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Slay LA Ride Report: A 26 Miles Urban Ride Through LA’s Greenbelts

Part 1 || words by Morgan Bernard

For most riders, navigating the streets of Los Angeles would be akin to riding in the seventh circle of hell. However, it’s no secret that Los Angeles is surrounded by nature. Most of us are too busy sitting in traffic to notice. There are pockets of wilderness in every direction, from the Pacific Coast and the Santa Monica Mountains to the Hollywood Hills and the snowcapped peaks in the distant San Gabriel Range. The team at Fix Manufacturing stumbled upon some information that made an LA ride not just possible but appealing. LA’s various greenbelts were initially intended to be connected by a now long abandoned subway system. The 1925 Pacific Railway was conceptualized to relieve LA traffic and connect the city with a massive network of subways and railways. Ultimately, the plan was squashed by opposition from auto industry heavies, but much of the infrastructure for the rail system had already been built and still exists today. While the rail system is long forgotten, the various staircases, alleyways, and bridges built to support it remain today and bisect LA’s busiest neighborhoods, linking LA’s various parks in navigable urban trails. 

So, the inaugural Slay LA ride was born. In the spirit of the 1925 Pacific Railway, the ride began with a train ride from Laguna Beach to Union Station in Los Angeles. The team set off with over a dozen riders, including Fix Manufacturing founder Tony Zentil, Hans Rey, Brian Lopes, Troy Lee, and the Laguna RADS. The ride had its fair share of difficulties, but sticking to the strict Union Station train schedule was perhaps the most challenging aspect of the day. 

mountain biking thru olvera street los angelesBrian Lopes and Hans Rey navigating the tight alleys of Olvera Street

As soon as the train arrived at Union Station, we descended on the crowds of travelers, steering through the busy station on two wheels. From Union Station, we carefully continued down Olvera Street. We rode slowly down the narrow brick road, where street vendors lined the path, selling everything from piñatas to Rams jerseys. From there, we entered Chinatown and rode past the mighty Bruce Lee statue under a canopy of paper lanterns before crossing the Harbor Freeway on a pedestrian bridge. Then, after a winding road, riders entered Elysian Park and traded pavement for trail. 

mountain biking thru chinatown los angelesChinatown

The riding in Elysian Park was better than expected but had its share of challenges. The narrow trail traced the edge of a bluff overlooking the I-5, and the rest of Los Angeles worlds away below. The climb was steady, except for the few stray boulders and branches. The descent was fast and free until the team were forced to dismount to navigate a muddy creek. The occasional day hiker was another obstacle that kept riders on their toes. We are happy to report that no collisions occurred during the inaugural Slay LA ride. 

The ride continued west From Elysian Park in rapid descent along Pacific Railway staircases that cut through the hillside residential area of Echo Park. Some sets of stairs were more friendly to descend than others. Occasionally, a sharp right-hand turn or a narrow mailbox-lined staired alley would slow the group. What goes up must come down, and vice versa, so after our quick urban descent, we faced an uphill climb up several flights of steep stairs, which required dismounting and climbing up on foot for a portion of the climb. Stairs led to more stairs, fenced pathways, and narrow, residential-lined alleyways. Eventually, our tires found trail again in Silver Lake. 

singletrack mountain biking green foliageGreen and loamy hidden LA singletrack

After a speedy descent down a wood-lined trail and a jarring several hundred-foot stair ride, riders circumnavigated the south portion of Silver Lake before meeting back up with our hidden urban trail yet again. From Silver Lake, the ride mainly continued downhill and went off without a hitch. To the dismay of many concerned homeowners and backdoor ring cameras throughout the LA area, riders wheelied down alleyways and took stair rides in stride until the crew stopped for lunch. After a quick bite, the riders set off rushing through streets, trails, and alleyways of LA in a race against the Union Station train schedule. 

mountain biking down staircase los angelesWatch out for that truck full of fertilizer!

Stay tuned for Slay LA Part II.