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WHEELS AND DEALS : Bike Ride Along Huntington Beach Rolls by Shops and Snack Stands

February 11, 1993|MAX JACOBSON | Max Jacobson is a free-lance writer who regularly contributes to The Times Orange County Edition

A variety of good bike rides are available in Orange County, but perhaps no path is easier and more pleasant than the one that runs along the sand in Huntington Beach.

This trail is pancake-flat and great for people-watching, and it's breezy and cool at all times. Furthermore, it is lined with snack stands (open from mid-March to October), and there is plenty of activity on Main Street--your destination today--to fill a sunny afternoon.

10 to 10:30: Warner Avenue at the south end of Sunset Beach marks the beginning of the path. Expect to see it abuzz with in-line skaters, surfers and other outdoor types. A mile and a half down, on the left and across Pacific Coast Highway, you'll see Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, a slough filled with birds and wildlife, open to the public for walks. To the right, people are riding the waves. Huntington Pier is almost exactly five miles from Warner Avenue, and you never have to leave the path. Even at a leisurely pace, you should get there in half an hour.

10:30 to 11:15: Now roll your bike up the steep steps just to the north of the pier and cross PCH. On the corner of Main Street and PCH, just outside the Pierside Pavilion complex, you'll see immovable metal bike racks to secure your wheels. Enter the corner store called Huntington Surf and Sport and proceed to the back counter, a place called Jan's Health Bar.

Owner Jan Gaffney specializes in fruit smoothies--thick energy drinks made from seasonal fruit. Nothing gives you more energy than one of these smoothies after a long jaunt down the bike path. Gaffney's $3.95 smoothies are made from a fresh-fruit base augmented with banana, honey, juice and yogurt, and come in such flavors as pear, pineapple, raspberry, peach, blackberry and strawberry.

After your smoothie, browse this shop, the "hardest-core surf shop around," according to assistant manager and surfer boy deluxe Linden Cabellon. Outfit yourself for beach activity with Rusty surfboards, an O'Neill wet suit, surf leashes, wax, decals, sweats, T-shirts and beach wear.

11:15 to 11:30: Africarib is a small store two blocks up Main Street, filled with African and Caribbean clothes, artifacts and souvenirs. Owner Janet Jackson is a local, but she spent 10 years in the Virgin Islands and fell in love with ethnic arts. Here you'll find jewelry, crude musical instruments, homemade incense and tie-dye dresses from West Africa. It's a colorful shop, and Jackson encourages browsing.

11:30 to noon: Perhaps you are a weekend cyclist who fantasizes being Greg LeMond or Connie Carpenter. If so, then Jax, bicycle shop extraordinaire, is worth an extended visit.

Bike technology has made impressive strides in the past several years: lighter frames, lighter components, virtually everything an improvement thanks to modern science. How about a 17-pound Merlin titanium bike with Suntour Dura-Ace components for only $4,100, a pair of the Time pedals used by LeMond himself in the Tour de France, a lightweight helmet, shock absorbers or the latest in high-energy snacks? It's all here.

Noon to 12:30: Main Street is lined with sushi bars, cafes and snack shops, but seasoned cyclists eat light before a return ride. Amy's Bakery and Cafe is an ideal place for a pre-ride bite. Owner Andy Jacobson makes the best bagels around, not to mention such sandwiches as the $4.95 surfer special--turkey, corned beef and ham--or the $3.95 veggie sandwich, which has avocado, cucumber and a walnut raspberry dressing. Sit at the outdoor tables and enjoy the view. Oh, and pass for now on the good cookies, muffins and eclairs, anathema to a struggling cyclist.

12:30 to 1: The ride back to Warner Avenue affords a view of Catalina Island and Long Beach. It tends to be windier riding up than down this stretch of coast, and if you're like me, the ride back always feels a little longer, cookie or no cookie.

1. Bolsa Chica State Beach Bike path beginning at Warner Avenue. *2. Huntington Surf and Sport

300 Pacific Coast Highway, No. 104. (714) 841-4000. Open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Cash only. *3. Africarib

320 1/2 Main St., (714) 960-6448. Open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. *4. Jax Bicycle Center

401 Main St. (714) 969-8684. Open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. *5. Amy's Cafe and Bakery

300 Pacific Coast Highway, No.104. (714) 536-4151. Open Sunday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

*Parking: If you drive to the bike path entrance, there is ample parking at Bolsa Chica State Beach, in the lot just south of Warner Avenue on the beach side.

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