My First Bike Ride On A road

An English Man In Santa Monica

There could be better places in the world to have your first bike ride on the road, but I cannot think of many.

I was in Santa Monica, a suburb of Los Angeles, for business and to visit my eldest son, Connor, who lives there.

Everyone has ridden bikes when we were younger, though very few of us are on the road. Although I vaguely remember a proficiency badge for riding aimlessly around the schoolyard. Not sure that counts, though.

In a strange twist, the closest I came was when I lived and worked a few miles from Santa Monica a few years ago in Manhattan Beach. I used to cycle each weekend along the boulevard. Never thought once about going on the roads.

However, I must first tell you a fantastic story of how I got to this moment in my life; an epic event transpired that gave me hope that there are some great people in the world.

Some People Have A Good Heart.

I did not plan on travelling to the USA, but unfortunately, I had no choice, and despite the cost and at relatively short notice, I planned my trip. Always happy to see Connor, but this was terrible timing. It won’t be a long trip, but a week is still long.

Given my planned exploits of Tour 21, I could not afford to miss any training, and though I had been riding my spin bike in the garage to get my fitness up,  I wanted to get out on the roads. Without a doubt, I am still very nervous about this and will not go out in bad weather, especially on my first few rides.

After all, I have never clipped into the pedals on a real bike other than in the kitchen at home, and that didn’t go too well.

Additionally, I moved house recently, which caused even more disruption to my training. It disrupted absolutely everything.

I am ticking a few boxes, though, and now I have a training program to enlighten everyone in another blog.

Therefore, after speaking with Connor, he gave me the name of a local bike shop that one of his friends recommended for a rental.

So, armed with the name of a store, Helens Cycles in Santa Monica, I checked out their website and found out that they rented bikes. However, this would cost close to $400. I had looked at other options before being given this one, and it is expensive to rent bikes. After all, you are in a beach area, sunshine all year, and it’s just good business.

Consequently, I decided to send their manager, Adam, an email explaining my situation, the charity bike ride I was undertaking and whether they would ‘sponsor’ me a bike for the week. Amazingly, he replied, trust me, lots of people don’t.

A man of few words wrote back, “Unfortunately, I cannot loan bikes out; that being said, I can, though, loan you my bike. I want you to ride.”

What a guy. He was willing to lend me his own bike, having never even met me.

So, when I arrived in Santa Monica, after checking in at the hotel, I headed straight to the shop and picked up my bike and helmet as I had forgotten to take one. They also put the pedals which I had requested on for good measure. Adam did ask.

Cycling is Hard, and I Don’t Bounce

The next day, I took the monumental step of heading on my bike straight to the road from the hotel to downtown, and fortunately for me, there were lots of cycle lanes. Well done, Santa Monica and surrounding areas; it’s great to see.

So, it’s important to remember I have never ridden on roads. I had never ridden in ‘Cleats’ in this environment and clipped in and, honestly, was terrified.

But, needs must, and I was off and just wanted to get to the safety of the cycle path at the beach, where I would feel safer. I got as far as downtown Santa Monica, which impressed me, and no one had yet spotted that I was such a novice. However, this changed very quickly.

The lights changed to red in what can only be described as the busiest pedestrian crossing in Santa Monica, right opposite the famous Santa Monica Pier entrance. I pulled up and attempted to unclip my right leg. It has to be said without success. Suddenly, in something resembling a chimney falling over or a statue toppling THUD!! I hit the ground. Both feet are firmly clipped into the pedals, and hands are on the handlebars.

Now, and in my defence, apparently, in cycling, this is a right of passage, and everyone does it.

Hmm, really.

Like a ninja, I unclipped and got up. Ok, very close to a ninja. Several people enquired about my welfare, and my only reply was, “Well, at least I got a 9.5 from the judges.” I limped to the side. The good news is that the

bike never touched the floor. I had taken all of the fall on my knee, hip, shoulder and elbow.

I’m unsure what hurt more, my body or my pride; after all, I would have preferred a slightly quieter place to fall off.

Undeterred, in typical British stiff upper lip (and shame), I carried on and got some miles in. I thoroughly enjoyed my time out there in the sunshine. Cycling 22.57 miles along the path and without any more incidents.

The next day, I decided it was time to up the ante and go for an epic ride from Santa Monica to Palos Verdes and back. Heading along the Marvin Braude Bike Trail, a 22-mile paved bicycle path that runs right behind the Santa Monica Pier, connecting Santa Monica to other beach-side cities by trail. Absolutely brilliant. The scenery, the serenity, you name it, was marvellous and such a joy.

I could get used to this.

With the obligatory and much-needed coffee, stop throwing it in for good measure. It was getting tough by then, around the 30+ mile mark.

It is slightly terrifying, but a third of the ride is on the road; the rest are all cycle paths. I only fell off twice today, as well. Same thing, trying to unclip.

I realise I don’t bounce, and it bloody hurts. My hip, elbow and knee are incredibly painful and are beginning to become lovely shades of black and blue. It was all a good experience. Though a painful one.

The only thing that gets me through the day, though, is knowing that people are still dying of this horrible disease and that my riding in Tour 21 with the other riders and fundraising can make a difference. Therefore, I keep remembering why I am doing this and my journey. For this reason, I can take a few bumps and bruises. By the end of the day, I had completed 54.93 miles and riding in the saddle for well over 4 hours. But it was worth it.

Though in pain, I still managed to get one more ride in before returning the bike. Making sure I had a lovely bottle of red for Adam, I got his bike back in one piece, and I will always be grateful for what he did. It restored my faith in humanity.

Therefore, for anyone in the Santa Monica, Manhattan Beach area, or anywhere else. The shop is fantastic and is a sight to behold.

Pop in, tell Adam you read about him in my blog and tell him what a great guy he is.

Helen’s Cycles

Adam Lasky at, (310) 829-1836

Santa Monica location

2501 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA, 90404









(Adam is shy and declined to be in the photographs)

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