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LACBC Profile: Kevin Claxton

Having joined LACBC’s team as Deputy Executive Director of Advancement in January, Kevin Claxton has already stuck out in a crowd. It’s not just because he’s easily the tallest member on staff, but coming in fresh to Los Angeles, helped direct one of the smoothest LA River Rides in the event’s history.

Coming to us from Chicago, it took Kevin a few months to shed his all-weather fenders to truly enjoy the incredible weather of Southern California. In his short time here, he has ridden the historic Old Ridge Route and has escaped on bikepacking trips to Angeles National Forest and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Already he has hiked Mount Baldy and camped in Death Valley and the Alabama Hills, so needless to say he is eager to explore all the many wonders of this state.

Kevin is also heavily rooted in music, having been a teacher, performer and serving as Development and Resources Manager at Intonation Music, a non-profit providing opportunities for young people on the South and West sides of Chicago.

As LACBC celebrates our 20th Anniversary, Kevin is excited to make this milestone special and looks forward to making Los Angeles County a better place to bike. We sat down with Kevin to ask a few questions:

Chicago has been your lifelong home. What are you going to miss most about it?

The big answer for me here is most definitely the people – family, long-time friends, a decade’s worth of fellow musicians and collaborators on creative projects, friends and former coworkers from Intonation Music, and of course, riding buddies. I certainly wouldn’t have experienced Chicago in the same way without some truly amazing people by my side, but I know they will always be there for me.

If we’re talking about the city specifically, though, there is a lot to miss. Chicago has something for everyone – interesting food and drink scenes, fantastic venues for live music from total dives to gorgeous theaters, unique neighborhoods and festivals, and all the pizza and tacos you could ever want. Most of all, I’ll miss diving off the concrete ‘beaches’ into Lake Michigan, backyard BBQs, themed rides with the bicycle buds, random rooftops on the 4th of July, and bike trips that always seemed to end with chocolate malts at Superdawg.

Kevin completing a 200k brevet with his Dad and Brother-in-law.

What type of town is Chicago like to get around on a bike?

Depending on where you’re headed, Chicago can be an outstanding place to ride. Many miles of marked and protected lanes have been installed in the last few years, new bike and pedestrian paths are opening and in the works, and the Lake Shore Path is always a nice cruise. Drivers are, for the most part, respectful of cyclists, though the occasional traffic misunderstanding is inevitable. Unfortunately, there is lot of work to be done on the South and West sides of the city, but progress has been made in recent years.

My commute route since 2014 had me on Chicago’s Lake Shore Path for about 9 beautiful miles, past some great beaches, a gorgeous skyline and downtown parks, the Chicago museum campus, and along Lake Michigan the whole stretch – I’ll definitely miss the views, but not the winter weather! So far, riding around downtown LA honestly has a similar feel to riding in downtown Chicago traffic, so it’s been easy to feel comfortable on my new commute routes.  

Kevin enjoying the beauty of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

How much of a role has music played in your life?

Despite my ridiculous height (6’7”) – I was not successful playing basketball as a young person. I found my place in various basements playing guitar and making music with friends, and it has led me to some great places since. As an undergrad, I studied Music Business, thinking I would end up in studio production or live audio work, but I also spent a lot of time performing in classical and jazz ensembles. From there, I spent a couple years doing live audio tech and installation jobs, and also taught guitar lessons for almost five years (to about 35 students weekly).

During my tenure as a guitar instructor, I found a volunteer opportunity teaching youth rock bands on the South side of Chicago with an organization called Intonation Music. I was with Intonation for nearly eight years, beginning as a volunteer and then part-time instructor, and eventually working my way into the office where I managed Development, Fundraising, and Special Events for five years. My time with Intonation helped me find a path into the nonprofit world, which eventually led me to Los Angeles and LACBC.

Along the way, I’ve been active in the Chicago music scene. As a musician and performer, I’ve been lucky to play with acts ranging from noisy indie rock to Brazilian pop to classic Funk, Soul, and R&B. From 2013 to 2016, I was also part of a collective that launched a record label and music publication called Chicago Singles Club – which spotlighted local acts from all over the city through exclusive recordings, video features, and live events – definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for some great under-the-radar Chicago music.

Not many musicians get their own gigs on a boat!

Do you have any other big hobbies outside of biking and music?

In general, I love being outdoors and I’m feeling very excited to tackle all of the nature opportunities that greater LA and Southern California have to offer. In addition to biking, I’m always down for a hike or beach day, and I suppose now that I have few years of bird-watching under my belt, you might also call me a birder. I’ve also been known to bring along my collapsible fishing rod on longer bike rides to cast a few lines.

I also really enjoy spending time in the kitchen, trying new recipes, and making pizza dinners for friends. In Chicago, I delved into the rather uncommon hobby of cheesemaking to moderate success, and I’ve enjoyed learning about and making all manner of fermented foods in the process. As I get settled in LA, I’ll get back in the habit of making my own sauerkraut, pickles, kombucha, yogurt, and on and on. I’m also ecstatic to be living somewhere that will allow me to garden year-round!

Kevin ready for some climbing up the Old Ridge Route

What are some of your first bike rides in LA that have stuck out?

My very first bike ride in LA was actually down in Long Beach. Drove down with friends and bikes in tow for a semi-guided tour of wetland development along the San Gabriel River including some sea turtle spotting – it was great to get to the ocean right off the bat. Before I started up full-time with LACBC, I was lucky to have a full week to myself to get my bearings and do some exploring on the bike. I had a great time climbing up and over Griffith Park on Mt. Hollywood Drive, and a lot of fun riding to check out my new neighborhood in Boyle Heights and scouting out my new commute routes.

Most memorable though, was definitely my ride up into Angeles National Forest through Altadena. The terrain in the greater Chicago area is decidedly flat, and I think my excitement to get into the hills may have exceeded my legs’ ability to actually get there. I ended up making it a few miles onto the Mt. Lowe Railway Trail and pushed myself to get up high enough for some unobstructed views of the city – well worth the effort and I plan to head back as soon as I can!

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