Traffic in Los Angeles is back… and when moving around in a car, it is easy to feel that the pandemic was a distant, weird dream. I’m on a quest to find ways to hold onto my “pandemic learnings” and find activities which are slower, greener, and dare I say…happier!?
Last summer, I spent some time on an electric bike and was surprised at the sunny lift which a little electric power gave to my ride. First and foremost, knowing you have some assistance in the pedaling means that you worry a lot less about how far you go – and I easily traveled further with the magical burst of power than I might have if I had in mind the long return to my starting point. Secondly, I thought I might be judged by “real” bikers, but quickly realized that I was pedaling enough to get a decent work out. (An e-bike is not a scooter, but you can choose three levels of assistance depending on whether there is a hill or if you need a little rest) And finally, the extensive touring that the electric assist allowed made for such an excellent outing that I stopped worrying about what anyone thought about my choice of bike! That little bit of liberation was a game changer, and now, I’m set to expand my exploration on some new routes right here in Los Angeles.
LA is a perfect bikeable city, complete with long roads for coasting along the beach (great for families and out of town guests) as well as challenging rides for the resident athletes in the hills. Exploring a new neighborhood (such as Frogtown – see below) is a great way to be a tourist in your own city. Bring a picnic, don sunscreen and a helmet, and get back to those no-hurry days.
Here are a few top picks:
- Marvin Braude Bike Path — The most obvious place to ride is along the Pacific, and this 22-mile bike trail is easily accessible and perfect for all experience-level bikers. The trailhead is at Will Rogers State Beach in the Pacific Palisades and travels all the way to Torrance. Folks drop in and out all along the coast, and while some may challenge themselves to bike the whole stretch, any bit of beach will satisfy your outdoor urge. A particularly scenic stretch runs from Manhattan Beach to Hermosa Beach. Bonus points for an early morning ride when you’ll have the ocean views to yourself.
2. Griffith Park – Dozens of bikeable trails run through Griffith Park, which is one of the most popular attractions in Los Angeles, and includes the Griffith Observatory, the Los Angeles Zoo and the Hollywood sign. For a rigorous trip, start at the bottom of Mount Lee Drive and head straight up the Hollywood sign, and for easier loops, check out this well-researched article from Discover LA. But note: one of the potential hazards to be aware of biking in Griffith park is the trail itself. Since these paths are hiked in addition to biked and also run through a mountainous park, not all trails are paved and some have potholes and rocks. Not ideal for a casual outing, but great for in-depth exploration, the many options available make this an evergreen choice. Here is one blogger’s take on how to ride above the Hollywood sign and chase down a few movie locations (Rebel Without a Cause, La La Land, et al).
3. Los Angeles River Bike Path – It’s not easy to really know our LA River, but good news: the River has copious stretches that are best enjoyed on a bike. And a fun outing is to explore the artsy neighborhood of Frogtown. Start at the Spoke Bicycle Cafe which has a menu with a wide variety of delicious options and also boasts a bike shop. The cafe has the perfect entrance to a beautiful, easy section of the LA river bike path. Rent a bike from the cafe, bike around LA, return the bike and get a bite to eat! An easy, affordable activity ideal for families and groups. Here is the proper map of the trail, with further details.
4. Ballona Creek Bike Path – Running seven miles from Culver City to the Marina, this scenic route can be accessed at many points along the way and allows for wonderful views up to the Santa Monica Mountains, some colorful murals, and plenty of wildlife (especially birds). A flat and fairly easy trail, this route is a crowd-pleaser, and you can have a nice lunch in Playa del Rey at Playa Provisions. And, here is a park map with further details.
Choosing a Bike
The journey begins with the bike. If you’re like many LA residents and don’t own a bike yourself, there are a couple of options to get started.
- Standard bikes can be rented at many places throughout the city, though Covid restrictions have put a damper on some bike shops. (Helen’s is not renting right now, for instance). Try Bikes and Hikes for all options — they also run bike tours – including a self-guided celebrity tour! – and along the beach, you can always rent from Perry’s.
- Go old school and buy a beautiful Linus Bike. With a showroom in Venice you can put a basket on the front and be happy.
- E-biking gained in popularity during the pandemic and is a making what’s old (bikes) new again! Purchasing an electric bike is definitely an investment. You’ll want to be certain before you commit, so it is recommended that you try before you buy. It might be a game-changer for your commute, or a way to explore more of your neighborhood, or you may decide to use the boost for riding in the hills. LA FlyRides has been in the electric bike business for a long time and leads tours as well as sells/rents bikes. Lime is in the renting business so look here at this option.
- If e-biking is right for you, you have an ever-expanding range of purchasing options, so a research project awaits you. Start with this REI article about the big bucket decisions to make, and then start talking to bike shops and friends to refine your needs. Know that you can get into a city bike for as low as $1000 and run up to $15,000 for a high-end mountain bike. Top brands include Ancheer, Cowboy Smart Electric Bike, Rad Power Bikes and Propella. More and more options are coming online as the e-bike trend continues.