Ward and Wolfpack Hustle have become formidable voices of bicycle activism. This summer, with Helper's encouragement, Ward negotiated the city's first permitted bicycle street race — The Midnight Drag Race: Code Name "The Final Effin Sayso" — through downtown's 2nd Street tunnel.
While doing interviews at the tunnel race, Ward said his message was about equal access to L.A.'s streets for bicyclists and pedestrians. As thousands of spectators cheered the head-to-head sprints, Ward said matter-of-factly: "We're not trying to be outlaws."
Still, it's a fine line to ride.
When Wolfpack started out, the group was more reckless. But pretty early on, Ward says, he realized some rules were in order. But that can be difficult, Ward says, because the riders are often "all young, all rebellious. How do you get them to listen?"
These days, before each ride, Ward or another veteran meets with Wolfpack rookies and lays down the law.
"We want to respect everybody that's using the road. And cops are out. And we're generally staying as safe as we can," Ward explained to a group of new riders outside the doughnut shop earlier this year.
They nodded and Ward continued: Riders need to slow down before an intersection and time stoplights so they don't run a red.
"The last thing we want to do is cause motorists to skid out or stop or hit a baby on the side of the road," he said. "Call out everything you see, car left, car right, car back, potholes."
Not far away, Fabian Vazquez, 20, in a black Wolfpack Hustle riding shirt, was using his iPhone to plan the night's route.
"We could get crazy and go down Topanga," Vazquez said, relishing the prospect of steep hills and a dark descent.
"The Hollywood sign is open," pack veteran Jon Budinoff suggested.
They eventually decided there were too many new people for a nighttime mountain assault.
Ward gave the rookies directions to the first regrouping spot: south from Silver Lake through Echo Park and into downtown through the 2nd Street tunnel and then north to the North Broadway Bridge.
The riders crowded onto the sidewalk, fastened helmets and clicked into their pedals.
"Rolling!" Ward called out from up front, the signal for everyone to get going. "Yo, you guys ready?"
They looked for an opening and poured across Sunset Boulevard, hustling east toward downtown.