TRANS ANGELES WITH HANS REY
A MOUNTAIN BIKE LAP OF THE BIG SMOKE
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.