As we wind up May “bike month” in Beverly Hills, the cycling trend shows no signs of slowing down. Since the pandemic, there has been an increase in bicycling, not just for recreational fun and exercise but also for transportation. It’s economical, eco-friendly and in L.A. traffic, might even be more efficient.
The Beverly Hills Bike Share program was launched in May of 2016 with 50 smart bikes and several stations throughout the City. As part of the Bike Share Connect network with the City of Santa Monica and UCLA, members can ride free for an unlimited amount of 90 minute trips. Additional steps are being taken at this time to sanitize the fleet of bicycles and minimize the spread of COVID-19.
“We continue to develop a framework for programs and projects to make navigating the city easier, more enjoyable and more equitable across all modes: walking, bicycling, riding transit and driving,” Deputy Director of Transportation, Aaron Kunz, told the Courier.
The City is developing a “Beverly Hills Mobility” webpage that will soon provide pedestrian-bicycle education materials and resources to navigate the City using different modes of transportation, added Kunz.
The local business community has embraced the biking trend with enthusiasm.
Local jeweler and cycling connoisseur, Rafi Avedissian owns a collection of bikes. His top pick is a Colnago, known as the “Ferrari of bikes.” Other high-end bikes in his repertoire include an Argon 18 for shorter distances, and a Cannondale with WE wireless shifting by FSA for long distances.
“I bike three to four times a week early in the morning in the hills from Hillcrest, Loma Vista and Carla Ridge,” he told the Courier. On the weekend, Avedissian takes a long-distance jaunt 4.5 hours to Palos Verdes using surface street routes. Along for the ride is local restaurateur Giacomino Drago as well as Claudio Marra from Full Speed Ahead and Vision, who makes premier bike wheels in Milan. Other popular bike trails for enthusiasts include the Santa Monica mountains, PCH, Latigo Canyon and Topanga to Calabasas.
For many cycling enthusiasts, it’s not simply about the ride. The latest gear, from shoes to socks, gloves, helmets and even sunglasses, is also important. Rapha in Santa Monica is a great place to score the latest bike-wear for men and women. Once you look the part, head to Giant on Main Street in Santa Monica for race and gravel mountain bikes. The shop has recently seen an uptick in hybrid or fitness-hybrid bikes which are traditional road bikes, but with an upright handlebar. Prices range from between $450 to $1,000. This increase in demand is due to the popular shift in cycling for commuting since COVID-19.
For something more low-key, Helen’s Cycles in Santa Monica is the perfect place to buy a “cruiser” for the local bike path. There is also an uptick in the folding bike market. “They are apartment, office and elevator friendly for urban riders and no longer viewed as a quirky invention that is rickety or flimsy –just a cool bike that you can go for a ride on,” said Steve Boyd, North America General Manager at Tern Bicycles in Long Beach. Folding bikes in acoustic versions range from $400 to $ 2,500 and electric options will set you back from $2,000 to $6,000.
As for the surge in electrical or e-bikes, “Folks are getting older or have injuries but still want to ride or are commuting,” said Boyd. And, while everyone wants to get to work and get in a work-out, no one wants to arrive in a full sweat at the next board meeting.
For commuter safety, it’s hard to believe you are not required by law to wear a helmet, even navigating rush-hour traffic, (unless you are under 18-years-old in California), but Boyd recommends buying a smart tested and certified brand from Giro, Abus, Nutcase, or L.A.-based Thousand.
Boyd tells his customers to break in the bicycle seat for a few weeks before going the upgrade or custom route. “Specialty level bikes – not one that you buy at a retailer like Walmart –come with a good saddle, so big, wide or soft it doesn’t matter, it will take time to break in,” he said. “And you won’t want a bounce tractor seat with a sheepskin cover if you ride a lot as it will end up causing friction and making the ride worse.”
“Recreational cycling with your family is booming right now but high-performance racing is not,” added Boyd. “With the pandemic, retailers are having a hard time supplying modest bikes for tooling around the neighborhood because everyone wants to get out and do it.”