I was in LA last week visiting my dad, and, to give myself a way to get around, I shipped my ole Quickbeam down there to live in his garage. I'm now the proud owner of the Roaduno sample bike so it didn't seem like too great a loss to send the QB down there, and I figured it would be a good bike to have in a flatter area than San Francisco. I didn't anticipate that my inaugural LA ride would be on the road above: Mt. Wilson Toll Road in the San Gabriel Mountain range.
I was sitting at a coffee shop near my dad's house and put "trailhead" into Google Maps on my phone, and it led me straight to it. It's a beautiful road, but way steeper than what I expected to ride in LA. My low gear of 32/19 was barely enough to let me ride up, but I was standing, grunting, and the rear wheel would spin out unless I weighted it perfectly. Right after I took the picture above, I decided to take some singletrack down instead of pressing on, which turned out to be just as challenging, but more in a fall-off-a-cliff kinda way than a muscle cramp way.
That rut was hard to navigate.You can't tell from the photo, but it's a sheer drop if you overshoot the switchback. I walked around this one and a couple of the other ones that followed. I think I maybe, *possibly* could have ridden most of them, but I was on unfamiliar turf on a gigantic 68cm skinny-ish tire bike, and I don't regret walking.
Once I finally made it down, I bumped around in a dried-out river bed that would occasionally seem like a viable trail and then devolve into rock gardens and dead ends. Eventually I popped out close to where I started the climb and went back to the coffee shop for another cup. Pretty good for an impromptu ride, I think, but next time I'll try to figure out a more cohesive and rideable route.
I didn't expect to find LA so visually appealing either. I mean, look at this:
I expected my LA riding to be on 6 lane streets filled with strip malls and speeding drivers, and even though some of it was that, I still really enjoyed riding down there, way more than I thought I would.
I did a little alley riding to extend my time out of the house. I had my family-to-riding time ratio dialed; I'd stay out long enough that we wouldn't run out of things to talk about when I got back, but not so long that it seemed like I was shirking family time.
The sunlight in LA looks different than in San Francisco; I don't know if it's the pollution, or the desert landscape or some combination of the two, but everything has a friendly, warm look to it when the sun starts to set.
The other thing I found was that basically all the LA drivers take the same big streets when they're not on the freeways, so whenever I found myself somewhere dicey with traffic, I could go a block or two over and it would be almost totally quiet. I think that's probably a function of the distances people are driving. If you have to get from Venice to Koreatown, you're either taking the 10 freeway, or Venice blvd. Nobody would drive the whole way residentially; that would be unhinged.
San Francisco has less major traffic arteries, and is obviously way smaller, so all the streets feel more equally traffic-d. In LA you can more often take your pick between fast, busy freeway streets, like Eagle Rock Blvd, which I spent some time on, or basically empty residential roads that may add a couple turns, stop signs, and minutes to your ride. An easy choice, especially when you're not on a timeline to be anywhere.
I also spent a good amount of time on the LA river bike path, which not only is a great piece of bikey infrastructure, but also the setting of one of my favorite scenes from Repo Man.
I also inveigled myself onto Holly (green pants far left) and AllezLa's single speed/track bike Friday ride. AllezLa owner Kyle led us through Elysian park, Griffith park, and through parts of the city I've never explored, all on fun winding side streets, hidden pedestrian bridges, and trail shortcuts.
Five other Riv riders came too:
This is Ken and his 50cm mermaid Platty. Ken's brother Slin lives up here and I frequently see him in passing on my commutes. Actually, I saw him last night on my way up twin peaks and he gave me a loaf of bread.
Here's Philip and his matte green Saluki. Dang I should have turned him slightly more sun-wards before taking the picture. Amateur hour! It's a really nice color too and a simple functional build.
Here's Neal and his Pass-n-Stow'd Atlantis. Neale snagged this bike right before the bike-boom in 2020 got really wild and all the bikes would sell out instantly.
Here's Jerardo and his old 62cm Sam. Actually, it might even be a 64cm Sam now that I look at it. I don't remember my old 62cm Sam having that voluptuous of a headtube. Anyway, Jerardo made a neat edit of the ride, here.
And here's Dave with his singlespeed-d Sam. You can make it work on our vertical dropout bikes if you get the White Industries Eno eccentric rear hub. It rotates upwards and tensions the chain; the downside is you lose a little tire clearance, but there's so much built into our frames that it doesn't matter much.
I love this build: the crank, the tires, the black stem, the riser bars, the Regal; it all looks great together. Dave is also a super nice guy and I had a great time chatting with him as we rode around. He either owns or partially owns a comic book shop on Glendale Blvd called The Secret Headquarters. I didn't get a chance to visit this time but I will next time I go down.
I have a theory about LA bike riders: they're nicer to each other. They may not be nicer people than people anywhere else, but I think riding in LA makes you nicer to other riders, simply because there are less of 'em per square mile.
The whole time I was down there, I was getting waves from all types of cyclists: roadies; groadies; one guy on a pursuit bike; people on track bikes; and even one guy on a lowrider bike with 1000 spoke wheels, and I think it's because it's just such a surprise to see another rider when you're in such a nutty urban sprawl that you automatically feel more affinity with them than you would with a rider in a city like San Francisco, where bike riders are everywhere.
It's like when you see someone from your country when you're traveling abroad; you may not want to have anything to do with them when you're at home, but if you're thousands of miles away, you at least exchange a couple sentences.
Anyway, I had a fantastic time down there, and I didn't expect to. Now that I have a bike down there I think I'll visit more often.