City Guide: Los Angeles Westside
City Guide and Photography Courtesy of Bianca Pettinicchi
Westside LA is treated as a totally different city than its Eastside counterpart. While the Eastside is ruled by rides up into the San Gabriel Mountains and Griffith Park, the Westside is all about canyon roads and beachside cruises. For the second part of our Los Angeles City Guide, who better to give us a tour than Bianca Pettinicchi. Rapha Ambassador and adventurer, she is constantly leading rides and explorations of her city and the areas around it.
How long have you have you been riding in LA?
I moved to LA two and a half years ago from Boston where I was riding my bike day in and day out. When I first touched down in LA I had several surgeries that put me off my bike for my first year here. It was super tough to get used to car culture and not taking my bikes out when I finally made my way to SoCal, land of endless summer and sun. But, with help of amazing friends and the cycling community in my area, I was able to get on my bike and get back in the rhythm of riding. My boyfriend took me on my first ride in LA down the coast along the bike path to just get me comfortable again in the saddle, then my good friend Hana was patient enough with me to get my legs back into climbing so we could explore our local mountains more.
What do you wish people knew about cycling in West LA? What makes it different than other places you’ve cycled in?
When I first got to LA I was blown away by the beauty! Seems weird right? Everyone has this perception of LA being a HUGE city with cars and traffic and smog but I honestly was shocked when I finally took my first spin. Living on the Westside of LA gives me access to both the coast and mountains and it’s absolutely magical. I am able to climb up the Santa Monica Mountains above the clouds before work with views of the ocean, it’s the best way to start any day. I am a big fan of bike touring so the fact that I can roll from my front door up the coast, set up camp for the night in a world class state park and roll home the next morning is still like "pinch me" do I really have access to this?!
What's the best part about riding in West LA? What’s the worst part?
The best part about riding in LA is the beautiful views. Right out of Santa Monica I can climb up quiet canyons and loop back to the beach for a cool down ride home. After 2.5 years in LA I still remind myself every time I go out for a spin that I am so lucky to be riding in gorgeous weather with jaw dropping scenery.
The worst part about riding in LA would be the lack of bike lanes and high flow of cars. I am still shocked that there is no great way to get from the Westside to the East side via bike lanes. There are plenty of people who stick to the beach bike path for a mellow cruise and I love that, but anything you want to do that’s more physically challenging you need to be prepared to be an aggressive rider with traffic.
What is your favorite long distance route?
There is such a huge system of canyon roads and connecting fire trails on the Westside that I almost always find myself taking new routes each weekend. One of my favorite routes is up the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway that you can indeed bike on) then taking Topanga Canyon to Mulholland then down Latigo. It’s a kicker for sure but all the beautiful mountain and ocean views will help ease the pain.
What is your favorite route for short distance?
For shorter distances I like to go up Mandeville Canyon because it’s just about 20 miles of a slow steady incline. Sometimes if I want more of an early morning workout I climb up Westridge Canyon and do a couple miles of dirt at the top. I also love taking my single speed and cruising with friends on the beach bike path down to Manhattan Beach for lunch and beers.
What’s the best part of commuting by bikes in LA?
The best part of commuting in LA by bike is the fact that I get exercise, it’s always great weather and I find new stores or coffee shops I would have just driven right past if I was in a car. When I bike into work it’s 13 miles each way from Venice to Hollywood and it only adds 10 minutes to my commute. It took me a while to find the best route to cross town but once I did it was a game changer.
What's your favorite bike shop?
Bike Effect is my favorite bike shop. I have never met a more professional group of people who truly care about their customers. They have the most advanced technology to help fit you on your bike, from saddle to handlebar positioning to cleat sizing and much more, they will cover it all with you. I feel like I can lean on the Bike Effect team for anything bike related and they always make you feel at home. Also it can be tough being in a new city and joining group rides when you don’t know anyone, but Alison, one of the owners at Bike Effect is so supportive and encouraging that she made it easy for me to join Bike Effect group rides and meet local riders whom I now can call friends.
Favorite pre/post ride coffee shop or meet up spot?
My favorite place to meet up and have coffee strangely isn’t a shop. Just like over on the Eastside we have our own version of camp coffee. Ours is the Ballona Creek Camp Coffee and we meet up Wednesday mornings at the end of the jetty along Ballona Creek. It’s such a fun community of people who come out and we all make our own coffee and catch up, just like a breakfast club. I also love to get some friends together for a ride out to Pedalers Fork in Calabasas because it’s just challenging enough of a ride out there, the food and coffee is amazing and then it’s mostly 18 miles of downhill on the way home so you never feel bad over eating.
What’s the most practical insider tip you’d give anyone visiting and cycling in your city?
I would suggest for anyone visiting the Westside of LA to reach out to anyone and everyone they know (or a local shop) who rides and ask for advice on where to go. Most likely they will join you for a spin or give you some of their favorite routes that are off the beaten path. I would say to not fear the PCH, but take advantage of it because it is the main outlet for so many amazing canyon roads. And there is nothing like a sunrise along the coast so getting up and out early in the morning is one of the best times to ride, the roads are quiet, the city is quiet, you can hear the waves and you can feel the warmth of the sun as the day breaks.