LACBC Everywhere: Michael Wagner
Riding your bike can be cathartic; writing about it can be, too.
Michael Wagner has a multifaceted passion for cycling that is captured in his blog the CLR Effect (which stands for Center Line Rule).
Based out of Claremont, Michael is a member of the Pomona Valley Bicycle Coalition and gives a local perspective of anything that has to do with cycling.
Mountain biking, commuting, equipment reviews, racing, history and places to ride are just some of the subjects you’ll find as Michael updates his blog almost daily.
The CLR Effect is a labor of love, and you’d never know Michael isn’t a writer by trade. Ultimately, it’s not solely from bikes, but the community with which he has surrounded himself:
How would you characterize the differences growing up in San Fernando Valley and gradually moving eastward?
I would have to say the differences are more of perspective than anything. Our worldview, or how we view our surroundings is different when we are kids growing up, than it is once we are grown. Everything seemed so big and spread out then, there were open spaces, undeveloped tracts of land everywhere. Not so anymore, everything is built up and closed in. Funny (or not) that the same pattern of development that overtook the Valley is now overtaking the Inland Empire. A suburb is a suburb, I guess, even if the area is composed of a bunch of smaller cities, as opposed to a part of a very large one.
When did cycling come into your life?
Cycling was there in my earliest years – kids of the ’60s and ’70s rode everywhere. It stuck, and has been a part of my life ever since.
From your time working at the Southwest Museum, what fascinates you most about our history?
Oh, everything, I think. The whole idea of how we got from “there” to “here” has always been interesting to me. It is why I settled on anthropology at university and in my first career. It is why, even though I have changed careers, I will sometimes refer to myself as a Landscape Anthropologist. It is why posts with a historical bent will continue to pop up as blog posts. I like that connection to the past, uncovering things that are little known or, perhaps, completely forgotten.
Michael found this photo taken in Claremont featuring cyclists from 1915.
Switching careers from Anthropology to Landscape Architecture sounds like a departure, but could you say you’ve gone from studying how people use space to now applying it?
Funny thing is, there is actually quite a bit of overlap. If you think about it, any good design will start with an understanding of how people will use the space. There may not be a broader cultural connection, but many times we take into consideration the ethnic makeup of a community when designing a park or school, and even more frequently factor in historical background and precedent.
When did you start the blog and what got you into it?
The CLR Effect started as the Claremont Cyclist in 2010 for a, mostly, self-serving reason. The building bubble had burst, we were fully into the recession, and work was pretty stagnant. I needed some kind of creative outlet, and writing and sharing about cycling seemed like a natural direction to take.
How would you describe the local racing scene?
In a word, vibrant. You would be hard pressed to find another area where you could race nearly every weekend. Road, track, mountain bike, cyclocross all within the greater Los Angeles region from the beginning of the year to the end. Southern California has long been a hotbed of racing and, even though there have been fluctuations nationally, the strength of the local racing scene seems to remain relatively consistent. That is not to say there are not problems but, I think, southern California has been able to weather them better than other regions.
If not on a bike, you’ll probably still find Michael outdoors.
Does commuting on a bike provide a different perspective than riding recreationally?
I think so. Commuting, or even running errands, by bike tends to be done solo, and while I do many solo recreational rides as well, more of those tend to be done as part of a group. It is common to feel safer, less vulnerable, when we are in a group as opposed to being by ourselves. Usually, I don’t like to differentiate between the two; sure commuting by bike means one less car on the road, but that is true for riding recreationally as well, I mean I could just as easily be doing something, recreationally, that requires me to get around by car. As long as I ride out the front door, there is one less car on the roads no matter what type of riding I am doing.
Claremont is on the eastern edge of L.A. County. What are some of the things outsiders should know about the area?
First off they should know it is really not that far; the boondocks have pretty much all been developed out this way. That said, the smaller cities in the eastern county area have been able to retain their small town feel and individual characters, even while being completely modern. There are excellent restaurants, and with the Claremont Colleges right here there is no end to the cultural and social events we can enjoy. A quick loop into the mountains which are two miles away, and early dinner of French / Belgian cuisine, followed by a concert, art show, or lecture, all without having to drive sounds pretty good.
If you had one wish how to make cycling better in your area, what would it be?
That wish would be for people to just try it. It is not the impossibility that too many people seem to think it is. The City of Claremont has done much to reach the level of bicycle friendliness that they have, but all that infrastructure, the painted lines, the Bicycle Priority Zone signs, and bike racks will not make a difference if people are unwilling to expand their comfort zone and try.
There’s plenty of quality dirt rides around the Pomona Valley.
What have you learned about your community through writing the CLR Effect?
More than anything I have learned that it is full of fantastic people who ride bikes. The blog has also given me another excuse to continue learning, conducting research for one story or another. Both have brought me into a wide range of friendships and acquaintances I would not have otherwise found.
What are some of the must rides people should do around the Claremont area?
You can do the GMR / Mt. Baldy Loop starting from Claremont – I would say it is easily the best known, most iconic road ride in the area, but there are some good loops through the lower hills of San Dimas and West Covina as well. If you venture off road Marshall Canyon and the Monroe Truck Trail are minutes away. Though I don’t do them as much as I would like the Barrett-Stoddard / Cucamonga Canyon trail, and the out-and-back from Manker Flat over Baldy Notch to Stockton Flat and back are favorites. Though I often overlook it, the Pacific Electric Trail starts at the edge of Claremont and runs through Upland, Rancho Cucamonga, Fontana and Rialto (in San Bernardino County), perfect for people who do not like the hassle of mixed street traffic.