LA Weekend Adventure: Mountain Biking in Sullivan Canyon

posted by Adventure Pam
Monday, May 18, 2009 at 8:28pm EDT

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"Either ride or die - that's why I put it down for the Westside." - Westside - TQ

Looking for a leisurely mountain bike path through a shady forest glen without breaking your neck on boulders, and huffing and puffing up steep inclines?  Check out this Palisades trail on the West Side, and you too can experience the joy that is Sullivan Canyon.

The trail has a gentle slope up, and you don't have to get off and walk your bike every 10 minutes, or carry it over slippery rocks through a rushing river.

Despite the gradual incline up, the downhill is substantial enough for a thrilling ride back.  

On the way down, I was hopping rocks and tree roots, and dodging low-lying branches, all successfully.  I got cocky and misjudged a section of gravel and slipped.  I left behind some skin from my left arm and leg as I skid across the ground. Two guys stopped to ask if I was OK, and as I emptied my Nalgene on my wounds, I said shakily, "Oh I'm fine.  It's all part of the game."  Don't know what game I was playing exactly.  Perhaps the one where I think I'm impervious to danger.  

The challenge about the outdoors is that sometimes you're in an area where there's no running water, and that can make it harder to irrigate a wound.  I am so glad I had with me a product called InstaCloth.  It's a tiny, ultralight, tablet that becomes a cloth with a splash of water.  Not only is it handy because of its lightweight properties, but it's also desirable in certain circumstances because there aren't any weird additives on it.  Sometimes you just want a plain cloth to wipe away the dirt and pebbles embedded in your skin, and I'm grateful that I happened to have it with me when I took a spill.

Before you ride:The importance of getting a bike tune-upJust like a car, your bike needs to be road-worthy for safety.  Your cables have to be well-lubricated, your tires properly inflated, and your brakes have to function properly.  My buddies at Helen's Cycles Santa Monica will give you a proper tune-up with a 15% discount if you ask for the manager Tony, and tell them that Adventure Pam sent you.  

Mountain Biking EtiquetteBikers share the trails with hikers, families, dogs and horses.  There are a few rules bikers should follow to avoid injury, and to exercise common courtesy.  A hiker's or equestrian's angry letter can cause us to lose access to trails if we don't follow these simple rules:

  • Buy a bell and use it.  Before turns or passing others, a bell is a good way to alert hikers and fellow bikers to your presence.
  • Don't speed around blind turns.  The last time I was on this trail, two cyclists almost smacked into me head-on.  Slow down and announce yourself.   I know it's fun to ride downhill really fast, so do the trail early in the morning when there's very little traffic, and you won't have to stop and start as much on the way down.  I have squeaky breaks, so everyone knows when I'm approaching.  (I need a tune-up.)
  • When passing a hiker or a slower biker, announce your intention by shouting, "On your left!" so that they move out of the way.  If you are biking with a group, let the person know by saying, "2 more people behind me, etc."  Uphill has the right-of-way, and if a trail is too narrow to pass, you must yield to the hiker.
  • Yield to horses when approaching them from the front.  Horses are prey animals, and quick-approaching bicyclist may elicit a flight-or-fight response from the animal.  It's best to start talking to the rider when you see a horse, and get off your bike to let them pass.  You cannot predict if the horse has been socialized to bicycles, and you won't know the skill of the rider.  If you are coming up behind a horse, use your bell, but also use your voice.  Horses will recognize a human voice, and will know you're not a mountain lion coming up quickly behind them.  Once you've announced your presence to the equestrian, they may tell you how you should pass.  When in doubt, walk your bike past the horse.   
  • Dogs can be tricky, especially if they are off-leash.  On this trail, a yappy bichon frise started chasing me on the bike, so I clonked my head on a low-lying tree branch while trying to avoid it.  When you see a dog, reduce speed, and be prepared to walk your bike.  Some owners don't have very good control of their dog, so you want to make sure that you're in control of your bike to prevent a collision with Fluffy.
  • Toddlers are unpredictable, and unaware of danger.  They may chase you, or try to touch the bike, or even plop right down in front of you.  Unfortunately, parents are also unpredictable. How many times on the boardwalk in Venice, have you seen a parent holding their bundle of joy wander onto the bike path, facing the other direction, totally oblivious to others around them?  The best thing to do is to slow down, ring that bell, and announce your presence.  Pedestrians always have the right-of-way, and if you hit them, you will be the one at fault, no matter how careless they are, (or how much ganja they've inhaled while hanging out in Venice.)
  • Don't ride off-trail, on private property, or on trails closed to cyclists.  Cutting switchbacks contributes to erosion, and jacks up vegetation.  When you're done with your ride, you want to depart as if you were never there, and leave no trace.  You know the drill, "take only pictures, leave only footprints," yadda yadda...

How to get there(Lat: 34.07368 Lon: 118.50688)From Sunset Blvd., turn onto Mandeville Canyon Road.  Turn left on Westridge, left on Bayliss, then left on Queensferry Road.  Parking is limited in this upscale residential neighborhood; watch the signs.  Enter trail by a big green gate next to the estate with animal statues.  
Check out my Sparkpeople Fitness Map of the route, and have fun!-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------The same company that sells CommuteMate Instacloth offers a 15% discount on all non-sale items with the coupon code "PAM".  Click here to visit the site.
Tony at Helen's Cycles is offering a special discount to my readers of 15% off all purchases, including bike tune-ups, at the Santa Monica location.  Ask for the manager Tony, and tell him that Adventure Pam sent you to get a discount: Helen's Cycles Santa Monica, 2501 Broadway Ave., Santa Monica, CA  90404 - (310)829-1836

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