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Rapha Rides Los Angeles
The City of Angels is not the ﬁrst place that springs to mind when you think of road riding. But strip away the vast swathes of neon, the smog, freeways and intersections and it has the topography and ‘raw dna’ for some great rides. The Hollywood Hills are reachable from just about anywhere, so too the Santa Monica Mountains. The riding takes you past million-dollar homes, built high above the city where the air is clean and clear. The climbing is hard, through sharply cut switchbacks piled one on top of the other, before you emerge, several thousand feet above the Paciﬁc Ocean. From there, the road rolls on, through the indigenous chaparral, from ridge to valley ﬂoor and back again. To the east, the snow-capped ridge of the San Gabriel range looms large. Here, Mount Wilson rises for the best part of 6,000ft above sea level and for that very reason, is home to a celebrated annual hill climb.
LA according to Cole, Aaron and Ben
It’s a little after nine in the morning and it’s 60°. The air tastes dry and acidic like an old car battery. The sky is a metallic, pastel blue and the sun is shining. Aaron, wearing a suit jacket, T-shirt, bib shorts and one road shoe, is putting his bike together; wheels, bike and bike box are spread out on the sidewalk in front of a large glass wall looking into the lobby of The Standard. He is thinking and smiling to himself about rattlesnakes and sand. Cole and Ben are waiting patiently for Aaron to ﬁnish. They’re standing over their bikes watching the trafﬁc on Sunset go by. The constant unbridled volume of cars is impressive. It’s as if it will continue unabated until the Apocalypse, maybe longer. The horns and rhythmic thumping of tyres across seams in the road is hypnotic. Like all streets in the city this one is badly damaged, uneven and broken.
Cole was born and raised in Tennessee. He’s chewing on a tooth-pick. He’s been living and riding in Los Angeles for the last three years. Though he’s nodding to Ben he’s lost in thought. They’re talking about the mountains here, how different they are to anywhere else in the world. Cole’s thoughts have wandered to Mt. Baldy, 65 miles east of the city and the hardest climb he’s ever done.
Ben is from London. Ten years ago he moved to Los Angeles simply because it wasn’t Islington or Stoke Newington. Not long after his arrival he bought a bicycle to avoid the trafﬁc and now he’s an amateur racer. His eyes are burning with jet-lag. He’s been home for exactly eighteen hours.