Local Lifestyle

Saturday, Jun 22 2013 12:09 PM

HERB BENHAM: Cyclists known for monkey business

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    By Autumn Parry / The Californian

    Jacob Krumm talks with a fellow member of the Brown Monkeys Cycling group near Kern River Bike Path on Wednesday evening. Krumm joined the Brown Monkeys Cycling group about a year ago. "They're the loudest and friendliest people on the bike path," he said.

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  2. 2 of 4

    By Autumn Parry / The Californian

    Patrick Paet waits with members of the Brown Monkeys Cycling group near Kern River Parkway Bike Path on Wednesday evening. Paet is park of the Brown Monkeys Cycling, an organized group of Filipino cyclists.

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    By Autumn Parry / The Californian

    Dirk Bentz (left) talks to Jacob Krumm (center) and Daniel Becina (right) near Kern River Bike Path on Wednesday evening. Bentz, Krumm and Becina are all members of the Brown Monkeys Cycling, an organized group of Filipino cyclists who meet on a regular basis to cycle together.

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    By Autumn Parry / The Californian

    Jacob Krumm (right) talks with a fellow member of the Brown Monkeys Cycling group while cycling on the Kern River Bike Path on Wednesday evening.

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By HERB BENHAM, Californian columnist hbenham@bakersfield.com

A few days ago I received a Facebook request from the Brown Monkeys. As you might expect, I was excited and said yes. The Brown Monkeys have 50 friends, including me.

Some background is in order. I ride a bike. That doesn't make me special, just lucky. Riding is a pleasure that includes fresh air, exercise and camaraderie.

We ride in a group. I don't know if it's safer, but it feels safer. If not safer, at least there are people with whom to discuss the weighter topics of the day, which might include what you're going to have for breakfast upon your return.

Often there are a parade of riders along the familiar routes -- Round Mountain, Woody, Granite Station and Breckenridge. There are different groups who band together for the same reasons we do.

The Brown Monkeys are one of them.

I did not come up with the name Brown Monkeys, so please recon-

sider before firing off that "how-can-you-be-so-insensitive" email. The Brown Monkeys, consisting of a group of Filipino riders, are self-named.

They even designed a logo to both distinguish and celebrate their group. The logo for the Brown Monkeys consists of a monkey inside a bike chain.

The origin of the Brown Monkeys can be traced to June 2012. Several Filipino men were riding bikes, but were riding alone.

"We have this instinct of recognizing a kabayan (countryman) by a mere first glance or eyeballing," said Alex Dulay, who might be considered the CEO and chief spokesman for the Brown Monkeys.

"A gesture or nod or a wink signals 'hi-hello' then we stop for a conversation. It's more fun to ride with people, so we started recruiting."

The group started with a band of Filipinos -- defined as people who live or have lived in the Philippines but also someone born and bred with Filipino blood -- and one Caucasian who had lived in the Philippines for a few years on a mission for his church and spoke Tagalog fluently.

I spoke to a friend of mine at the pool. Although he is a 6-foot-4 Caucasian man, he rides with the Brown Monkeys and he considers himself, and I think the Brown Monkeys might agree, an honorary Brown Monkey.

"They are the nicest guys," Curt, the pool guy, said.

The Brown Monkeys are ready to visit, laugh and have a good time and riding with their friends is one way of doing it.

And the Brown Monkey moniker?

"We came to Beach Park, where most of the rides start, to observe what the fast guys were doing, what kind of bikes they were riding and what they were eating," said Dulay.

"We were like monkeys sitting in a corner, watching."

The Brown Monkeys watched, learned and added members.

Now there are 20. Although some might consider being a Brown Monkey a full-time job, professions include engineering, nursing, recycling and managing Banco De Oro, a large Filipino bank.

Anybody can be a Brown Monkey if they come with the right attitude, "a passion for cycling and an openness to friendship and camaraderie."

When I told a friend about the Brown Monkeys, he asked if it was OK if we referred to them as such?

"Isn't that something they should call themselves?" he asked.

"It seems to me that it would be like addressing blacks with the N word."

I told him I thought this might be different. I'm not sure what's different about it, but it seems different.

When I interviewed Dulay, I used the expression "Brown Monkeys" about 14 times in the conversation. I couldn't help myself. It's so much fun to say. Dulay laughed.

The other day I rode with Dulay.

He torched me continuously over the entire ride and beat me up every hill. He has calves bigger that the Philippines. Plus, he delivered the punishment with a smile.

Should the Brown Monkeys continue to get faster, we might have to consider a new name. One with "Flying" in it, but I'll leave that to them.

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