Australian Mountain Bike - - Contents - TEXT: HANS REY PHO­TOS: BILL FREEMAN

What do you get when you cross two moun­tain bike su­per­stars, a world-fa­mous mu­si­cian and a big lap of one of the world’s largest cities? A pretty good ride!

South­ern Cal­i­for­nia has been my home for more than 30 years, af­ter trav­el­ling to over 70 dif­fer­ent coun­tries and rid­ing my bikes in many re­mote cor­ners of this world I thought it was time to ex­plore my own hood - with a cou­ple of moun­tain bik­ing Rock Stars.

Missy Giove is one of the great­est le­gends the sport, she had a huge in­flu­ence help­ing to shape moun­tain bike rac­ing in the 90s, her at­ti­tude and rac­ing style made her one of the most out­stand­ing char­ac­ters in moun­tain bik­ing. Her child-like en­thu­si­asm and naivety can mask the deep think­ing and in­tel­li­gent per­son un­der­neath. A mo­tor-mouth than can talk a 100 words a minute that re­veals a per­son­al­ity as colour­ful as the tat­toos that cover her body. Missy is fear­less, ad­dicted to speed and some­times reck­less, with no fear of bro­ken bones; this might ex­plain a lit­tle as to how she has ended up in some sticky sit­u­a­tions in her life.

Timmy C (Tim Com­mer­ford) has been a long­time friend and hard­core moun­tain biker, he is the bas­sist for bands like ‘Rage Against the Ma­chine’, ‘Prophets of Rage’ and ‘Au­dioslave’. He grew up around L.A. and has more pas­sion and en­thu­si­asm for bikes than many pro bik­ers I have met over the years.

We set out on the top of Mount Wil­son just east of L.A. in the San Gabriel Moun­tains and were head­ing to­ward Catalina Is­land in the Pa­cific Ocean. We de­cided to mix it up be­tween reg­u­lar moun­tain bikes and e-MTBs. We had a sup­port ve­hi­cle, cour­tesy of Stans, that made it easy for us to ne­go­ti­ate this ur­ban jun­gle that is home to 12 mil­lion peo­ple and even more cars. Less than 150 years ago most of the city was just as some of the sur­round­ing ar­eas look to­day. One of my all-time fa­vorite rides is Chantry Flats near Mount Wil­son, to ride there with Missy was spe­cial. The for­mer World Champ and World Cup win­ner still had the same go-for-it style and at­ti­tude on or off the bike de­spite barely touch­ing one since re­tir­ing. As she doesn’t even own a bike at the mo­ment I was happy to sup­ply her with some of mine dur­ing this trip. Mount Wil­son Ob­ser­va­tory has an in­cred­i­ble view across the en­tire city all the way to Catalina Is­land where we would fin­ish our tra­verse in a few days’ time. Right be­hind us, look­ing over our shoul­ders, was not a sin­gle struc­ture in sight as far the eye could see. Beau­ti­ful forests, canyons, moun­tain ridges, rivers, wa­ter­falls and wildlife sep­a­rate La La Land and the desert. Its easy to get lost in these moun­tains; the sin­gle­track is world-class and of­ten tech­ni­cal. Be­sides snakes and bears we had to keep an eye out for poi­son oak plants. Touch­ing its leaves or branches will give a nasty rash that itches for days to the point of in­san­ity. The trails can be tech­ni­cal and ex­posed at sec­tions like the 80 feet water­fall tra­verse, when a mis­take can have fa­tal con­se­quences. We spent the night in Pasadena from where we started the next morn­ing, stage 2, on e-MTBs to­wards Down­town. Missy and I were joined by Timmy C and Tony Z, a friend of mine from La­guna who in­spired the ur­ban stages of this trip and has an in­cred­i­ble knowl­edge of all the neigh­bor­hoods, parks, river deltas, stair­cases and short­cuts. His route let us ex­pe­ri­ence the con­trasts of rich and poor, na­ture and ur­ban de­vel­op­ment, his­tory and cul­ture.

The e-MTB was per­fect. Don’t be mis­taken, we got a work out. We climbed over 4000 feet that day in­clud­ing some re­ally steep ‘wi­dow maker’ climbs and stair­cases. Timmy launched a stair gap right at the be­gin­ning of our ride. He pulled it off and I was glad I didn’t have to re­port to his band mates (B-real and Chuck D to name a few) that their tour would be can­celled. Timmy is a very ex­pe­ri­enced moun­tain biker, he has been rid­ing for over 25 years. He takes his bike with him on tour when he trav­els with his bands, he has done the Leadville 100, Race Across Amer­ica and one year he clocked over 1mil­lion ver­ti­cal feet on Strava. What he re­ally likes are the tech­ni­cal chal­lenges, es­pe­cially climbs. Cer­tain sec­tions he would try over and over again un­til he would suc­ceed. He has also de­vel­oped a big in­ter­est in e-MTBs over the past years. Like my­self, Timmy doesn’t feel that e-MTBs will re­place reg­u­lar moun­tain bikes, we think there is a time and place for both kinds of bikes. The elec­tric as­sist mo­tor of­fers a lot of new and unique ways to ex­pe­ri­ence rid­ing and cre­ates new op­tions on old routes. It was Missy’s first ex­pe­ri­ence on a e-MTB. She loves any kind of two-wheeled ma­chine and it didn’t take long for her to get loose on the GT eVerb. Shortly af­ter leav­ing the city lim­its of Pasadena we dropped into the Ar­royo Seco river bed and criss-crossed sev­eral neigh­bour­hoods to Mount Wash­ing­ton, for a bur­rito break. Right be­fore we got close to the cen­ter of L.A. we found a great trail high above the In­ter­state 5 Free­way near Dodger Sta­dium. From Ra­dio Hill we dropped down to China Town but first we had to tra­verse some sketchy home­less ar­eas. As dan­ger­ous as it can be for subur­ban folks on ex­pen­sive bikes it was more shock­ing and sad to see the amount of poverty in this glam­orous city. Next to free­ways, un­der bridges, in parks and in some ar­eas like ‘Skid Row’, en­tire city blocks have makeshift shel­ters and tents on the foot­paths. Many have their few pos­ses­sions stashed in ‘bor­rowed’ shop­ping carts all in the shad­ows of mod­ern sky­scrapers that tower over the maze of streets. We saw many cool land­marks along the ride, like the Bruce Lee Statue in China Town, we

