A bicycle rider approaches the covered portion of the Rio Hondo River Bikeway
AT the risk of offending some of my friends and co-workers who are bicycle enthusiasts: What’s with the 32-mile bike jaunts, the male riders wearing tight, lycra shorts and vacuum-sealed rubberized tops sporting eye-taxing colors that look like they were taken from an episode of “Sesame Street” from the ’70s?
And what’s with the $5,000 bicycles (and that’s just the frames) that are such fine-tuned machines it takes someone more schooled than a BMW mechanic to work on them?
These haute bicycles and their Lance Armstrong-esque riders dominate the San Gabriel River Bikeway on weekends at Puddingstone Lake, the rim of Santa Fe Dam, and the Rose Bowl loop like USC athletes do the Coliseum or professional drivers the brickyard.
It’s all so intimidating. They might cause a weekend bicycler like myself, sporting tan cargo shorts and Sketchers, riding atop his “comfort bike” with fat tires, to stay on the living room couch instead.
But it doesn’t have to be like that. I think average bicycler riders outnumber the elitists. Yeah, we can overcome … at 10 mph! It’s time we teach to the B and C students, instead of those already at the top of the bell curve. We are the troubled middle, in more ways than one. We have no choice but to hop on our beach cruisers or our rusty 10-speeds and hog the road.
It’s time for the gut-spilling, middle-aged weekend pedalers to take their rightful place on the public bike paths of the San Gabriel Valley.
It’s our destiny. It’s do — or die from heart disease. So, are you with me? Yes? Great. Here’s my plan:
We cede the larger and more popular San Gabriel River Bikeway to the guys in the sculpted aerodynamic helmets atop composite bicycle frames. And we dedicate the other bikeway along the east side of the region’s other river, the Rio Hondo River Bikeway, to us fatties.
Never heard of the other river? It starts at a spent rock quarry turned park, Peck Road Water Conservation Park at the Arcadia-El Monte-Monrovia-Irwindale-Temple City border. Our group, Friends of Peck Park, wants to hold bike rides starting here, where this river bike path originates, and winds through El Monte’s newest parks — Lashbrook Park and Rio Vista Park — as well as oldy-but-goody Pioneer and Fletcher parks. We can enjoy a real river view at Bosque del Rio Hondo Park and loop using the Lario Trail, through Whittier Narrows and going north on the San Gabriel River bike trail. Then, if and when the county finishes the connection, traverse via bike path back to Peck Park.
If this is too long (it’s at least 15 miles), we’ll need to create more short loops in the area called The Emerald Necklace. Amigos de los Rios President Claire Robinson calls these “Ts and Os.” No long, grueling bike marathons for us. Just a short “T” or “0” trip, thank you very much.
Think of what having our own bike loops will do for weight loss, not to mention the fight against obesity, adult-onset diabetes and empty-nester boredom.
My wife Karen and I did some exploring a couple weekends ago and found the Rio Hondo River Bikeway. Its smooth surface features a covered S-curve structure designed to give you shelter from the sun, as well as those radio-controlled airplanes that buzz overhead.
When you exit the covered structure, you ride a mile or so along a path edged by golden sunflowers, mustard and buckwheat. The Rio Hondo River, just to the west of the path, lies hidden. It appears suddenly like a monster from a thriller movie, providing a glimpse.
Later, near El Monte, you can see where the river becomes a concrete channel, and you cry. One of the most environmentally ignorant projects ever built in the SGV — the concretization of the Rio Hondo.
It was good while it lasted, you say. Then you spot Lashbrook Park on the right (thank you, Amigos de los Rios) and eye a bench half covered in shade from an elm tree. The spot is perfect for eating your peanut butter and honey sandwich that you wash down with a chug of water.
Not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Are you ready to ride?
Steve Scauzillo is opinion pages editor and co-founder of Friends of Peck Park. Next meeting is Saturday, Aug. 6..