Los Angeles’ famous beach bike path is a fantastic place to ride. Early in the morning and on weekdays, you can speed down to Redondo Beach, or just goofily re-create the opening from Three’s Company with your pals. Unfortunately, during prime time on the weekends, it can be as overcrowded and stressful as the 101 during rush hour, what with all the careless kiddies, distracted parents, and even bikers on cell phones. For riders looking for something more challenging that also provides plenty of natural beauty, these urban bike rides should get you pumping.
RIDE NO. 1
Name: The Entire Length of Mulholland Drive.
Directions: Begin at Mulholland and the 101, ride west, and end at the Pacific Ocean. At the end, head north a little toward the county line for some good eating.
Length: 55 miles.
Difficulty: Some hard, some easy. The seven and one-half miles of dirt Mulholland and the climb up to Encinal Canyon Road will get your attention; the last 10 miles, all downhill to the ocean, is a nice payoff.
Reward: Cold beer and fried shrimp at Neptune’s Net on PCH.
Tip: Have a pal pick you up at the end.
RIDE NO. 2
Name: Sullivan Canyon to Camp Josepho.
Directions: Start at the beginning of dirt Mulholland above Encino. After one and three-fourths miles, turn left through the gate. Go down Sullivan Canyon; at mile five and one-fourth, go right down the paved road to Camp Josepho. Now turn around and go back uphill to your car.
Length: Loop is 12 and three-fourths miles.
Difficulty: 1,300 feet elevation loss, 1,300 feet elevation gain, mostly on fire roads.
Reward: You get to see lots of bugs and coyotes. Greenbelt view.
Tip: No drinking water, so be sure to bring your own.
RIDE NO. 3
Name: Climb Mount Olympus.
Directions: From Laurel Canyon Boulevard/Mount Olympus, go uphill; cars will pass you in disbelief. People may stop and applaud you.
Length: One mile.
Difficulty: Average grade 13.2 percent — that’s a little steep.
Reward: Sort of a burning feeling in your legs, and you get to see some garish ?architecture.
Tip: Do it without stopping.
RIDE NO. 4
Name: L.A. to San Diego.
Directions: Start at the bike trail at Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, go south. You’re on PCH (some bike lane, but mostly not) and bike trail mostly. Ask Auto Club for TripTik route.
Length: About 140 miles; eight to 15 hours, depending on stops.
Difficulty: You’ll be a little tired afterward. Sleep well, and demand red meat on arrival.
Reward: A feeling of exhilaration, and you get to brag for years afterward.
Tip: Keep eating; keep drinking; make no jokes about bombs or war when entering Camp Pendleton.
RIDE NO. 5
Name: Acura L.A. Bike Tour XII (March 19).
Directions: Start by USC in the dark (Exposition Boulevard and Menlo Avenue; Sunday, March 19, 5:45 a.m.; $35 registration; 310-444-5544); go clockwise with everybody else.
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Length: About 21 miles.
Difficulty: Pretty easy ride. Watch out for kids and slow, inexperienced riders, who will try to knock you down.
Reward: Free bike swag at the Quality of Life Expo at the Convention Center (see Events for details) beforehand.
Tip: Get near the front of the crowd and start fast. It will thin out quickly up there.?