A bicycle ride through the hills and mountains of Los Angeles can be a heady experience. But if you're a beginner, you might want to start with a trip that won't leave you aching for days afterward. What follows are three scenic routes in the San Fernando Valley and environs that range from easy to difficult. Mileage is given in round-trip figures.
Valley Circle Boulevard is the main attraction along this 25-mile easy-to-moderate loop that combines flat city cycling with pleasant country views.
Start at Cal State Northridge, Reseda Boulevard and Plummer Street, and head west on Plummer. Take a left on Winnetka Avenue and a right on Roscoe Boulevard, which leads you into West Hills along a wide, three-lane stretch. The road will narrow as you approach the foothills. Take a right at Valley Circle Boulevard and travel 4 miles, winding and rolling past horse ranches. (Valley Circle turns into Lake Manor Drive for a brief stretch.)
Take a left at Baden Avenue, where two sky-blue Victorian mansions with trim lawns are stationed on each corner. At the Oakwood Cemetery, take a right on Lassen Street and follow it for about 4 miles back to Reseda and ride to Plummer.
Potrero Road, a 20-mile moderate route, follows the path of the Chumash Indians who lived in the area about 700 years ago and made Boney Mountain their spiritual focus.
Start at the Landing Shopping Center on Lindero Canyon Road in Westlake Village. Head south on Lindero and take a right at Triunfo Canyon Road, which skirts the Westlake Marina. Take a left at Westlake Boulevard and a right on Potrero Road into the foothills for some roller-coaster riding past idyllic Lake Sherwood.
The ride includes some expansive country views on your right and, on your left, sprawling manors with such names as "Boxfield Riding Stables," "Brookfield Farms," "Garrison Ranch" and "Howlett's Valley Farm."
Look for Sylvester Stallone's Arabian horse ranch on your left (it's for sale) as you round a wide right curve 8 miles into the ride. When you reach Reino Road, turn around.
Mulholland Highway cuts through the Santa Monica Mountains, revealing spectacular vistas along a 40-mile moderate-to-difficult route.
Start at the large shopping center at Mulholland Highway and Mulholland Drive in Woodland Hills. Head south on Mulholland Highway. The route's toughest hill lies 2 miles ahead, but you're amply rewarded with a brisk 4-mile descent. (On your return trip, the climb is gradual and worth the views of mustard- and poppy-speckled hills.)
Cross over Las Virgenes Road into Malibu Creek State Park. If you feel you're in Korea, it's only because scenes from the television show "MASH" were filmed in the surrounding mountains. Butch Cassidy and his friend also took their daring leap into Century Lake near here.
Take a left on Lake Vista Drive. On the right corner will be a ranch formerly owned by President Reagan. Follow the road for 2.5 miles along secluded Malibu Lake. The road will hook back up to Mulholland Highway. Follow the highway south to the legendary Rock Store, a motorcycle hangout that packs in hundreds of bikers in its small parking lot on weekends. You can refuel at Vern's Deli next to the store (try their "biker burger" with cheese and bacon for $3.50) and turn around.