West Side Stories with Jean Padilla

Last Sunday, Jean Padilla came back to his native New York and wasted no time in throwing an Alley Cat inspired by his racing experiences in his newly adopted Bay Area home in California. Despite the short visit, several local riders came out enthusiastically to have a taste of the West Coast and appease their own curiosity on this different approach on a race. Jean shared with Bike Your City on life on west side and the influence behind his appropriately named Alley Cat - West Side Stories.

How long have you been living in California?
I’ve been living in Oakland for about eight months now since New Year’s Eve. New place, new year, new everything! Just experiencing the world in a different perspective, as well as enjoying the forever sunshine.

What has the experience been like moving from the Big Apple to out west?
It has been a good adjustment. I went out there not knowing anyone at all at first. I had to network and got to know a lot more people that way. 

How have you managed with those hills?
Oh man, those hills! I’ll tell you this. My first shift in San Francisco I worked the one shift that had all the hills and I swear I thought I wasn’t going to make it through the first day. I almost literally quit, but I didn’t. Luckily, I’m here today to tell the story. 

Image provided by Jean Padilla

Image provided by Jean Padilla

Aside from working as a courier, do you participate in races over there?
Yeah, I’ve been competing a lot. I’ve been progressing a lot in sanctioned races. Like this year, I started with cyclocross and joined the King Kog scene in Oakland, which I’m taking very seriously and will continue with sanctioned races a lot more. Of course - messenger racing and being a messenger will always be a part of me because that’s how I started and that’s where my heart is really going to be at the end of the day. 

When it comes to Alley Cats, how do SF and NYC differ?
In SF, everyone is low-key. For you to promote races, it’s not to do it through social media. It’s more word of mouth, handing out flyers, talking to people who are going to courier companies, and letting everybody know what’s the situation.

It seems like they try to keep these races strictly to messengers. However, here it's quite the contrary. In New York, you’ll find people from all professions and walks of life. Is that safe to say?
Yeah, that’s actually very true. When I first moved out there, I would heard about races only after they had taken place. I often wondered why I didn't know about them? That’s when I realized I had to really socialize and go out in the world, speak to people, and get to know them personally for who they are and what they are about, especially the actual messengers who race or organize these races. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have any knowledge about them. 

When speaking to people about cycling in NYC, what has been the general consensus?
Whenever they think about or speak upon NYC - it’s always a situation of traffic and craziness. They think they can’t handle it. However, it’s almost the same if you are in downtown SF. It’s just as congested and flat for as long you’re in downtown because there are flat parts and really hilly parts in SF, just like any other place. 

What made you want to come here and organize an Alley Cat?
Well, what made me want to organize an Alley Cat based on a SF and LA style was knowing it was going to be something totally different. An Oakland based group called 'FWOD' throw a race every Tuesday night. Since it's every Tuesday, there are not enough checkpoint workers and they always tend to run out of ideas. It results to them getting creative, like having a checkpoint at Karaoke bar or going to a 7-Eleven to buy a drink and bringing back the receipt to show proof etc. I'm bringing it here to NYC and see how everyone likes or dislikes it. Also, I was going to be in New York after not being here for eight months since I had left. I was really excited and I wanted to make everyone else excited by bringing something totally new to the ball game that people may not have experienced yet. To give people a chance to experience something I’ve been doing out in the West Coast a lot more.

If you were to do the opposite and organize a race called 'NYC Stories,' what would it entail?
I’ve been trying to think about that for a little while. It’d probably have a lot of small short-term checkpoints. I will have them go to a checkpoint address, but it won't be at the exact address. Instead, it would be around the corner wherever the messenger centers are located. It would take a person of that specific knowledge and experience to know where these points would be. Otherwise, you won't find the checkpoint. The challenging part about NYC couriers is finding these messengers centers.

What's next for you?
Right now, this is just a living and learning experience since it's my first time hosting an Alley Cat. Next, I'm actually going to be living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for the month of October because I'll be at the Vessel Workshop working on a new collection. It seems like the perfection situation to bring another continuum of the West Side Stories out there. We'll be going on a cross country tour in the states promoting the product, throwing races, and hosting events to get people together.

Be sure to follow Jean on his Instagram (@jcpedaling).

Congratulations to the winners - James (1st), David (2nd), and Squid (3rd)! Here are some photos taken from last Sunday's West Side Stories.