City Guide: Los Angeles Eastside
City Guide by Jen Abercrombie, Introduction by Tayler Rae Dubé
When I first moved to Los Angeles, I thought about our PDF City Guides and how badly I needed one for my new city! Thankfully, I was lucky enough to make friends with Jen Abercrombie who showed me some amazing places to ride. Long time Angelena, explorer, cyclist, entrepreneur ( her side project No Garmin, No Rules has become a cycling internet favorite), Jen truly knows and loves LA. When it was time to get the Los Angeles city guide rolling, who better to ask than the amazing woman who guided me through my first months here.
Unlike most of our city guides, we are splitting LA up into two: Eastside and Westside. The culture and riding between the two sides of Los Angeles are so different they might as well be separate cities! We hope you enjoy this guide to the side of LA where both Jen and I live and ride.
How long have you have you been riding in LA?
I started riding in 2006, after I saw a documentary about the AIDS Lifecycle Ride, which travels from San Francisco to LA and raises money and awareness for people living with HIV and AIDS. It looked like fun, but I hadn’t ridden a bike since I was a kid. Whoever said “it’s just like riding a bike” was mistaken. I bought a bike and had to teach myself to ride it in an empty parking lot. I rode that first bike, a Surly Cross Check that was probably too big for me, 545 miles from San Francisco to LA with almost no training. It was so uncomfortable that it kind of put me off riding for awhile after that. I rode that bike casually for 5 years until I got a better-fitting road bike and really fell in love with cycling.
What do you wish people knew about cycling in LA? What makes it different than other places you’ve cycled in.
No one else needs to know any more about cycling in LA. LA Sucks For Cycling, right? Jokes aside, we have a lot of hills here, which some people might not expect. Despite the sprawl of our city and the intense car culture, I find it pretty bikeable. We’ve got some good infrastructure, but we’ve still got a long way to go. I’m optimistic about the proposed Mobility Plan 2035, which adds miles of protected bike lanes throughout the city over the next 20 years, although it’s gotten a lot of opposition from some City Council members. The conversation about cycling as a viable mode of transportation is finally happening in a car-centric city
What's the best part about riding in LA? What’s the worst part?
The best part about riding in LA is the weather. Almost every day of the year it’s a beautiful day to ride a bike, even though it gets pretty hot in the summer. The earth is basically about to be a giant fireball and California’s going to break off and fall into the ocean, so I’m enjoying it while I can. The worst part is that sometimes drivers aren’t the most courteous to cyclists and it gets scary. That can be really intimidating to newer riders, but I’m not sure that’s an L.A. problem specifically.
What is your favorite long distance route?
My favorite long ride is up Highway 2, the Angeles Crest Highway. If you have the time, you can ride all the way to the Mount Wilson Observatory. It’s a 60 mile round-trip ride for me, with a long climb and great views. If you go on the weekend there’s a café open at the top with a snack bar. When cyclist friends visit from out of town, I like to head up Nichols Canyon, down Mulholland and over the 101 Freeway to Lake Hollywood Reservoir for the great views of Hollywood Sign. The lung-busting climb up Wonder View Drive before you drop down to the reservoir makes the payoff that much sweeter.
What is your favorite route for short distance?
My classic quick ride is on the L.A. River Bike Path to Griffith Park. There’s a decent amount of climbing over Mt. Hollywood, and you can add on more mileage with views of the Hollywood Sign and Griffith Observatory. Often a ride in Griffith includes a stop at the famous “Blacktop”. The Blacktop is a Helipad overlooking the city that has appeared in countless luxury car commercials and FOMO-inspiring Instagram photos. I like to make a quick stop there on a spandex ride to sip some water and enjoy the view. In the evenings you can skip the full ride and the stretchy outfit and just climb up to the Blacktop to meet friends, sneak a beer, and watch the sunset give way to twinkling city lights.
What’s the best part of commuting by bikes in LA?
The best part of commuting here is rolling right up to your destination, no valet required. As I joked to my friend Woody, one of the mechanics and owners at Golden Saddle Cyclery “I don’t even like bikes, I just hate parking.” I love cruising past all the cars stopped in traffic and never having to circle the block looking for a spot. Like most big cities, you have to be careful here when locking up. I’ve had my seat post and saddle stolen in broad daylight while I was inside a restaurant with my bike locked up on a bustling shopping street.
What's your favorite bike shop?
Hands down, Golden Saddle Cyclery. This shop changed me from a casual rider to a passionate one. The guys who own it are awesome and they give a lot back to the cycling community. I’ve also spent a lot of time parked on the bench in the shop’s alley after a ride, hanging out with friends and catching up over a drink from the corner store. As the sign hanging in the alley proclaims, it’s the “official day drinking location”. VeloLove/Swrve is also a fun place to visit. It's not a bike shop, but they make men's cycling clothes and sell bags, books, and accessories for cycling and outdoor pursuits.
Favorite pre/post ride coffee shop or meet up spot?
If I’m riding up the 2, Donut Friend is on the way for me. They serve delicious donuts, both vegan and non-vegan, named after bands. The Rites of Sprinkles is a classic, but I prefer the Stiff Little Butterfingers. If I’m heading to Griffith or points west, Dinosaur Coffee is my spot of choice. They serve Four Barrel coffee and have lots of outside seating, so you can keep an eye on your bike while you get caffeinated. Also worth mentioning is local roasters Bicycle Coffee LA. Kellen and Andy were serving up coffee and conversation on Free Coffee Fridays, which was one of my favorite weekly rituals. They’ve closed their doors to the public for a bit, but stay tuned for future fun.
What’s the most practical insider tip you’d give anyone visiting and cycling in your city?
If you’re here on a Wednesday morning, stop by LA River Camp Coffee at Sunnynook Park from 7-8 am. Located at a park on a protected bike path along the river, It’s a weekly meetup of cycling caffeine addicts with a fantastic cast of characters. Pull up a rock and meet some friends. BYOC.