Active City Spotlight: Cycling in Los Angeles

In September of 2013, the Los Angeles Times published an editorial with a question that surely grabbed the interest of the thousands of bike riders in the area.

It read, simply, "Can L.A. be a cyclist's town?"

There are certainly arguments in its favor—amazing weather, an active lifestyle already ingrained in its citizens, a traffic problem that makes cycling an appealing option.

But there's a flip side—the traffic problem has city planners wondering how to add vehicle lanes, leaving little room for bike lanes. The city exploded in growth largely after cars became he go-to transportation method, which allowed L.A. to be a sprawling metropolis that expands from the San Fernando Valley all the way down to south Orange County without stopping. While massive in size, Los Angeles isn't nearly as compact as east-coast cities like New York, which makes bike commuting unrealistic for a lot of its residents.

But cyclists in Los Angeles have the right people at the top proposing bike-friendly changes. A massive bike-sharing system is in the works, bike lanes have been painted green, bike lanes have been added and events like CicLAvia have blown up in popularity.

From great routes to reliable bike shops to popular events, here is your guide to all things cycling in Los Angeles:

Places to Ride

The Pacific Coast Highway is one of America's most famous roads, going from Dana Point (south of Los Angeles) all the way up to Northern California along the beautiful Pacific coastline.

For cyclists around Los Angeles, the best stretch of PCH for riding is between Malibu and Los Posas Road up by Cabrillo. If you start at Pepperdine University, the round trip exceeds 60 miles and has breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean.

The route has minimal stoplights and maximum sightseeing—a wonderful Southern California ride.

Other popular routes:

  • Want a good climb? The ascent to the Mt. Baldy Ski Lifts is probably L.A. County's best. Mt. Baldy (a.k.a. Mt. San Antonio) is L.A. County's highest peak, at 10,068 feet.
  • The Palos Verdes loop is well-known among L.A.-area cyclists. The 22-mile loop in Rancho Palos Verde stays away from the county's enormous freeways but also throws in a strong climb and plenty of scenery for good measure.
  • Griffith Park, one of the largest city parks in the United States, has miles of hilly paths and is a favorite among cyclists.

Races to Remember

The Malibu 7 Canyons Classic is one of the most scenic cycling events in the country. Starting at Zuma Beach in Malibu, the ride heads into the Santa Monica Mountains while also riding along the Pacific Coast Highway.

In all, the route takes you through seven canyons in the mountains. It takes place annually in March, where the average temperature is 65 degrees. Rides of 100, 62 and 50 miles are offered.

Other well-known events include:

  • Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia Beverly Hills explores one of Los Angeles' most popular places up close. The November ride has routes of 48 and 90 miles.
  • The Tour of Long Beach in May is a coastal ride showing off Southern California's beautiful beaches. The century ride heads south into Orange Country, exploring Sunset Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and Laguna Beach.
  • The L.A. Chinatown Firecracker Bike Ride starts in downtown Los Angeles and visits Elysian Park, Griffith Park and other nearby sights. It takes place each February.

Stores to Check Out

Rolling Cowboys Bicycle Shop, besides having the best bike shop name we've come across, has full-time mechanics on staff and over 25 years of experience on the L.A. cycling scene.

The store, at 3505 W. Pico Blvd., is just west of downtown.

Other bike shops include:

  • El Maestro Bicycle Shop (806 S. Main Street)
  • Just Ride LA (1626 S. Hill Street)

One Last Tip

If you see a celebrity out on one of your rides in and around Los Angeles, don't be alarmed. Many TV, film and music stars double as cyclists, including Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Jake Gyllenhaal, Patrick Dempsey, Robin Williams and more.

More: How to Pack Your Bike for Traveling

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