To justify spending $$$ on a couple of second-hand bikes, we’ve been using them at the weekends instead of our usual long walks to the parks, farmers markets and ramenland1.
For no other reason than to use the bikes last weekend, we helmeted up and rode the too-short mile to Sawtelle Blvd for some Beard PaPa cream puffs.
Did the same last weekend to the West LA Farmers Market, where Fin kept crawling off to meet and greet passer-bys.
And all this biking around was kicked off by a great trip around Stanley Park in Vancouver last winter, where Fin really enjoyed the ride despite the cold rain.
We were very impressed by the bike rental, Spokes, which had a good selection of well-maintained bikes and even more importantly, well-maintained baby seats. They’re not cheap, but I’ve realised that nothing in Vancouver is cheap, but at least a high standard is expected and met.
And while it’s possible to rent child seats and bikes in LA, it’s not so easy to do the online research beforehand, since most bike rentals in LA are shacks by the beach or marinas without much of a web presence. Also, it may have just been the one shack we tried, but we weren’t all that impressed by the selection of seats and helmets.
Far better was the selection of beach cruisers, and even a tandem beach cruiser! (By the way kids, always ride with a helmet! We should have insisted on getting helmets with our rentals, and will always phone ahead and check next time.)
I’ll end this photo-fest with a small observation of bicycle culture in LA. Yes, you may be surprised, but there is one, albeit a lot smaller than other bike-friendly cities. But it’s mixed and seems to be city-dependent. LA, in particular the hipster parts, seems to have bike shops specialising in “fixies” and other old-fashioned, but trendy again European-style step-throughs. Santa Monica and the Venice part of LA has, as expected, almost nothing but beach cruisers (and the super-expensive, souped-up bikes from Helen’s Cycles for the connoisseurs). But where we live and work (West LA, Westwood, UCLA-land), the bulk of cyclists have very basic, bottom-of-the-line mountain bikes, which weigh nothing compared to the behemoth beach cruisers of SaMo, and can manage uphill riding. Fortunately, the biggest trade of bikes on Craigslist are for these bargain basement2 mountain-style bikes without the Helen’s Cycles price tags. Fortunate because I just can’t imagine being limited to one gear, and having to back-pedal to brake. Really, kids: get a real bike; they’re more versatile.
But what has been more surprising to me so far, a few weekends of riding in, is the generally good behaviour of motorists sharing our streets. It is most likely the fact that they can see Fin riding with me that makes them stop well in advance of an all-stop junction3, and even wave us over ahead of them. Even pedestrians have been yielding to us even when they have the right of way. Confusing all round, but well-received kindness on our part. My glasses are not rose-tinted enough to suggest that we’ll be just as kindly treated on the busier roads, nor on weekdays. But it’s nice to know that not all Angelenos are out to kill other road-users, and that it is possible, albeit in a limited fashion, to cycle around our neighbourhood.
1 Ramenland = Sawtelle Blvd, West LA. Home to Nijiya (japanese supermarket), Tofu-Ya (Korean soondubu), Giant Robot, Ketchy’s (best breakfast burrito around), our hairdresser, the plastic crap shop (like Daiso, only much much smaller), Asahi Ramen (good, but not as “traditional” as our old ramen place, which let us sit outside with Kirin. now sadly closed…) and a whole bunch of other asian stores. This street single-handedly saved us from returning to Edinburgh toot-suite 6 years ago.
2 I say bargain-basement, but there really is a limit to how cheap one can go when buying a bike… Anything less than $300 new or out of a big box store seems to just languish in garages and sheds, which leads to some hilariously over-priced crap on Craigslist, where people really expect me to buy their used-only-once Magmas for $50 less than retail. I think not. Especially not when I can get an older, bottom-of-the-line Trek for less $, but greater longevity and reliability once we grease the chain and tighten the bolts. And yes, there are you connoisseurs out there laughing at us buying bottom range Treks and the like. But at least I’m not losing $1000 when the inevitable bike thief cuts our locks.
3 As opposed to their usual junction-creep, and even worse, when the 405 is broken, outright defiance of any and all stop signs and red lights. Traffic jams make Angelenos act like maniacs.