LA's underground cycling scene has grown from a nocturnal pastime into an organized, competitive sport—with a few bumps along the way, LA Weekly reports. It started in 2004 when a small group began cycling at night for pleasure. Within two years they were a monthly, 1,000-strong horde called Midnight Ridazz that became "just too much for us to handle on our own," says co-founder Don Ward. So they started a website that spawned other late-night riding groups, like Ward's high-speed Wolfpack Hustle. But "party rides" like Kushtown Society also appeared, creating friction with other riders and police. The young, often tough guys who rode with Kushtown sprayed graffiti, robbed stores, openly drank and smoked weed, and stole bikes from riders in other groups.
LAPD officer Gordon Helper took an interest in Kushtown but resisted pressure from other cops to break them up—"because," he says, "if most of these guys weren't cycling, who knows what they'd get into?" Eventually Wolfpack Hustle invited them for serious rides, kicked their butts, and got some into hard-core cycling. Now Kushtowners are part of the city's underground, competitive scene, where cyclists vie for sponsorships and sometimes travel abroad to compete. The city cited safety concerns in stopping a huge overnight race last year, the Los Angeles Times reports, but it sanctions other events, like Wolfpack Hustle's annual 1,000-foot sprint. "It's so inspiring to see these kids now racing," says Helper, who ran the event's megaphone. "In fact, my dream is to see them some day in the Tour de France." (Read more cycling stories.)