Sipping drinks in a rooftop bar overlooking Los Angeles while chatting to filmmakers is about as glamorous as cycle touring gets.
The scene was in stark contrast to a few hours earlier when we turned up dirty and sweaty on the doorstep of our new friends Dom and Nadia, after cycling 33 hot miles from Leo Carillo State Beach campground.
The ride through Malibu and into Santa Monica led us along golden beaches thronged with beautiful people playing volleyball, surfing, sunbathing and generally looking like extras in an episode of Baywatch.
After a much needed shower and a meal of the best barbecue chicken we have ever eaten, we found ourselves looking out over the LA skyline at night from the roof terrace of a hotel bar, toasting our good fortune.
But just because we were in a city didn’t mean the cycling stopped as we spent the next five days riding 150 miles exploring Hollywood, Venice Beach, Downtown, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and much more.
We’d been warned about the dangers of riding in LA but if you’re willing to put up with some traffic, the wide straight roads make it easy if a little tiring. And if you’re a Pacific Coast Highway rider just passing through the city, you can stick to the off-road beach bike path for much of the way.
Our third night in LA was spent with Ding, a cyclist we’d met on the road a few days before who kindly let us stay at his apartment near Downtown. The following the day we pedalled city bike paths and coasted along iconic beaches as we made our way to Huntington Beach in the south of the city, where we’d planned to meet a friend of Dom and Nadia’s for lunch.
In less than the time it takes to share a pitcher of beer, Taryn became a firm friend and we spent an afternoon eating and drinking outside amid the throngs of surfers, beach babes and posers of populating the area.
Taryn also generously said we could stay at her apartment and asked us along to watch the band Phish at the Hollywood Bowl the following night. The show was fantastic. The outdoor collosseum-style venue, overlooked by the Hollywood sign, was a cauldron of sound and light drawing energy from a rhythmic mass of bodies lost in the euphoria of music.
It was an incredible night and the perfect way to sign off our stay in LA. We’d only scheduled two days to get across the city but thanks to the warmth and generosity of new friends we spent five wonderful days getting to know Los Angeles.
Being a cycle tourist is a magical thing. More so than other forms of travel it allows the spontaneity of new friendships and generosity to thrive. We materialise into people’s lives with nothing more than a few good stories to tell and a curiosity about their world. This, along with the fact we possess and need very little, helps breakdown social barriers and fosters trust and kindness. The bicycle is a wonderful way to travel.