Discover more from LA Field Guide
Tour de Los Angeles
A mile-by-mile recounting of a solo century+ ride circumnavigating Los Angeles.
I’ve been trying to settle on an official kit to wear for the Belgian Waffle Ride coming up in a few weeks. Ryan gave me advice to train in what I’m going to ride in, and if I had listened to him it would mean I’d be riding in canvas shorts, bedrock sandals, and a t- shirt. A couple weekends ago I tried to ride in a variety of padded shorts and bibs that Ryan sent me and barely made it down the street before turning around and putting on my worn canvas shorts. I did abandon the sandals in favor of closed toe bike shoes, but I’m definitely taking the gravel casual approach.
Thanks for reading the LA Field Guide! Subscribe for free to join the adventure.
I filled my handlebar bag full of gummy bears (a trick I borrowed from Will Cook) and brought along a bag of Trader Joe’s Corn Nuts (whatever they’re actually called). A person my size needs to eat pretty consistently on any ride over 30 miles, and nutrition is a skill that takes practice. Any time I thought about it, I ate a handful of gummy bears.
Missed my first turn. Hollywood is confusing. I thought I was looking for Vine, but it was La Brea. Does La Brea turn into Vine? Oh well, I guess that means I’m skipping that first climb and heading downhill instead. It can already tell it’s going to be an insanely long day.
Kenneth Hahn regional park is a neighborhood gem of the Baldwin Hills and Culver City. The first bit of single track parallels Stocker St. and is SUPER bumpy, hard packed washboard. Good training, but a miserable time. Heading through the park was amazing, though—the hills are painted vibrant yellow with mustard this time of year. There was a gathering of what was maybe a church, maybe a yoga meetup (or perhaps both?) that I would have much rather stopped in at, but there were still many miles to go.
Hit the headwinds when I turned onto the beach path, which is when I noticed just how much extra t-shirt fabric was flapping around. Not entirely noticeable, but all those mini sails pulling me with the wind would add up over the course of the day. Made a mental note to swap the t-shirt for something tighter. I tried to draft a lady on an E-Bike easily punching her way through the wind, but when she glanced in the mirror and noticed how close I was following she slowed down and pulled to the right. Bummer.
Mental note to pay attention to exactly how hard I push through the flats. This is where a computer would be nice, but if you pay attention to your legs your brain makes a pretty good computer. On a ride a few months ago I pulled ever so slightly too hard into a breeze and ended up blowing up on the final 1000 feet of climbing. Can’t let that happen at BWR.
Stopped for two slices of cheese pizza and a bottle of coke.
Hit Palos Verdes and took a long gravel climb through beautiful Eucalyptus forests. Nasturtium all over the ground. Felt pretty good on my Gravelking 32s, even on the sandy trail, which will be a big portion of the Waffle.
The trail rejoined the road and kept climbing. Palos Verdes is steep. The first wave of “oh sweet lord what have I gotten myself into” kicked in as I turned onto Silver Spur Road. Then the second wave when I turned onto Crenshaw. “Not existing would be nice” was the prevailing thought through this section of climbing and, while these feelings do eventually pass, pushing through them will be the most difficult mental challenge of the ride.
The thought of 70 miles and one more notable dirt climb ahead of me made me shudder. But I was rewarded with an amazing and steep dirt descent on trails through Rancho Palos Verdes, and more dense mustard from the peak down to the ocean.
Ah, Long Beach. A few familiar streets, although I spent most of my time on the PCH cutting straight across town. Stopped at Taco Bell, got a soft taco and a baja blast. Those kicks of sugar and caffeine are essential.
Began the long push up the bike path. Simple. Straight. Barely noticeable uphill and perhaps a slight tailwind, which was a major plus. I’ve never really noticed the equestrian neighborhood that backs up to the levy. From the street it looks like a regular suburban neighborhood with houses packed in next to one another. But the backyards are extra long, and each one has a stable or barn or pasture and at least one horse. They all back up to a sandy horse trail, and people were out riding horses waving to their neighbors and stopping to chat along the path.
Once you get past the end of the concrete-bottom to the LA river things get much more interesting. Some ponds and bird life juxtapose powerfully against the guy under an overpass dancing while huffing from a spray can. Ah, Los Angeles.
Welcome to Whittier, one of the most upscale neighborhoods I rode through. I’m guessing I don’t have the complete story here, but I couldn’t help being turned off by all the stupid parking rules and permits and hours and neighborhood council red tape surrounding Turnbull Canyon. All the rules seemed like they only existed to get people in trouble—specifically people the rich neighborhood doesn’t want hanging around. You can fill in the blanks yourself. It feels extraordinarily narrow minded to restrict access to an outdoor space as beautiful as Turnbull Canyon with parking rules. I have a bone to pick, Whittier…
Oh yeah, Turnbull Canyon. Actually amazing. The climb really starts in the neighborhood for the first third, then turns to rutted dirt road at mile 95 for the rest of the climb until, for the final 10%, it turns into the most awful cobbled mix of crumbling asphalt that covers the road shoulder to shoulder. No clean line to shoot for, you just have to endure. I felt surprisingly strong during this climb, though I had to dig deep to make it up that final 10%. Amazing descents through mustard again.
Took a left on Longden at mile 110 and stopped to finish my corn nuts and a water bottle. This is the final stretch home. A guy on an electric scooter passed me, and I didn’t think anything of it until a mile or so later when I caught up to him and noticed his handlebars were twisted out of alignment. Apparently he fell when a delivery van signaled too late and pulled out into the street toward him. Fortunately he just had a few scrapes, and I managed to help him straighten out his bars, but we shared frustrated sentiments with ignorant delivery vans.
He and I leapfrogged for a little while and it slowly became clear that the delivery van story may not have been the entire picture. This guy and the scooter were just not meant to be. Perhaps he was rattled from his experience, but his throttling and braking were absolutely erratic. His head was being thrown back and forth by the braking and accelerating. He had no clue where to ride in the lane (which, mind you, was a friendly neighborhood street—very wide, low speed, with well-marked sharrows.) He was hopping between the sidewalk, the door zone, the middle of the street and, to my horror, as we approached a blind intersection, veered all the way into the far left lane (almost the gutter) then wobbled through a left turn that cut into the left turn pocket of the intersecting traffic. I said a silent prayer that he got home safe, and hope that he realizes soon that a scooter might not be his transportation mode of choice.
Stopped at Pennys’ Burgers on the corner of York and Figueroa in Highland Park and got a burger and fries to go. I sat in the backyard and tried to take in the reality of how far I’d brought myself with only my legs and a few simple pieces of metal. Los Angeles is a huge and varied place. Seeing a massive sampling of it in a single day at bicycle pace really puts that into perspective.