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VALLEY WEEKEND | JAUNTS

Conejo Bike Club Tries to Set People Spinning

The group aims to appeal to all levels of riders. Outings range from rolling hills and cappuccino to a grueling 60-mile trek.

July 11, 1996|JANE HULSE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It's hardly a vicious cycle. It begins with an 18-mile bike ride that swings around the shore of Westlake, and it ends with cappuccino.

That's how members of the Conejo Valley Cyclists start their Saturday mornings. Some members, that is. Others, who cycle faster and farther, might head for Camarillo or even the beach for a grueling 60-mile trek.

Then, after riding, they sip cappuccino and toss down bagels at a nearby coffee spot called Bent on Coffee. You can recognize them by their blazing gold shirts, covered with bright blue and red leaves--oak leaves, of course.

The club, now 15 years old and 105 members strong, has something for everyone: four rides of varying lengths and speeds that depart every Saturday morning from a parking lot near The Oaks mall in Thousand Oaks.

"We try to have big-tent appeal to a lot of riders," said Bill Becher. "We have wonderful places to ride here. A lot of the streets are newer and wide, and the city has been good about putting in bike lanes."

If you are new to biking, consider the beginners' ride out to Westlake. It's fairly safe, with wide bike lanes or at least wide shoulders, and the traffic is minimal. You'll have some company: anywhere from a handful of riders up to two dozen.

A word of caution, though. These experienced riders pedal at an average of 13 or 14 mph, which may be a bit fast for rank beginners. But they won't leave you in the dust. At a couple of spots along the way, they hole up on the side of the road and wait for the slower riders. And, on the first Saturday of the month, beginners are especially welcome and can expect a slower pace of 10 to 12 mph.

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The route follows Hillcrest away from the shopping centers and mini-malls. The scenery is nice: rolling, grassy hills. It's relatively flat, but there are a few hills, including one long one that beginners may find torturous.

Zigzagging along Westlake Boulevard, Thousand Oaks Boulevard and Lakeview Canyon, you come to the southeastern tip of the lake. Here the group pulls over for a rest stop, water and maybe a Power Bar. If you take a breather on the grass, you might find some ducks keeping you company. You'll get a good view of the lake here--sailboats and scads of those canopied pleasure boats.

Then, back on the road, you'll pass large waterfront homes before circling back the way you came. Some of the hardier riders in this group branch off and head for Hidden Valley, a hillier alternative route that adds another 10 miles. They take a narrow, winding scenic road along Lake Sherwood, nestled in the mountains and surrounded by huge homes. Tom Selleck and Sophia Loren have spreads out here.

The club's fast riders are divided into two groups. The advanced recreational riders do 30-mile treks at 17 to 19 mph, keeping together in a pace line. The club sponsors a racing team, and about 12 members race all over Southern California. Their training rides are faster and longer, 50 to 60 miles, and the group doesn't stop to wait for slower riders unless they are "bleeding or in full cardiac arrest," the club's literature warns.

During the summer, riders who want a midweek surge of exercise gather at the Landing on the shore of Westlake for an evening spin beginning at 6 p.m. This ride, open to bicyclists of all abilities, is about 17 miles.

The club went high-tech recently with the addition of a Web site on the Internet. There, you can browse upcoming rides and routes, or maybe brush up on the latest biking slang. For example, to "bonk" is to run out of energy, "biff" is to crash, and a "road rash" is what you get when you biff, often after you've bonked.

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The idea behind the Web site was to make the club more accessible to road-biking enthusiasts, Becher said. "The club is definitely growing," he said. Mountain bikers took over the sport a few years ago, and a lot of people bought mountain bikes, he said. But most of them ended up using them on the road instead.

"We're seeing a resurgence in road biking," Becher said. "The Olympics is also giving it a boost."

Club members run the gamut. Bill Scrivens of Moorpark rides a tandem bike with his 12-year-old son, Steven. Husbands and wives ride. At least one rider is in his 70s. The group includes a cellist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, a lawyer, dentist, therapist, police officer, architect, college instructors and bike-shop technicians.

The club has a monthly newsletter called "Outspokin," which provides riding tips, racing news and ride schedules. About once a month, the club schedules a ride at another location, like Ojai, and they usually top it off with a picnic. The next one is 9 a.m. Sunday at Freedom Park in Camarillo.

* Conejo Valley Cyclists hold Saturday rides at 8:30 a.m. for beginner and intermediate rides, 8:15 a.m. for faster, longer rides. There is no cost for introductory ride. Hotline, 449-5211; Web site, http://www.centcon.com/cvc.

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