In the heart of the surfing mecca that is Southern California, the small town of Laguna Beach has become a highlight, with beautiful beaches and flawless waves.
But its mountain bike heritage is almost as deep as its surfing history. Laguna is home to the Rads, one of the oldest and most storied clubs in the sport. And, as with many such groups, the Rads is also one of the most exclusive.
Over the past 35 years, the Rads have developed many rituals and traditions. Some remain secret, known only to the members of the club, while others have become legends, such as the world's longest running downhill race, the infamous Leaping Lizard.
But the Laguna Rads ring is unique.
The square-shaped, sterling-silver ring was commissioned in 2011 by an esteemed-but-unnamed member, and forged by Danish jeweler (and Game of Thrones extra) Martin Wohlgemuth. Its two untreated, natural-cut South African diamonds have a hint of green, which perfectly complements the Runic inscriptions along its side panels. It’s an alphabet with sorcerous connotations, used for more than a thousand years by Germanic tribes for writing, divination and magic. On the ring’s left side, framed by the club’s lizard mascot and a poison oak leaf, the runes read “No Rules.” On the right side, between a scepter and a bike chain, reads the phrase “One for All, All for One.”
The ring—and its inscriptions—honors brotherhood and all the Rads represent—friendship, unity, tenacity and the unique strengths and follies that inspired the original riders.
The tradition behind the ring is simple: It moves from member to member, with each recipient wearing it until they decide to pass it along to someone else. The exchange happens at one of the Rads’ weekly gatherings, often with a speech of varying eloquence but unwavering authenticity. The ring’s new heir can include anyone from a freshly elected president, the winner of the latest club event, a particularly stoked member or an injured rider struggling through recovery.
As with any object of importance, countless tall tales and trivia surround the ring. But, like other lore from the Rads’ history, the stories are almost impossible to fact check and are as diverse as the members of the club. A few of the accounts include the ring providing a 100 percent success rate when worn to job interviews. Or how one ring-wearing member, after being pulled over for riding his bike on top of a car on the freeway, was given a free ride home from police instead of being arrested. Another legend has it that the ring is not really made of silver, but from the recycled alloy of a GT Zaskar. Rumor has it that a recent toxicology and DNA test performed on the ring was more than 100 pages long, included various substances of dubious legality and the DNA of a recent inductee, which was also found on nearby trail-closure fences.
None of the tales have been verified, but true or not, they add to the ring’s deep heritage. Its heft, surprisingly weighty for its size, is a reminder that the small loop of silver represents something far greater than the individual wearer.
As the great wizard Gandalf said to a despairing Frodo in Lord of the Rings, “All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you.” They are wise words, and the Laguna Rads ring is a symbol of the club’s most basic tenet: that few treasures are greater than sharing good times with good people, and the kinship created by mountains, gravity and two wheels.