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Want to see L.A. up close and personal? Join a group bike ride

Bicyclists ride along a hillside dirt path.
Cyclists from the Total Trash Cycling Club ride up the Verdugo Mountains. The group’s name is an homage to Sonic Youth.
(Los Angeles Times illustration; photo by Michael Charboneau)
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Editor’s note: The Wild is all about featuring a variety of exciting voices from SoCal’s outdoors scene. Currently that voice belongs to Michael Charboneau, a freelance gear writer who lives in West L.A. When he’s not writing, you can find him running up to the Baldwin Hills Overlook, hiking in Angeles National Forest or cruising Dirt Mulholland on his beloved vintage mountain bike, Stu Pickles.

Riding a bike in Los Angeles is an act of defiance — against car culture, against endless sprawl, against bike lanes that disappear without warning and against gaping potholes. But on the best days, riding a bike is a pure joy. And I’ve found that you can get even more out of those moments with this one easy trick: Ride your bike with other people.

A biking group rides through a city block.
(Michael Charboneau)
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My intro to group riding came thanks to Total Trash Cycling Club (the name is an homage to Sonic Youth, one of the club founders’ favorite bands). I first discovered the group on Instagram, and I was intrigued by its videos of riders exploring trails around L.A., its all-are-welcome vibe and its members’ love for restored ‘80s and ‘90s mountain bikes — exactly what I ride. (Meet: Stu Pickles.) I joined my first ride with the group last spring, and it was a blast: The group was super friendly, and we explored some primo, new-to-me singletrack (a narrow dirt trail about the width of a bike) around Cherry Canyon Park in Glendale.

I recently joined another Total Trash ride, and I was reminded of how fulfilling and fun riding with other people can be. When I ride solo on L.A. streets, I’m painfully aware of how exposed I am and how easily a distracted driver can crush me. But while surrounded by a mass of riders, I felt safe and empowered. Our big crowd stood out so drivers couldn’t ignore us, and gliding along the street in a group helped me relax and soak in my surroundings in a way I never could riding solo, let alone from inside a car. I noticed brightly painted storefronts; I could smell meat cooking at a taco stand and hear people chatting outside bustling restaurants. I felt like I was part of the city rather than just moving through it.

The ride took us up into the Verdugo Mountains. And when we finally rolled onto some dirt, it was thrilling. Aside from my own adrenaline rush from riding a new trail, I loved watching other cyclists navigate the twists and turns, and talking with them about the ride at the bottom of the hill made the whole experience more vivid.

A biking group rides along a dirt path
(Michael Charboneau)

Of course, Total Trash is just one of many cycling clubs in Los Angeles. No matter where or how you like to ride, there’s a cycling group for you. The Mixed Race, for example, is a longstanding meetup that holds speedy road rides every Thursday in West L.A. (routes change with every ride, but they generally cover around 30 miles). Every Friday, Highland Park’s Allez LA bike shop hosts group rides showcasing all kinds of terrain. One recent ride took participants on a mixed-surface route past Lake Hollywood and up to the Hollywood sign for panoramic views of the city. For a beginner-friendly option, try one of the weekly Family Rides hosted by the Los Angeles Bike Academy and We Major. These rides often include a stretch along the paved Ballona Creek Trail, which gives you the chance to enjoy peaceful pedaling away from car traffic. And that’s just a sampling. You can browse a comprehensive calendar of open rides in L.A. that Trash Panda Cycling and Mobility for Who have put together; there are events happening all over the city almost every day of the week.

Pump up those tires, grab your helmet and get out there: Meeting other cyclists and experiencing the city at pedaling speed is always worth it.

A wiggly line break

3 things to do

Folks stand near a sign at a publicly accessible trail.
(Tanya Caycedo / Cougar Conservancy)
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1. Tour a wildlife crossing-in-progress in Agoura Hills.
In honor of P-22’s memory, see the construction site of what’s soon to be one of the largest wildlife crossings in the world. Docents for the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing will be giving multiple educational tours alongside the southern side of its construction site from 8 a.m. to noon Sunday. You’ll have the chance to learn more about how the crossing will work, the local species it will protect and other ways to co-exist with wildlife . The event is free and open to the public, and you can reserve a spot at eventbrite.com.

2. Commune with the birds in Sun Valley.
Ever wondered how to identify the feathered friends chirping outside your window? Check out Diego Blanco’s “Birding in the Garden” class. This “experiential walk and talk” through the Theodore Payne Foundation’s gardens will introduce you to local birds, their migratory patterns and their primary food sources. The two-hour event starts at 8:30 a.m. Saturday and costs $20 for members, and $25 for nonmembers. Grab tickets at eventbrite.com.

3. Take a mini President’s Day field trip in Conejo Valley.
The nature guide group Hawks LA is offering a day-long outdoor hike for kids on Presidents Day that includes games, nature journaling and fairy house building. Your child will receive the gift of an outdoor classroom, and you, a rare moment of peace and quiet. The day camp runs from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 19 and costs $125 per student. Sign up at hisawyer.com.

A wiggly line break

The must-read

A piano lies in the middle of Caribou Lane as workers investigate a home pushed off its foundation by a mudslide
Los Angeles, CA - Feb. 5: A grand piano lies upside down in the middle of Caribou Lane while So Cal Gas workers investigate a Beverly Crest home that was pushed off its foundation by a mudslide early Monday morning near Beverly Glen Boulevard.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

How about all that rain last week? The storm was a real monster. It dumped more than eight inches of rain in Culver City, near where I live, and mountainous areas received even more — Bel Air recorded more than 13 inches and Topanga Canyon saw more than 14 inches. Yet it wasn’t a surprise: As The Times’ Rong-Gong Lin II reports, meteorologists were largely accurate in their warnings about the storm. Weather in California is a study in extremes, and predicting it is no easy task; Lin’s article does a great job of explaining how forecasters were able to determine how the storm would behave before it hit L.A.

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Happy adventuring,

Signature for Michael Charboneau

P.S.

I frequently test and write about running shoes, and one pair has stood out for me lately: The New Balance Fresh Foam X 1080 v13. It’s a well-cushioned running shoe that’s made with an exceptionally soft midsole foam, and it feels super plush and comfy underfoot. I’ve really enjoyed wearing my test pair for easy, mellow runs around my neighborhood. If your current shoes are worse for wear and you want a pillowy ride for your next jog, I highly recommend you grab a pair (they retail for $165 and are available at New Balance and other retailers).

For more insider tips on Southern California’s beaches, trails and parks, check out past editions of The Wild. And to view this newsletter in your browser, click here.

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