Gear Trails, Vol. I: Biking the Santa Monica Mountains

The guys behind OMATA talk cycling in Los Angeles

April 28, 2016 9:00 am

The biggest problem with getting outside in the City of Angels? Being spoiled for choice. We’re distilling that process by getting the goods straight from the experts with a recurring series called Gear Trails.

This time around, we tapped the makers of OMATA — a bike gadget that’s already established itself as the bike tech story of 2016 — for their favorite rides in Los Angeles.

Currently funding on Kickstarter, OMATA’s flagship product is a speedometer with a digital, GPS-connected backend but an analog interface. The functionality is next-gen but the looks classic and unobtrusive.

“The reason you ride is to ride,” says co-founder Rhys Newman. “You want to look at nature, not a device.” If you own a bike and care about your quantifiables, you need one.

As for where to take it? We’ll leave that Rhys and his partner Julian Bleecker, who also have some great tips on conquering and your demons and where to find the perfect ride for your needs.

Bleecker’s Ride: A mix of road and dirt with a splash of ocean views

“I start from my house, cross Venice and Santa Monica on the surface roads, then head up to Brentwood and Mandeville Canyon: a no-brainer in terms of the climb. Then I’m a little deviant and I turn left onto a little dirt street called Garden Land. You can take that steep climb to Dirt Mulholland to the Hub. Catch the views.

Then push off the Hub and take the Backbone Trail, which is about a mile away. It’s a fun, super quiet trail with some single-track and double-track that takes you down into Will Rogers State Park. From there, dump out into Pacific Palisades.

It’s a nice long day with about 3,000 feet of climbing, a mix of fun downhill stuff and great visitas from the Nike Missile Base, which is a nice hub. You can get water there and you might see friends. Then go down the canyon and you can see almost to Long Beach.”

His ride? “It’s a Stinner Frameworks, just outside of Santa Barbara. They make beautiful bikes. They sit there and talk to you about what kind of riding you want to do, and make you a bike to meet your needs. Mine is a cross between a road bike and a mountain bike.”

On finding your internal second gear “There’s a fairly steep stretch at the beginning of Sullivan’s Ridge. I’d always stop at one point that was a pitch, maybe 20 feet long. Rhys said to me, ‘Do you ever wonder what would happen if you didn’t stop?’ And that became a thing for me: to keep trying. I’d pull my cap down so I could only see right in front of me, and kept pushing one foot in front of the other until I got it.”

Newman’s Ride: A commute from Calabasas to Venice

“I go out my backdoor, pick any bike really — mountain bike, road bike, single speed — and climb up to Mulholland and hit the Sullivan’s Trail, and then ride gravel all the way down into Santa Monica and jump on the road and cycle past the Pacific and into Venice. (Editor’s note: Do it before the sun comes up because it gets very hot.)

The 25-mile trip takes me an hour and 20. When everyone else is stuck on the 101 or 405, it’s not a bad way to commute. I bring a small backpack with the minimal amount of clothes and wash stuff and jump in the shower at the studio.”

On how lucky you are to live here … “People come from all over the world to bike the Santa Monica Mountains, so to be able to be on a bike first thing in the morning before the sun comes up is special … I’ve seen bobcats, mountain lions, deer, coyote, hawks and the dung beetles. I obsess about the dung beetles. It’s their mountain. They’re the kings. Every time you come near them they turn around and stick their ass in the air, which is a form of saying, ‘Good morning,’ isn’t it?”

On breaking the “tribe” mentality … “It used to be if you were a mountain biker you only road on the mountain, and road bikers only on the road. Now that’s getting blurred because the bikes are getting more robust — but also: the spirit of adventure. Not conforming to boundaries. Just keep hydrated and eat and drink regularly.”


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