blitzed through the Bon­aven­ture Ho­tel and World Trade Cen­ter, couldn’t re­sist the stair­case in front of the Walt Dis­ney Con­cert Hall or leav­ing some skid-marks (with our rear tyres) on ‘Skid Row’. A nasty crash re­minded me that I wasn’t 20 years old any­more and that I wasn’t on my tri­als bike, luck­ily I could limp away with just pain and some bruises.

L.A. is also a culi­nary ex­pe­ri­ence, with food, restau­rants and mar­kets from all over the world. Los An­ge­les as a city has an enor­mous eco­nomic im­pact on the en­tire world, the econ­omy in this city is big­ger than Saudi Ara­bia, Switzer­land and Swe­den.

Day Three started at the Grif­fith Ob­ser­va­tory with breath­tak­ing views across the city. Once again we were on e-MTBs, our goal was to fin­ish this stage

at the Santa Mon­ica Pier. We passed the world fa­mous ‘Hol­ly­wood’ Sign, as­saulted the stair­cases of the in­fa­mous Hol­ly­wood Bowl, slalomed around the 2500 Hol­ly­wood Stars on Hol­ly­wood Boule­vard, rode up to Mul­hol­land and sam­pled some dirt trails at Franklin Canyon Park be­fore pop­ping out amongst the man­sions of the rich and fa­mous in Bev­erly Hills. Even­tu­ally we ped­alled all the way to the Bay­watch (or shall I say Pa­cific Blue) beaches of Santa Mon­ica. No bet­ter day than a week­end to wit­ness the crazi­ness along the fa­mous beach prom­e­nade of Venice Beach and the Santa Mon­ica Pier with all its artists, mu­si­cians, trav­ellers, ath­letes, dancers and freaks of na­ture.

Back on our nor­mal bikes we hit Timmy’s home­trails in the Santa Mon­ica Moun­tains on Day Four. We rode a long sec­tion of the Back­bone Trails

that tra­verse these moun­tains high above Mal­ibu. From Yerba Buena we ped­alled all the way past Pep­per­dine Uni­ver­sity on pris­tine sin­gle­track through re­mote back­coun­try, canyons, val­leys and along panoramic ridge lines high above the ocean. It was ex­tremely windy and the fire dan­ger was very high, es­pe­cially af­ter there had been sev­eral big fires in the area in re­cent weeks. We were lucky we were even al­lowed on those trails dur­ing that dan­ger­ous time.

Missy was rid­ing one of my old Sen­sor bikes and I was on a GT Force, while Timmy rode his all moun­tain bike. We had some

good laughs, it was a long day and a proper day on moun­tain bikes, this tour can be highly rec­om­mended. The last trail was a des­cent along a knife-edge ridge with the dark blue ocean get­ting closer with ev­ery turn.

We had an early morn­ing start from the ma­rina where we met a friend with ben­e­fits, who owns a beau­ti­ful yacht, which we took across the wa­ters to Catalina Is­land. Catalina Is­land is 22-miles long, 95% of it is a na­ture con­ser­vancy and it’s al­most as pris­tine as a 100 years ago. It of­fers an abun­dance of wildlife in­clud­ing foxes and bi­son, which were set out in the 1960s when many Wild Western movies were shot on Catalina. There are two small towns on the is­land and hardly any cars. Af­ter a beau­ti­ful 1.5-hour boat trip on our lux­ury yacht we an­chored at the small set­tle­ment of Two Har­bors, along the way we got to see whales and hun­dreds of dol­phins. Since Catalina is a na­ture pre­serve, it is only al­lowed to ride on fire-roads and one needs to buy a bik­ing per­mit. There are some big hills across the is­land and un­for­tu­nately no le­gal ac­cess to trails there­fore we brought our e-MTBS. We came across some beau­ti­ful bays on the back­side of the is­land with clear blue wa­ter. We passed some ranches and a few other bik­ers, who were first not happy to get passed by e-MTBs, un­til they test rode my bike which changed their con­cept and at­ti­tude in­stantly.

Be­fore we em­barked on our fi­nal des­cent into Avalon on the other end of the is­land we opted to add on an ex­tra loop high above the town on the Di­vide Road. Catalina was once owned by the Wrigley (chew­ing gum) fam­ily, who do­nated most of it to the Catalina Is­land Con­ser­vancy to pro­tect these beau­ti­ful lands for the fu­ture. Avalon is a pop­u­lar tourist desti­na­tion, it feels like a dif­fer­ent world al­though it’s only 25 miles off the coast of one of the big­gest cities in the world. As mat­ter of fact on a clear day I can see the is­land from my bed­room at home. It was the per­fect way to dis­cover this metropo­lis and ex­pe­ri­ence many ‘off the beaten track’ ar­eas, trails and hoods of Los An­ge­les and sur­rounds.

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