Lots of people bike in Los Angeles. It’s kind of a “thing” now, being both hip and eco-friendly (not to mention good for your body). But, people rarely bike around the entire city. Even the most active bikers haven’t made it all the way around town, some only being masters of certain neighborhoods, others favoring the same spots year after year. This past weekend, we did something entirely new: take a bike tour around the entire city, courtesy of Bike and Hikes LA.
The West Hollywood based bike (and hike!) shop is something you have definitely passed while driving down Santa Monica and very well may be something you’ve missed, as it is tucked far back in the Coffee Bean/Gym Sportsbar/mail place complex. The little storefront is mainly a housing for many, many bikes and a small office area. The company gives tours of the city by bike and up in the hills and do an excellent job of keeping you active while also giving you some education on the city. We participated in their “ultimate LA experience,” their LA In A Day tour.
We had the tour set for weeks and were a bit nervous with what to expect, the thought of a thirty two mile bike tour from West Hollywood to Bel Air to Marina Del Rey to Culver City inspiring many fears of sore legs and even sorer egos. We arrived Saturday morning at 10AM, Clif bars in tow and totally cleansed from not drinking any alcohol the night before. We were definitely nervous. We tried to play it cool and, as Bobby fumbled with his helmet (almost having to get help from a nice Bikes and Hikes person), it was apparent that we were slightly scared shitless. On our ride, we were accompanied by a very charming tour guide and just as charming fellow tourist (a scientist from Scotland here for work, we would later discover). We all hit the road and were off to a delightful Saturday tour of the city by bike.
The first neighborhood we worked through was West Hollywood, where we happened upon both a Frank Lloyd Wright house (Who knew there was one in West Hollywood???) and the house Marilyn Monroe died in. We quickly moved up North through Beverly Hills, celebrity houses being pointed out along the way, eventually stopping at Greystone Manor (which we didn’t even know existed until we arrived, in shock, wondering how such an accomplishment was possible). We encountered a few hills in the area, of course, but we all pushed through, shifting the gears of our bikes into almost a comical mode of quickly pedaling (but getting no where), until we started our ascent.
We moved into Bel Air, learning that the part of town has bad streets because it is a part of the city of LA (not its own city) and that you could even wander through the exclusive area. The whole time our tour guide gave out facts and tidbits effortlessly, guiding us through these neighborhoods and some tricky traffic without any issues. Case in point: traversing near the 405 to get us into the Westside, to peruse the VA campus, and eventually to cross San Vicente Blvd. We coasted through Santa Monica, discovering amazing houses we never knew existed and seeing just how quickly all thirtysomething blocks of that area are to travel to the ocean when not in a car.
The most stressful part, for me, came when we got to the beach, riding around large groups of people on the boardwalks and sidewalks and–eventually–the horrifying scene of the oceanside bike path (that everyone in the world has done before but me at that very moment). What was most intriguing was seeing how the demographic of people from Santa Monica’s pristine waterfront to Venice’s scummy and noisy beach area shifted. This was something our guide pointed out to our fellow tourist, to note “how the scenery would change.” Indeed it did.
We had a quick bite at Venice’s healthy Fruit Gallery, nestled in a corridor of culinary treats (not to mention some noise polluting performers who were experts at making it so you couldn’t even hear yourself think). This stop was the biggest stop in our trek and the halfway point. Along the way, we had stopped periodically for bathroom and water breaks at carefully curated points of interest (like Greystone). It was most brilliant how they balanced the work of biking across the city with points for rest. Our guide was always sure to give us plenty of breathers but, naturally, kept us at the top of our fitness high as to dissuade us from being too wrecked when getting back into it.
The tail end of the trip brought us through Marina Del Rey and Culver City and, eventually, back through Beverly Hills to West Hollywood. The discoveries we made in Marina Del Rey were the biggest since, well, why would anyone want to go to Marina Del Rey? We discovered their wharf, the end of the LA River (which our deft Scottish friend deemed the “Los Angeles Trickle”), the bike path that lines the “river,” and–most importantly–the brilliant view from Marina Del Rey of the entire city. The trek back was marked with discovery after discovery, since we had no idea that many of the places and scenes we passed even existed. It was quite remarkable.
Thirty two miles and five and a half hours later, we rolled back to the tiny West Hollywood storefront feeling quite exhilarated, accomplished, and ready for a nap. If you told us that we would ride a bike around the city for over thirty miles any other day before this past Saturday, Bobby and I would have laughed in your face. But, we did it–and it was great.
We would love to take the blame for the accomplishment but, really, it was all Bikes and Hikes, who seem to be capitalizing on showcasing the city in the most unique ways. Their tour was fun and informative, even for a local, and is the only way locals should be tourists in their own city. We very, very, very highly recommend Bikes and Hikes (as you probably noticed from Bobby and our Twitters over the weekend) and very much encourage you to check out what they are doing over there. The tour we went on is a bit pricey ($158 a pop) but well worth the price (and you will thank yourself for it for weeks to come). They do have cheaper and varied options–some that just go through Hollywood, some that take you on boats, too–so be sure to check them out. We know we’ll definitely be hitting them up again for more tours of the city and, since we’ve done it once already, you can bet we’ll be biking out to the ocean around once a month.