I have planned a ride with the LA Wheelmen. I've chosen them for scheduling reasons, because they meet close to me (at a spot in Beverly Hills), and because they sound a bit like the 5 Borough Bike Club: friendly and easy going. Nice "relaxed" rides. Here's what it says on their website:
"We are bicylists who enjoy riding with friends and seeing Los Angeles and Southern California on two wheels."
Bicyclists - I like that.
I have three rides to choose from: 32, 50 and 62 mi. Not knowing exactly how rigorous this group is going to be, I decide on the 32mi ride, but am prepared to take the 50 mi in case I'm the only newbie in the crowd (and I know I can do 50 by now). As it turns out, it doesn't matter because beginner or no, every route starts with a ride over Benedict Canyon.
Everyone else has printed out the route map and clipped it efficiently to their handle bars. I didn't print it out because I was hoping the tour would be guided, but I just learned something. So here is the first half.
During the climb, I fall into a conversation with a fellow cyclist about century riding (riding 100 miles at one clip) which I can't imagine ever doing. He makes an encouraging observation: cycling is an incremental sport, he says. You start out with 5 miles and never think you can do 10. Then you work your way up to 20, and so on. He's hopeful I may soon progress to being a century rider (there are several among us). I can't envision it now but then again, I'm currently riding with true drop down handle-bars, something I swore I would never do even just a few months ago. (I hope I will continue to carry Kleenex however).
I'm one of the first to arrive at the top of Benedict
Meanwhile, early in the canyon, one of our women riders bows out for a quick DYI pit-stop. Now there's something you couldn't do in NYC - nor have I ever considered it on any ride so far. But as we assemble at the top of Benedict, it occurs to me that it's not a bad idea and throwing modesty aside, I enter the sheltering bushes. This is a first for me (is this one of the increments we were discussing?).
Regardless, it turns out to be a good idea. Because we ride hell bent for leather for the next 30 miles. In fact, en route I receive a text from a friend which I am not even able to respond to for another 45 minutes, we are traveling at such a rate.
We speed by Warner Brothers
Meanwhile, I've been riding some 20-40 miles a day since I've been in LA but that doesn't seem to matter: even though we're only doing the flats, I begin to flag. I don't want to open my PB&J fearing that may be all I have for lunch. A fellow cyclist takes pity on me and hands me a Power Bar.
At 31 mi, the group looks around for a place to eat. I lobby for El Pollo Loco, but am outnumbered by the majority who, as Southern Californians, have more Mexican restaurants per square block than exist in all of Manhattan. Instead, they head for the one place I can eat absolutely nothing: a bakery.