Tagged: Los Angeles Wheelmen

Kicking off 2020 with a Century Ride

Like I did on New Year’s Day 2016, I rode a century ride with the LA Wheelmen. Well, saying I rode with them is a bit untrue. I arrived at the start point in Malibu at 7:00 AM, but after about ten minutes they got so far ahead of me that I never saw them for the rest of the day.

As anyone who has spent any time with me over the past half year knows, I am not a happy person. I spent New Year’s Eve having a mild panic attack from the anxiety of a new year. Since about New Year’s Eve 2013, I have dreaded the new year because each one has turned out worse than the previous. This sullen feeling only gets compounded by knowing that seemingly everyone else was having fun looking forward to a bright future. I was not.

One of the few pure joys I have is bicycling. Again, it’s not a perfect relationship, but we get by. First, I am not that good at it. I am slow on the bike and, in my advancing age, I am cautious in traffic so I don’t take risks that younger, speedier cyclists take. Second, all my gear is from a different age. At first, it didn’t bother me having such old gear, but now I feel like a dinosaur riding a 9-speed bike with rim brakes and cable shifting. I think I realized that group riding might not be my thing, although there’s no way I’m doing something silly like getting a Peloton.

Yesterday, the Pacific Coast Highway was my peloton.

However, the greatest benefit of cycling has been able to spend hours burning away my nervous energy focusing on something other than my stress and anxieties. And yesterday, on New Year’s Day, I was able to do just that.

I don’t have a lot to say about this ride to distinguish this ride from my 2016 effort. In both cases, the weather was chilly at the beginning, but there was a lot of sunshine in the afternoon and the temperature reached the upper 60s.

The scenery was absolutely stunning. I think Foothill Road in Ventura has become one of my favorite stretches of road out here. There’s rolling hills and a nice summit with plenty of pretty scenery—including the Pacific Ocean in the distance.

I was also enamored with the view on the way back. Riding south on the seaside of PCH provided multiple photo opportunities.

But aside from that, my performance on this ride was not as great as the first time I did it. Here are some numbers:

Mileage100.8 mi.100.0 mi.
Total Time9:27:449:04:45
Moving Time7:12:367:14:49
Average Speed14.0 MPH13.8 MPH

One thing that sticks out is that I was faster four years ago than I was this year. I rode the full century at an average speed of 14.0 MPH in 2016, but this year, I dropped to 13.8 MPH. Don’t get me wrong: that is still a respectable speed for a rider like me. I would immediately attribute that to the fact that my last ride of over 50 miles was over four months ago, back in August. Also, as one of the LA Wheelmen riders remarked before he sprinted away from me on PCH, “we all were in better shape four years ago.” Also, 2015 was my best cycling year ever. I rode a long-distance ride just about every weekend between March and August that year. Although I ride a bike just about every day, I simply don’t have the base miles.

However, I’m never one to obsess about PRs, and on this ride, I had a different goal. Because there’s not a lot of daylight this time of year, my principal concern was finishing before the 4:30 PM sunset. And that I did.

My lasting impression of this ride from 2016 was how hard the last twenty-five miles were due to the hills and the traffic. This year I sought to mitigate those challenges.

That first time, I didn’t expect the hills to be so challenging on PCH, and I didn’t gear down enough to give myself a chance. By the end of the ride, I was wiped out. For 2020, I made an effort to “respect” the hills. I geared down early and often, and I believe that made a difference. I wasn’t exhausted at the end of the ride.

As for the traffic, it was bad. The southbound side of PCH runs next to the oceanside of the roadway. Many beachgoers park in the shoulder, which is where I ride for most of the way. Also, many cars don’t move to the left to give me a bit of space; they just whizz past me at 50 MPH with inches to spare. After that happening once or twice, I started to take the lane when the shoulder was unavailable.

Getting Off My Butt, On the Saddle

My extended stay in Southern California comes to an end this week, as I return to New York late Thursday just in time to teach a Friday morning, film history class at Pratt. In terms of my own physical activity, it couldn’t come at a better time, as my Apple Watch is keen to remind me.


Ironically, I am significantly less active in the mild climes of Southern California than in the less hospitable December weather of New York.


Much of this is because I have been staying in the suburbs, and it’s been hard getting in any casual exercise, such as bike commuting or walking around the neighborhood. But it was unseasonably warm in New York this December… to the point where it was as warm on Christmas Eve as on Independence Day in 2015.

One way to mitigate my lack of daily physical activity is to plan and take some long-distance rides. This month, I rode two.

Seventy Miles in December

LA Wheelmen Ride to Santa Anita Canyon

Aside from some basic commuting-by-bicycle, I have been off my road bike for three weeks since I rode to Philadelphia with the New York Cycle Club, and as I’m still visiting family in Southern California for another week, I felt the urgent need to get on a bike. On Sunday, I rode with the LA Wheelmen from Alhambra Park east to the city of Upland for a seventy-mile loop to burn off some of my “holiday excess.”

LA Wheelmen: Santa Anita Canyon ride

The name of the LA Wheelmen club was a bit of a misnomer: we didn’t ride at all within the LA city limits, and there was more than one woman who rode with us. (Please note that I’m being sarcastic here.) The ride, called Santa Anita Canyon, was also misnamed as I don’t remember us stopping to admire a canyon. We did however stop at a Carl’s Jr for lunch, halfway through the ride, although it did seem like a long way to ride for an All-Natural Burger.

Normally, I hate eating a heavy lunch on a ride because we usually have hills to climb shortly afterward. But this club did things right. After lunch, we rode more or less downhill for the entire second half of the ride.

Santa Anita Canyon: First half up, second half down

In order to ride out here, I rented a green, 1990s-era Cannondale touring bike with finger tip shifters from Spinlister that I’ve dubbed the “Green Monster.” This bike is considerably heavier than my road bike, but it rides well, as you would expect from a touring bike. As I’m accustomed to riding a road bike, I had a some trouble adjusting to the 48t chainring. While it happens to be the same sized chainring as my single-speed bike, I didn’t really appreciate the difference a 53t chainring makes when I want to go fast.

But this is December, and who cares if I can’t pedal a bike faster than 17 MPH. It was a treat to ride seventy miles on a balmy (for me) and chilly (for them) Sunday along the San Gabriel Mountains with temperatures in the lower 50s. There were some nice climbs and decent views but, sadly, no beer stops.

Another funny difference with this group was how obsessed this group was with riding centuries. Like one a week…even in December. (They save the double and triple centuries for the warmer months.) They were a nice pleasant group and invited me to ride their Kick Off Century on New Years Day, which I was tempted to ride but ultimately decided to skip.

Of course, as is my custom, after finishing my ride, I was in search of a burger and a beer. As I browsed Twitter, I saw that Grill Em All, a celebrated food truck serving heavy metal–themed burgers, was doing a chicken wing special.

But I learned that they no longer get around on four wheels. They have a permanent store in…of all places…Alhambra. That was a mile and a half from where the Wheelmen finished their ride. My brother and nephew, who picked me up in Alhambra, met me at Grill Em All for a post-ride meal.

Grill Em All

Getting back to my parents’ house the next day was via a familiar way: commuter train.


Metrolink offers a pretty nice bike storage setup, allowing you to not only roll your bikes on board without a reservation but also to secure your bike with Velcro straps.

Riding out here with the group was a great way to test out bike riding in Southern California, and I look forward to doing more and more rides throughout my stay here.