Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Flying Pigeon, Crouching Dim Sum: Flying Pigeon's Dim Sum Bike Ride

The majority of my motivation to exercise is linked where my friends and I can dine out afterwards (I go to Runyon if I have a craving for Blu Jam Cafe's deliciously eggy-cheesy-bacony croissant sandwiches, feel like a sunset dinner at Reel Inn? Then, a hike and swim at Point Dume is in order, Din Tai Fung's juicy dumplings way out in Arcadia? Well, there must be a hike somewhere near there...)

This Sunday, I satisfied my craving for Dim Sum by joining Flying Pigeon Bike Shop's organized bike ride down to Chinatown for some chinese-style brunch. The newly opened store is located in Highland Park, an area so far away from my apt in Venice that I had to look up where that is (it's near South Pasadena), but at 9:15am on a traffic-less Sunday morning, it took Chrissy and I only 25 minutes to drive there.

Due to a mention on Daily Candy earlier that week, there were about 16 of us that showed up for the Dim Sum Bike Ride. The crowd was cool; no hardcore bike riders, just mainly Eastsiders interested in getting some fresh air and eating dim sum. Adam, the super-friendly and knowledgeable owner, hooked everyone up with a bike (free of charge, participants only need to pay for the Dim Sum meal.) The Flying Pigeon store is stocked with their namesake 'Flying Pigeon' bikes imported from China. These retro-looking, Cultural Revolution-era designed bikes are the most popular selling bikes in China (80 million sold and counting), and therefore, the biggest selling bikes in the world. They come in black, red, orange, yellow, pink and green. Set up fully loaded, the bikes are equipped with a sturdy bike basket, wheel lock, vertical kick-stand, a robust bell and a cool, battery-less bike light which gets activated by pedal-power. The bikes come with one speed but unlike beach cruisers, have brakes and a more upright posture. Being a 5'4 shorty, the 28" wheels were a teeny big for me, but that's what tippy-toes are for, and it was fine.

After a test-run in the back parking lot, we're on the road!
Avoiding major roads, we cruised along a bike route that took us along the Gold Line train, on a bridge overlooking the L.A. river and down through Chinatown. The easy-moderate bike ride took about half an hour--easy enough not to break a sweat, but long enough to make you feel like you earned the Dim Sum meal.

Flying Pigeon rotates their dim sum destinations weekly. This Sunday, we were headed to Empress Pavilion--one of Chinatown's most popular dim sum spots. They don't take reservations, but another perk of joining this Sunday's Flying Pigeon Bike Posse, is that the bike shop called ahead and made prior arrangements so instead of the typical 45 minute wait, we had a table waiting for us when we arrived. The zero wait is pretty much worth the bike ride alone. Dim Sum is unbelievably cheap and fast; waitstaff come around with carts of steamed buns, vegetables, dumplings, banana-wrapped sticky rice, bbq pork etc and diners can just point and order right then and there. Our gluttonous table pretty much ordered triples of whatever was displayed in front of us. Faves included the steamed bbq pork buns, shrimp har gao dumplings in rice paper, chinese broccoli and egg custard dun tarts. Our bill for twelve of us was just $11 each, including tip.

One long bike ride for the day was enough, so afterwards, we pedaled through Chinatown's art gallery alleyway, down the vendor-filled Olvera Street and into Union Station, where we got a train ticket ($1.25) to ride on the Gold Line back to Flying Pigeon. One of the perks of nobody using the public train system in L.A. is that there's no-one to complain if you can take up a whole carriage and load up a dozen bikes in the aisleway during the ride. The store is one block from the Highland Park stop so it was another 60 second pedal before making it back and returning our bikes.

The Dim Sum bike ride was a really fun way to explore the city by bike and by train (in this city, both are novelties in themselves) and as always, a good excuse to eat yummy food. Although you could replicate this on your own, it was fun biking in a group and less intimidating to be pedaling en masse on the streets next to speeding cars. It was also nice to have bike guides who've already mapped out and tested out the bike route for you, so instead of worrying about getting lost, you can just focus on not falling off your bike in public when making shaky turns.

Flying Pigeon does Dim Sum Bike rides every Sunday at 10am and plans to expand with other bike rides to Little Tokyo and nearby wine shops for some vino-tasting. Check out their website for additional details. No need to BYO bike, just your appetite.
Free! (They don't charge bike rentals, just bring approx $15 for Dim Sum)
Flying Pigeon Bikes: $299