A trip to Huntington Beach for dinner last night made me feel old. As a kid, I remember spending countless days at that beach, trying to hone my surfing skills and hanging out on the sand with friends. The boardwalk path that runs at the edge of the sand was also where many of my first long bike rides culminated and where I fostered my earliest delusions of bike-racing grandeur.
Since my youth, this beach town known as “Surf City, USA” has grown up a lot. Major hotels, shopping centers, and other beachfront developments have helped Huntington Beach become a major tourist draw. When we walked around before dinner last night, we noticed many groups of people who didn’t speak English and who were taking group photos at every turn.
The first thing I noticed after we parked the car (in a newly built parking lot just a few feet from the sand) was the very crowded boardwalk path. This path was larger than a standard width, multi-use path but it still couldn’t handle the crowds (and this is just December!). Tourists walked and gawked while families on rental bikes pedaled by, and surfers carried their boards past joggers as lycra-clad roadies weaved their way through it all.
If there was ever a path in need of some form of mode separation, this is it. Pavement markings, signage, separated grades, anything would help (bike riders are supposed to walk in the most crowded section, but no one obeyed that law).
As we left the boardwalk and made our way onto the Pier, I got my first good glimpse of the standard-issue Huntington Beach bicycle — the cruiser.
Cruisers are to Huntington Beach what all black, fully-fendered city bikes are to Amsterdam, or rod-driven, Communist era bikes are to Beijing.
Walking up Main Street, all you see are helmetless, sandal-clad folks easily pedaling these reliable, single-speed, surf culture icons. Cruisers cemented their place in my mind as the bicycle of choice in Huntington Beach when to my surprise I saw a shop on Main Street, Easyriders, that sold nothing but.
The clerk at Easyriders said sales of their $229 dollar cruisers (available in a number of color schemes) were doing very well.
But there’s an upstart to the dominant bike crown in Surf City, the fixie. I noticed two surf and skate shops that had at least one fixed-gear bicycle alongside their other merchandise. They weren’t selling them, so I assume the fixie was there to communicate that the shop was in the know with the latest trend.
As we made our way back to the car parked near the boardwalk, I saw the trend in action — a few young surfer kids tooling around on fixies.
It was great to see so many bikes in Surf City. Even if bikes as transportation on equal footing to cars is a foreign concept, at least the language of two wheels is not extinct, it’s just spoken differently here.
— Check the photo gallery for the latest images from my trip to California.