Some people trash Los Angeles for being a gridlocked, immobile city whose masses crawl, like a vast trapped animal, east-west and north-south in a rush-hour shaped like a crucifix that consumes nearly 10 hours of the 24-hour clock.
The truth is, Los Angeles speeds. It flies and whips. It bombs the hills and rips down the lines and it skitters to a stop just for fun. The demon bicyclists kick things off with huge group rides after the traffic dies off and people head for bed. One of their biggest badass biking groups is called Midnight Ridazz. A bit later on, the illegal street racers meet in their souped-up older imports, using the broad silent roadways like Victory and Slauson as race tracks (which we don't condone, you dangerous, slobbering idiots). They're followed by the surfers, already bobbing on the saltwater by 8 a.m. each morning, and out there fully 120 days per year, according to a detailed survey by Surfrider Foundation and Surf-First. Then, as the sun dips toward the west, the skateboarders get out of school — or bed — and bomb the hills.
Whatever your choice of transport, you should know the six coolest spots in Los Angeles to outfit your need for speed. And apparently, that's a bottomless well — the Surfrider survey says the average surfer earns a respectable $75,000 a year and owns four surfboards.
Best Surf Shop
For mysterious reasons, the landlocked San Fernando Valley is home to the best surf shop in Los Angeles. Val Surf has been around since 1962, serving the Valley's demand for surfboards, skateboards and snowboards. Pretty much anyone can afford the first two, making them a perfect fit for America's suburb, and both lines of business are still going strong. Snowboarding — a more expensive hobby — has taken a hit the last few winters due to the lack of snow on the mountains. Val Surf also carries a lot of apparel. According to the store's president, Mark Richards, the margins on clothing are what keep the store in business. The store offers surf shoes, flip-flops, board shorts, sun hats and more. The company prides itself on its credibility within the surfing, snowboarding and skateboarding communities. It boasts that there is always an expert in each of those pursuits on the floor to help customers make the right decision.
4810 Whitsett Ave., Valley Village, 91607. (818) 769-6977. And in Woodland Hills, Thousand Oaks and Valencia. valsurf.com.
Best Place to Get Ready to Shred on the Sidewalk
Skateboarding is a confounding puzzle for those of us who lack that elusive, seemingly magical sense of balance and coordination. For those who take to boarding with the ease of a duck in water, the sport must be very freeing. But even a non-natural skater knows that if you wanna shred on a board, you've got to have a skateboard that you love. That's where the right store comes in. East Hollywood's Blury, named after the effects on your vision from smoking too much chronic, has gained an air-tight reputation from local young boarders for its killer selection, straight-up, no-bull customer service and very low prices. Laid-back owners Chris and Jack stock Primitive, Plan B, Chocolate and Skate Mafia lines, and they carry penny boards and long boards and also have some rad T-shirts and fixed-gear bikes. And at these gas prices, boards get incredibly good mileage.
4884 Fountain Ave., East Hollywood, 90029. (323) 603-7401,bluryshop.com.
Best Low-Cost Bike Shop
Coco’s Variety Store
What started as an all-purpose variety store has evolved into L.A.'s go-to spot for reasonably priced used bikes. Coco's Variety Store doesn't just flip bikes, it rebuilds them from scratch and sells them with a warranty. Owner Peter Vermeren has 25 years of experience as a garage-sale picker, which he uses to prowl the city and hand-select only the highest quality frames. He only rehabs those he can stand behind, so the shop's fleet of $200 to $500 used cycles, which includes many Treks and Specializeds, is rock solid all the way through. Coco's also is a certified dealer of new, and relatively cheap, Linus and Bianchi bikes. Coco's once was known for its Prada-logoed marquee, which was changed this year to a wild mash-up of dazzle ship camouflage and world championship cycling ribbon designs, painted by Jason Filipow.
2427 Riverside Drive, Silver Lake, 90039. (323) 664-7400, http://cocosvariety.com.
Best Bicycle Shop
Golden Saddle Cyclery
Whether you're an everyday bike commuter, a weekend trail warrior or the occasional CicLAvia participant, you need a good set of wheels. The friendly and knowledgeable staff at Golden Saddle Cyclery have you covered, and won't get all snooty if you don't know your stuff. Kyle Kelley and Thomas "Woody" Wood left Orange 20 Bikes to start their own shop with Ty Hathaway in 2011. Tell them your price range and what you need: road, cyclo-cross, fixie, mountain or touring bike. They'll fit you to find the correct frame size and help you pick the right bike from their well-curated selection, or they'll build it themselves. You can also get your trusty two-wheeler tuned up or find locks, helmets, lights, saddles and U.S.-made apparel from Swrve, Poler, Cadence and other top brands. If you need inspiration, the shop's blog follows the employees' envy-inducing bike travels.
1618 Lucile Ave, Silver Lake, 90026. (323) 661-1174, goldensaddlecyclery.com.
Best Selection of Used Japanese Car Engines
Soken Trade Corporation
It's nice to know a trustworthy mechanic, but sometimes your car needs more than a quick fix. The next time your Civic's engine explodes on the 110, make your way to Soken Trade Corporation. Tucked away in a warehouse/garage space in North Hollywood, this shop sells used motors and transmissions for various Toyota, Nissan, Honda and Acura models. The products are all made in Japan, and the engines are moderately used and reasonably priced, with 40,000 to 50,000 miles on them. The sales staff are all business, but they offer warranties, free deliveries and the phone number of a dependable neighborhood mechanic who can do the installation. Best of all, you're free to peruse hundreds of these hulking mechanical contraptions sitting on the showroom floor and hand-pick the one most to your liking.
12055 Sherman Way, N. Hollywood, 91605. (818) 756-5333, www.sknengines.com.
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Best Auto Salvage Yard
LKQ Pick Your Part
If you have an older car whose "recycled" parts cost you as much as dinner at Bestia, you'd be amazed how easy it is to remove, rather than install, an auto part yourself. Take your tools, gloves and sunscreen and head to LKQ Pick Your Part in Sun Valley, a huge DIY salvage yard in the wastelands of the north San Fernando Valley. It's a treasure hunt in which most hunters are Latino mechanics. The selection is haphazard, so check the inventory list online to be sure they've got that 1980s Audi before you cough up the $4 "premium" fee to access the rare-car side. The cars are set up like operating room patients, a few feet in the air, so you can extract things from underneath and safely clamber inside to rip out seats — or entire doors. Be sure to look at those price lists at the front entry — not every item is a bargain.
11201 Pendleton, Sun Valley, 91352. (800) 962-2277, http://www.lkqpickyourpart.com/locations/LKQ_Pick_Your_Part_-_Sun_Valley-263/.