Bike Culture: Want to Ride?

Where to sample some of the city’s best organized rides
Photograph by Dustin Snipes

A day doesn’t go by in L.A. during which there isn’t an organized bike excursion going on. Some are more raucous than others, but in general the crowds are friendly and the skills and stamina required are minimal. Group rides often involve at least a little unlawfulness, as riders at the back of the pack tend to ride through ride lights while fellow riders block traffic in order to keep the group together. In Santa Monica, the police have been known to issue dozens of tickets during Critical Mass, homing in on those who fail to stop at red lights but also issuing tickets to people whose bicycles aren’t in compliance with the law. For the tamest rides, choose one scheduled during daylight hours.

This Westside party ride may be the rowdiest of the big events. There’s a fair amount of drinking and pot smoking, but plenty of people abstain, too. It meets at 9:30 on the first Saturday after the third Friday of the month at Sawtelle Boulevard and La Grange Avenue. Participants cover little ground, hanging out more than they actually pedal; go for the party, not the exercise.

Critical Mass 
Though Critical Mass got rolling with a political agenda—to take back the streets from cars—local rides seem more social than activist. Several take place in the county, and while there are people who help organize, Critical Mass is leaderless by design. Central L.A. Critical Mass meets at Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue on the last Friday of the month at 7 p.m., and can attract a couple of hundred people. There’s a lot of overlap with the Midnight Ridazz crowd (see below), but Critical Mass is more sober-minded, in part because it begins during rush hour. Expect to ride at least 12 miles at a leisurely pace. San Fernando Valley Critical Mass takes place on the first Tuesday of the month, meeting at Victory Boulevard and Woodley Avenue at 7:30 p.m. in Van Nuys by the racks along Orange Line Bike Path. Santa Monica Critical Mass has shifted from monthly to weekly gatherings as the Santa Monica Police have cracked down on cyclists running red lights and—from the police department’s perspective—disrupting automobile traffic. It meets on Friday at the Santa Monica Pier at 6:30.

Los Angeles Wheelmen 
The city’s oldest recreational bicycle club organizes (daytime) rides all around the city for various skill levels. Put on your spandex, bring your road bike, and be prepared to exert yourself; newcomers are welcome to sample a couple of rides before joining the club. The Wheelmen’s site also features handy bits on repairs, the law, and other clubs.

Midnight Ridazz 
Whether you want to go on a bar crawl, a nocturnal endurance ride, or a architecture tour, the calendar on this site has the specifics you’ll need. If there’s a main Midnight Ridazz ride, it would be the one that meets on the second Friday of the month. To know where, though, you have to go to and check the extensive calendar. After gathering at 9:30, people get rolling at about 10 pm, when the streets are fairly free of traffic. Rides can go on for 18 miles, but the pace is slow, the atmosphere easygoing. The site’s photo gallery can be entertaining, too.

Urban Expeditions 
Along with its schedule of classes, C.I.C.L.E. organizes fun rides (including family-friendly “urban exploration” tours) geared toward newbies. The rides, held twice a month, are held by a pair of certified cycling instructors and are usually less than seven miles. Each ride covers a different precinct of the city. One might start at Union Station, another at a park in the Arroyo. 323-478-0060 or e-mail them.