start/stop drone on city streets. That complicates things, as does the need for bigger start/end venues, but I’ve got ideas for that too. The weather on Black Friday is always a crapshoot, which has led to discussions of moving the event. I don’t love that idea, because “fuck Black Friday” doesn’t really work on other days of the year.
If you want to help out, send us a note and we’ll put you on the list of potential volunteers or sponsors for next year.
Riders headed to Lanesplitter Pizza on the last leg of the 2016 RFGB. Photo: Angelica Rubalcaba.