Road Cycling

A Beginner’s Guide to Biking in LA – LAist

By Matt Miner

This story is a sponsored article from LA Metro, a resource for public transportation and biking in Los Angeles.

Bikers using LA Metro Bikes (Courtesy of LA Metro)

Biking is becoming an increasingly popular activity in Los Angeles, as more and more Angelenos get into healthy, low-cost and zero-emission two-wheeled transportation. California is ranked fourth out of the 50 states for its number of bike-to-work commuters, and Caltrans and the California Bicycle Coalition hope to see 4.5% of all trips taken by bike by 2020 in an effort to reduce traffic and pollution.

With the novice cyclist in mind, here is a beginner’s guide to biking in L.A, complete with safety and maintenance tips, info on where to ride and places to go, apps to help you get around, and nonprofit groups that are making Los Angeles a better, safer city for bike riders.

Get a Bike and a Helmet

Whether you want to go right in and buy a new road bike or you’re a little hesitant to fully commit, you’ve got a few options. If you’re going to purchase a new bike, visiting a local small-business bike shop and starting a conversation with the team there can really help you choose the type of bike that will suit your needs. If that’s not your speed and buying a used bike off Craiglist or Facebook Marketplace is also not enticing, maybe you can start with renting a bike. Amongst the many bike resources LA Metro offers, they also offer Metro Bikes. The bikes are available to rent 24/7 in Downtown LA, Central LA, Port of LA, and on the Westside. The bikes can be rented for $1.75 for 30 minutes and they also offer different passes to reduce that cost further.

So on to that second step after you’ve secured a bike… get a helmet, we repeat, get a helmet and protect that wonderful brain of yours. According to The New England Journal of Medicine, wearing a bike helmet can reduce your risk of head and brain injury by 85% and 88% respectively. Buying a quality helmet before you hit the road is a smart thing to do—and it could even save your life. (Note that children 17 and under are required to wear helmets by state law.) There are tons of bike shops in L.A. where you can purchase helmets and other gear.

Here are a few to start your bike gear search:

Around the Cycle 1270 Lincoln Ave #1500, Pasadena (new and used bikes)

Helen’s Cycles/I. Martin Bicycles Arcadia, Los Angeles, Manhattan Beach, Marina del Rey, Santa Monica and Westwood

Incycle Bicycles Chino, Pasadena, Rancho Cucamonga, San Dimas and Santa Clarita

Safety Cycle Los Angeles and Torrance

LA Metro Bike

Learn About Bike Safety + Etiquette

Besides wearing a helmet, there are a lot of other precautions you can take to protect yourself when you’re biking around the city. The Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) website has a handy list of guidelines for bike safety and etiquette. Some important things to know are to obey all traffic laws (just like you’re driving), avoid riding on sidewalks, and always remember to give pedestrians the right of way. Metro also sponsors free bike classes at various skill levels all over LA County.

(From the LADOT Bike Program)

Burn Some Calories

Life is about balance, right? With all of the dining options that the city of Los Angeles offers, delicious oxtail stew and Mexican volcanes to name a few, you may want to find more options to burn those calories and riding a bike is great exercise to do that. Harvard Medical School says cycling provides a healthy aerobic workout (good for your heart, brain and blood vessels) that also builds muscle and bone while going easy on your joints. Whether you’re commuting to and from the office, cycling for fitness, or taking a ride just for fun, biking is a great way to get around our city and experience L.A. from a different two-wheeled perspective.

Fix It Yourself

While there’s no comparison to the cost of auto maintenance, taking your bike into the shop for regular repairs can still be a bit pricey. Bicycle Kitchen is a supercool nonprofit that operates a space where people can work on their bikes themselves—which saves you money and can actually become a fun hobby, too—and they also host educational programs and workshops where you can learn the ins and outs of basic bike maintenance. Some “open streets” events are also offering free basic repair, such as at 626 Golden Streets in San Gabriel Valley.

Bike Paths

L.A. has a lot of great bike paths, many of which are well suited for new riders who may not feel comfortable biking on busy city streets just yet. Best known is the Marvin Braude Bike Trail, which most of us just call the Strand. It runs 22 miles along the coast from Will Rogers State Beach in Pacific Palisades to Torrance County Beach. LAist published this list of eight amazing bike rides in L.A earlier this year.

A rider along the Marvin Braude/Pacific Coast Bike Path. (Matt Tinoco/LAist)

Bike-Friendly Hangouts

One of the great side benefits of biking is that after you burn calories riding, you can replenish them eating delicious food (and sometimes drinking great beer). L.A. has some great hangouts that are popping up along well-worn bike paths.

Here are a few we suggest checking out:

á bloc 5025 York Blvd.

HomeState East Hollywood and Highland Park

Caffeé Etc. 6371 Selma Ave

Spoke Bicycle Cafe 3050 N. Coolidge Ave

SPLA 714 N. Figueroa Ave

There’s an App for That

As with everything these days, there’s no shortage of apps for bike enthusiasts. Apps like Strava can track your time, distance, average and top speed, and much more. MapMyRide helps you plan and track your routes, and allows you to share data with your friends and other users. Fitness monitors like Garmin can record all sorts of biometrics and they have an app that pairs with their devices. For quick and easy navigation, Google Maps is great simple and straight forward option.

Nonprofits Focused on Biking

“The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) is a nonprofit organization that works to make all communities in LA County healthy, safe, and fun places to ride a bike through advocacy, education, and outreach,” states executive director Eli Akira Kaufman. “People are at the center of all the work that we do at LACBC. Whether we’re on foot, on a bike, or in a car, we’re all just trying to get to where we’re trying to go.” LACBC has a lot of great resources on its website and offers a variety of benefits to its members.

Another terrific nonprofit, CicLAvia is well known for hosting rides where major thoroughfares like Wilshire Boulevard or Venice Boulevard are temporarily closed to car traffic. “CicLAvia creates a car-free space for people to come together and reimagine the way we connect as a community,” says Romel Pascual, executive director of CicLAvia. “Safe, car-free streets also provide a great opportunity to get more confident on a bike, or any other form active transportation you’re new to.” CicLAvia’s events cater to cyclists of all abilities and experience levels, and beginners are welcomed. CicLAvia’s next ride is on June 30th.

Bikers at Ciclavia. (Courtesy of Ciclavia)

The biking life may or may not be for you in the end, but this is a perfect time of year to try it out because May is National Bike Month.

Metro offers classes, bike lockers, the rent-able Metro Bikes, and more. Visit here for more information on all that Metro can do to help your transition into biking an easier one.