Monday, August 10, 2009

Adventures in West LA Cycling

Been awhile since I posted here. To the seven of you subscribed on Google Reader, my apologies.

I had an "interesting" weekend riding. I didn't intend for it to be interesting in that way, but that's how it turned out.

My wife's sister is away in Europe, so we got to house sit in her apartment in Brentwood, a rather upscale neighborhood in West Los Angeles. In Brentwood, the cars trend Bentley, the bikes trend Serotta & Calfee, and the whole area says, "My wealth - let me show you it!"

Fortunately for cyclists, it's also a pretty great place to ride. The nearby city of Santa Monica has plenty of bike routes, paths, and lanes, and the city is laid out on a grid pattern, making it super easy to cycle places.

But let's get back to Friday night, when my wife and I were late to something called the Venice First Friday festival, a festival where fancy food trucks park on a trendy avenue and dish out food to young hipsters.

You can see where I'm going with this. Hipsters + Foodies + Trendy Part of Town can only equal one thing: fixies!

And not just fixies, but Critical Mass too!

Since we were late, we chose to drive to Venice. At first it was cool to see several hundred CM riders take the streets, run red lights, and intimidate motorists. I was cheering on their bold display of two wheeled activism, and I was chuckling at all the frustrated motorists. Even my wife thought it was cool.

And yet, within 20 minutes, as we scoured the Venice neighborhoods for a parking place, I came to hate these outlaw cyclists. I don't know what their deal is, but the only law they follow is their own.

I'm hyper-conscious for cyclists when I'm behind the wheel of my 'Ru, yet these CM riders would literally pop out of anywhere: off a curb and then in front of you...skid-stopping a corner and nearly hitting your door...behind and all of the sudden on the side of you, then skid-stopping in front of you on their way to another red light run.

I realize this behavior is part of the whole CM manifesto - the streets belong to cyclists as much as motorists - and I don't particularly care that they aren't wearing helmets or riding with brakes (it's their health and body after all), but what I'm concerned about is how they give all us cyclists a bad name.

I was literally embarassed that night to call myself a cyclist. I obey the laws (except for stop signs at vacant intersections). I signal motorists to telegraph my intentions. I have good situational awareness. I don't ride to intimidate or dare cars, I ride defensively.

I was glad when we finally left that neighborhood.

Anyway, Saturday was a whole lot better. I saddled up on the Swobo Dixon bike and hooked the dog trailer to my wife's Diamond Back. We cycled down to Santa Monica, enjoyed some sushi, then rode to the beach. Otto von Bisbark had a wonderful time:

By the end of the ride, my wife was feeling the pain. I would have pulled the trailer but I'm trying to sell the Swobo and didn't want to mark up the seat/chain stays anymore than they already were. We rode 22 miles on Saturday and she was pooped at the end.

Sunday turned out to be even better than Saturday. You see, on Sunday, Brentwood was holding their yearly Brentwood Grand Prix, a criterium on a particularly picturesque road in downtown Brentwood. Hundreds of cyclists were racing in the various categories, and we enjoyed the excitement while eating a delicious, $70 breakfast right on San Vicente.

The racers inspired me to get out and ride, and fortunately I had taken my Seven with me. So at about 11am, belly full and wife willing to let me go for a few hours, I took off down San Vicente toward the ocean. That road has a bike lane for its entire length, and I must have averaged 23 mph for the course of it. I had a wonderful cool sea breeze in my face and the waves of other cyclists to make it fly by.

I next turned south onto Ocean Avenue. Ocean Avenue gets quite busy with tourists, but that didn't phase me. I kept my pace up, riding in my lane past slowly moving traffic until I got stuck at a red light and saw something that stopped me dead in my tracks.


It couldn't be.

Wait a minute.

Yes, it could.



It's the Lone Wolf of BSNYC Fame!

I could scarcely believe my eyes. There he was, the fabled Lone Wolf, right there in front of me in all his natural glory. This time, the legendary Wolf wasn't "palping" his prized Lotus Steed; rather he was on some sort of beach cruiser bike with a gigantic aero dam on the front (you can see him here). His full mane was on display though, and there was no mistaking that I had captured the elusive Lone Wolf.

Then the light turned green and I got honked at before I could take a picture. :(

I'm sure I'm not the only one to have spotted him, but I now can say for sure that the Lone Wolf does exist. He may be more elusive than Sasquatch, but he does exist!

As I pedaled away, full of optimisim for the future of our sport, I had every reason to smile. Great weather, felt good on the bike, riding on routes I had never ridden before, and seeing the Lone Wolf.

That is until about 10 miles on down the road when I was right hooked and ended up on the trunk of a Lexus. I cursed at the driver, checked myself and my bike for damage (there was none, thankfully) and pedaled on down the road. I was nearly right hooked a second time just a mile past that. I learned a valuable lesson: don't ride on the same road as tourists. They are idiots who have no idea where they are going and don't look before they are turn.

My 25 mile ride wrapped up, I returned to Brentwood and enjoyed the Pro Men and Women's races in the Grand Prix. Boy those cats are fast as lightning!


  1. I'm sorry I missed the races - thanks for the report. I rode up to the Hollywood sign and down to the hospital because of some chest pain - two stents went into a coronary the next day. At least I'm riding again and my arteries are plaque free - for now.

    A $70 breakfast! No wonder I live east of La Cienega Blvd.

  2. Hi, I came across your blog when doing some research on the Swobo Dixon. Did you happen to sell yours? Please let me know, thanks!

  3. Hi Jeff,

    I just moved to Valencia/Santa Clarita from the midwest (Columbia, MO), which has a very active commuting community. I have started biking to work twice a week, it's almost a 7 mile ride each way. Would love to meet up and trade biking stories at some point. I've already talked to City hall about adjusting the sensitivity of their traffic lights to pick up cyclist.