I had to choose a Griffith Park ride. I’ve ridden in the park for years, and it has a bit of everything - good terrain, trails, and roads - and a lot more wildlife than you usually see in LA.
Distance: 28.3 mi
Elevation: 1,925 ft
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Geoff McFetridge has been figuring out LA since he enrolled at CalArts in 1993. Since then, he’s figured out how to get his designs onto the bottom of skateboards, painted onto bike frames, screened on t-shirts, printed in the press, displayed on the big screen and, soon, emblazoned on the walls of a new Metro station.
Geoff’s house is on one side of Griffith Park, his studio on the other. “We bought our house close to Griffith Park so I could ride to work – I moved to this studio, just a couple of streets from my last studio, so I could put in a shower for after rides. It’s absurd.”
The park has been a part of his riding routine since the start, when he poached mountain bike trails with his friend Paul. “We would get up at 6am and go ride our mountain bikes, which I thought was crazy early.”
That was the first time Geoff rode with, in his words, “one of the really strong guys,” and it was also the first time he realized that riding bikes is a pretty good way of getting to know the city. “He was the first person who introduced me to the folklore of cycling in LA. LA doesn’t have a history like other cities. It has folklore.”
“Here’s how it would work: we’d be riding past the zoo and he’d start telling me stories about how years ago, before they built the zoo, there were weekly criteriums on the roads there. The city moves on. New things happen.”
Knocking around the trails of Griffith Park led to riding the road. Not just as a means of getting around, but also simply for the sake of riding. “The reality of road cycling is you only spend a tiny bit of your time looking a thousand feet in front of you, checking out the view.” The rest of the time? You’re looking for holes in the road, for upcoming turns, traffic, you’re trying to keep your bike upright, to steer the course. “Cycling has this physicality to it. It requires concentration, and you end up seeing things on the periphery.”
It’s in this way, Geoff says, the bicycle is like the curator of an art gallery. “Think about it like this: you can say to an artist, hey, fill this space with work. Will that work be the artist’s best? It’s possible, but it’s highly unlikely. What you need is a curator, someone to tell you where to put things and how to make some decisions.”
And in a city like LA, with its many distractions, the bike helps you make choices. “The bicycle tells you your head is going to be at this level, it’s going to feel hard going uphill, then easy going down. It makes choices for you, and it changes the way you see things.”
If you’re going to see one thing by bike, it has to be one of the views of the city from the surrounding mountains. “If you’re in the Midwest, or wherever, I guess you have to look at a Garmin to see the scale of what you’ve done. But in LA, you look out from the hills and you can see your house. You can say I rode on that street, I climbed that hill. It puts it all in perspective.”