Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Cruisers and crowds; a trip to Surf City, USA

Posted by on December 30th, 2008 at 10:23 am

Scenes from Huntington Beach-3

Bike parking under the Huntington Beach Pier.
(Photos © J. Maus)

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.

Scenes from Huntington Beach-1

The path is a bit chaotic.

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.

Scenes from Huntington Beach-4

Cruisers were everywhere.

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).

Scenes from Huntington Beach-1

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.

Scenes from Huntington Beach-5

Nothing but cruisers at this
shop on Main Street.

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.

Scenes from Huntington Beach-7

Surf punks are now bike punks.

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.

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  • John Russell December 30, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    Although I doubt you would see too many cyclists toting around their surfboards. More or less analogous to our cyclists pulling kayaks amongst other things, I would imagine.

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  • Natty December 30, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    Hmm ….

    Here – far to the east and north – I frequently sling the XC-boards over my shoulder and pedal my way over to the park to go for a ski.

    A surfboard would be a little more work in the wind, but you wouldn’t have the ice and snow over which to navigate.

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  • Bob_M December 30, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    Every time I go to the Southland I find a bike and ride the strand from Venice to Palos Verdes. It is always a great ride. Scenic coast and pretty people. Lots of venues for refreshing beverages and people watching.
    Have fun down there!

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  • joel December 30, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    john #1: when i was growing up in orange county, not too far from huntington, i saw plenty of people carrying their surfboards on their cruisers, on purpose-built surfboard racks they either bought or fabricated themselves (carrying the board either to the side of the bike, so your left leg was between the board and the frame, or behind the bike, in plane with the rider, at about a 45 degree angle) they may even be still produced. i had friends who rode 10-20 miles round trip (or more!) to the beach with their boards like this.

    but jonathan, despite my socal youth, im gonna have to side with santa cruz in the “surf city, usa” battle 🙂

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  • jimmy December 30, 2008 at 6:31 pm

    dude, i was just down there. the fixie cruiser scene is totally blowing up.

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  • Paulo December 30, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    I’m back in San Diego for the holidays, and man I forget how hostile the drivers are here. Funny how immune you are when you live here but I sure as hell don’t miss it. And at #1: My friend is about to put a surf rack on his beach cruiser right now. Used to be very common, but maybe less now. Saw some fixies taking the street of downtown though.

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  • wsbob December 31, 2008 at 12:57 am

    Just like the man said:

    Block Surfboard Bike Rack @ surfboardsetc.com

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  • K. December 31, 2008 at 1:55 am

    John Russell, post 1: Actually, in Surf City they do ride with their surfboards:

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  • W/S December 31, 2008 at 8:10 am

    Santa Cruz is the real Surf City 🙂

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  • Jessica Roberts December 31, 2008 at 9:37 am

    Hm, my neighbor regularly takes his canoe out by bike trailer…how much harder could a surfboard be?

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  • Travis Wittwer December 31, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    Great post. Glad to see the bike thing working its way around, especially in places where it will take hold. I, too, saw some of the same features when I took my trip to Santa Cruz last year. Same thing, cruisers all around http://www.flickr.com/photos/wittcogmbh/2639632674/in/set-72157607531775661/

    And with their relatively flat and small city, there was no reason not to get around by bike (and that sun–wow).

    I also saw a two-lane bike path with a “barrier” to separate it from cars. http://www.flickr.com/photos/wittcogmbh/2638792089/in/set-72157607531775661/

    And a hacked together, double-recumbent surfboard and gear carrier for the local surf school. This impressed me the most. http://www.flickr.com/photos/wittcogmbh/2628393586/in/set-72157607531775661/

    Here is to bikes!

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  • Steve Brown January 2, 2009 at 7:40 am

    Don’t forget all the roadies going up and down Hwy 1 all day long.

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  • Oh Word? January 2, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    Can’t HB and Santa Cruz be Surf CITIES?? On the topic of OC, the pic at the top of the page looks like the Santa Ana river bed, that was my favorite route to the beach. It takes longer than driving, but not having to look for parking makes it all worth it!

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