With year-round sunshine and scenic terrain, L.A. can be a bike-riding playground, but navigating the city solo can be daunting for even the most seasoned cyclists. Luckily, plenty of people are ready to roll alongside you.
There’s a cycling group for every type of rider in the city. Some specialize in specific levels of difficulty, while others host scenic trips or “drop rides” (a type of group ride that doesn’t wait for those who can’t keep up, unless there’s an injury). Many clubs are geared for specific communities. Women-led clubs and LGBTQ+ cycling groups prioritize inclusivity. Interest-based groups like East Side Riders and Bicycle Meals combine biking with charitable work.
Along with safety in numbers, these groups can offer a sense of community in a sometimes lonely city. John Jones III, co-founder of East Side Riders, believes that bicycling allows people to explore the areas they’ve probably sped past by car hundreds of times. “It gives you an opportunity to tour your neighborhood — and enjoy your neighborhood on a different level,” he said.
Ready for a ride? Grab a helmet, strap on a sense of adventure and join one of these nine biking clubs.
Try: East Side Riders
Recreation and altruism intersect for East Side Riders, a nonprofit that aims to feed the homeless, keep youth away from gang activity and drug use, and — of course — bike around the community. The group, founded by father-son duo John Jones Jr. and John Jones III, has served well over 100,000 free meals. Along with weekly rides, the club hosts special events like picnics and workout sessions. Meal distributions are on Wednesdays at 10 a.m. in Compton (2111 W. Compton Blvd.) and 11 a.m. in Watts (1513 E. 103rd St.).
Anyone who wants to make a difference in the community can join. “You don’t have to live in Watts, you don’t have to live in Compton, you don’t have to live in South L.A.,” Jones III said.
Typically rides: Friday evenings and Sunday mornings. Follow East Side Riders on Instagram for details on the latest events.
If you’re looking for a women-led group that rides fast
Try: The Mixed Race
It’s not a race — or is it? The tagline rings true for the Mixed Race, which delivers a fast-paced, 30-mile drop ride through Los Angeles. The women-led biking group started in 2017 and hasn’t slowed down since. In this club, getting left behind is a rite of passage. Jane Voodikon, one of its founders, said that every leader has been left in the dust at some point or another.
“It’s fun to ride fast,” Voodikon said. “A lot of people, when they first come, aren’t at that level and they get dropped. But if they keep coming back, they get faster. We’ve seen so many riders get stronger and faster, just because they didn’t get too discouraged.”
Typically rides: Thursday evenings. Follow the Mixed Race on Instagram for details on the latest events.
Try: Different Spokes
What started as a 1983 newspaper ad had the stamina to become a full-fledged bicycling club, which celebrates its 40th birthday next year. Different Spokes carved a space in the city for LGBTQ+ cyclists but welcomes anyone. For those craving a challenge, weekly rides usually involve 3,000 feet of elevation gain, and there’s a monthly ride that gains 5,000 feet. Routes typically don’t repeat more than once a year. The club takes part in AIDS/LifeCycle— a seven-day, 545-mile biking fundraiser from San Francisco to L.A.
Typically rides: Sundays mornings. Follow Different Spokes on Instagram for details on the latest events.
Difficulty: Intermediate to hard, but offers easier rides monthly.
If you’re looking for a group that is truly one of a kind
Try: Venice Electric Light Parade
When new L.A. resident Marcus Gladney heard about Sebastian “The Light Man” Butler, known around town for his bicycle decked with LED lights and his motto “Get lit or get hit,” he made it his mission to find him. He bought a new bike and scoured Venice Beach after sunset. When he finally spotted Butler, Gladneyout introduced himself and a friendship grew. Gladney eventually tacked the equivalent of 66 AA batteries onto his wheels to become the “pied piper of Venice” as bicyclists gravitated to his blinding bike.
Thus began the Venice Electric Light Parade.
Seven years later, the parade continues to invite riders of all ages and skill levels to coast through Venice for 90 minutes every Sunday evening. Butler hangs nearby, still selling his lights and fitting them to new bikes. Five people pull thudding trailers of music (genres vary based on where you ride in the parade). If the energy keeps up, Gladney stretches the route. This certified nonprofit promotes safe cycling at night.
Typically rides: Sundays at sunset, starting at Windward Plaza in Venice. Follow Venice Electric Light Parade on Instagram to find out the exact starting time of the parade each week.
Biking in L.A.:
If you’re looking for a group of cyclists who identify as FTWN-B
Try: Peach Cycling
Founded by women in 2017, Peach Cycling is both a race team and a cycling club creating a supportive space for the FTWN-B community (femme, transgender, women and nonbinary). “Peaches” from the race team host monthly group rides as a way for riders to find “fellowship, learn about the local cycling community, and to grow with like-minded individuals.” Rides vary in mileage and elevation, but all levels are welcome.
Typically rides: Days and times vary. Follow Peach Cycling on Instagram for details on the latest events.
Difficulty: Easy to intermediate
If you’re looking for a group that has a lot of L.A. history
Try: Los Angeles Wheelmen
From hardcore cyclists to casual cruisers, this club crafts a ride for everyone. Founded back in 1945, it stands at 145 enrolled members and more than 400 in its meetup group, scattered over several weekly rides listed on its website. Challenge seekers should set their eyes on the Grand Tour — its toughest option covers 400 miles across SoCal in 24 hours. Novices can join a recurring newcomer ride, which spans a more relaxed 20 miles and 450 feet of gain.
Typically rides: Thursdays at 8:30 a.m. at Ballona Creek Bridge. Check the website for other upcoming rides.
If you’re looking for a group that is gender expansive
Try: Wild Wolf Cycling Collective
Designed to celebrate nonbinary, trans, genderqueer and women cyclists, Wild Wolf welcomes riders of all skill levels. Last summer, it emerged out of the racing group She Wolf Attack Team, and now it partners with L.A. Cyclery. Wild Wolf hosts foodie rides (last month, the club headed to Saffy’s for dinner and then to a burlesque showcase featuring a queer and trans lineup), sunset rides across the 6th Street Viaduct and bike campouts. Ride difficulty is posted to Instagram in advance.
Typically rides: Wednesday evenings and other times. Follow Wild Wolf Cycling Collective on Instagram for details on the latest events.
If you’re looking for a group that explores all sorts of terrain
Try: Marina del Rey Cycle Club
Start in Marina del Rey and end anywhere from the Hollywood Hills to the Santa Monica Mountains. This cycling club covers 50 to 70 miles per ride, traversing both coastal and inland terrain throughout Southern California. If the full ride sounds too ambitious, the group offers a shorter version of 25 to 35 miles. This is a no-drop group, meaning the club waits for everyone to catch up during harder climbs. When the last person is ready to continue, they push on. As a bonus, there’s a meal stop along the way.
Typically rides: Sundays at 7:30 a.m. in Marina del Rey
Difficulty: Intermediate to hard
If you’re looking for a group that prioritizes a fun time
Try: Ride Wit Us
This casual riding group values fun, fitness and friendship. Born out of a pandemic need for community, the club continues today. It hosts its easiest rides on Tuesdays, a little longer trek on Thursdays and its toughest ride on two Saturdays per month. Each trip ends where it starts, taking off at either the Ride Wit Us bike store or other areas in the city. All bike types and riders are welcome, and no one gets left behind. If you don’t have a bike, Ride Wit Us offers rentals.
Typically rides: Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:45 p.m., two Saturday mornings a month. Follow Ride Wit Us on Instagram for details on the latest events.
This story originally appeared on LATimes